Sewing Bralettes!

I’ve been sewing bras for a few years now, but somehow I skipped that simpler version: the bralette! I never thought that could give me enough support, but I’ve been increasingly tempted by the idea of something with no wires that dig in by the end of the day. As I headed to the cottage last week, I decided: NO MORE WIRES! Let the boobs go free!

How did that go? Well, I made three versions over three days, and none of them fit quite right… but dammit, I think I’m hooked!

Ohhh Lulu Scarlett Bralettes

I chose the OhhhLulu Scarlett Bra as my pattern because I liked the combination of racerback style and plunging front. It’s a style that used to work well for me in RTW, so it seemed like a good starting point! I’ve followed Sarah from OhhhLulu online for years, and I like her from our interactions there. (Bonus: She lives just two hours away, so I feel some local pride.) My full bust just fits the largest size, but unfortunately it’s one-cup-size-fits-all, which is likely where my fitting challenges began!

(That said, I’ve never made a wearable bra on the first try at any pattern, so I don’t specifically blame this pattern!) 

Ohhh Lulu Scarlett Bralettes

For my first version, I grabbed some scraps of black and white IY from the sewing room floor, and lined the cups with cotton lycra. I lined the band of all my versions with sturdy powermesh. This version is finished with black fold-over elastic. I panicked a bit about the sizing and added some extra width here and there… and surprise surprise, it came out too big! The band came out way too loose and I had to rip out the elastic and stretch it much tighter.

Ohhh Lulu Scarlett Bralettes

In the end, I found this an odd garment to wear. The cups are ok, the band is still loose, but the wide bra strap elastic I used quickly dug into my shoulders. I had a blinding headache the day after wearing this for a few hours, and I wonder if it was related. My theory is that with the cups and band so soft, the straps were left to do all the, um, heavy lifting! I later went back and added foam into the cups to see if more support would make it more comfortable – nope! This one is a write-off.

Ohhh Lulu Scarlett Bralettes

For version two, I turned the back into a more classic two-strap attachment instead of the racerback, so see if that made the straps more comfortable. (It did!) I also *for the first time* sewed with cut-and-sew foam! Why have I been fearing this for years? It was easy to work with and the finished support is much improved.

Ohhh Lulu Scarlett Bralettes

This version turned out small. I made the mistake of cutting off the extra width I’d initially added to the pattern AND using foam all in one go! I got trapped in it the first time I tried it on! Luckily, I was able to install a hook-and-eye which makes it easier to put on and with a looser band, my bust fits better into the cups. Still, if I did a normal stoop-and-scoop manoeuvre, the cup would barely cover my nipples. From a logical point of view this fits terribly… and yet it’s comfortable to wear, stays in place pretty well all day, and the cleavage is A+!

Ohhh Lulu Scarlett Bralettes

For version 3, I added width and height to the cups and band, and had another go with the foam. I covered it in the same ITY I used for a Santa Fe tank, and I love the look. This one might have turned out better if I hadn’t run out of good band elastic and resorted to something cheap and local… and guess what? It’s too loose again! I was hoping this would be the magically perfect Goldilocks bra, but sadly, no. At least it’s wearable!

Ohhh Lulu Scarlett Bralettes

At this point I was out of foam and elastics, and a trip to Bra Maker’s Supply was wasted when they turned out to be closed on the weekend! I decided to wear my bralettes a while before making more – and here is what I’ve learned:

  • Pro: fast to sew, and even though bralettes have nearly as many steps as a real bra, they feel much faster
  • Pro: foam definitely gives more support, and it’s nice to be able to cover it in fun fashion fabrics
  • Pro: Ermegerd comfortable! Like, more comfortable than not wearing anything and having things swing around. Amazing!
  • Con: Any kind of bra uses more elastic than you’d think, and that makes the cost per item surprisingly expensive. If I could fit into the bralettes in stores for $15, I’d save money… but I’ve tried those on, and the results are comical!
  • Con: A good bra (in my opinion) lifts and separates. A bralette lifts and smooshes inwards, which can give a flattened, uniboob look from the side.
  • Con: The plunging V at the front of this pattern is great for low-cut tops or wrap dresses, but I think a more closed style like the OhhhLulu Jasmine would do better at limiting horizontal spread.
  • Con: Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy! The band doesn’t sit snug and flush on any of my versions (because I need a larger cup size) so things bouncy around.

Overall, there is definitely a role for this kind of bralette in my wardrobe, and I’ll be wearing them for sure! If I can get a more snug and stable fit, I’d wear them to work as well as on the weekends.

Ohhh Lulu Scarlett Bralettes

At this point, you are probably all wondering, “Would that bralette work for me?” The truth is, I can’t say! I’m at the top of the patterns size range, and I would typically wear a 36G with a very snug band and sturdy materials. My bust is fairly self-supporting, but the bralettes certainly lift it higher. I assume other patterns like the Pin-Up Girls Sweet Sixteen bralette would be more supportive and accommodating for larger sizes, and the Cloth Habit Watson bra has been popular with people up to a D cup for years.

I’d love to know – Do you wear bralettes, and what styles work best for you? I plan on continuing my experiments, so I’m open to advice and suggestions!


24 thoughts on “Sewing Bralettes!

  1. Hi Gillian, your bralettes are pretty, really pretty. I was looking for a front opening soft bra pattern and found one in my stash. Imagine! And some rayon spandex jersey scraps. OMG, I’ve never had a bra that comfortable in my life! Here’s a link to the pattern I used. I posted a couple of photos with them on my dressform on my face book page and could post them on the Curvy Collective page as well. I’m going to review it on my blog, and have also posted a review on Patternreview. The pattern “covers” a good range of sizes. http://www.sewinglingerie.com/patterns/front-closing-sport-bra.html

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    1. That looks so comfy, especially in a rayon jersey! I stepped down from the CSC in spring, but I think they might have an activewear theme month later this year, so if they do, you should definitely offer to write about your bra!

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  2. I’ve thought the Watson was adorable for years, and this one is super cute too! I’m just not convinced these are feasible for daily wear for us fuller busted gals. Maybe I’ll come around eventually. 😉 Also, have you tried to see if you’re just wearing the wrong wires? Once I found the wire that was the right shape/size (pretty narrow and plunging), my bras became something I didn’t have to think about anymore (unless I was sweating–my skin hates tight elastic+sweat).

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    1. I’m wondering about my wire shape/size too. I’ve been fitted by the Fairy Bramother and Emerald Erin, so to some extent, I’ve got to trust the experts… I’ve played around with larger wires on one bra – The Marlborough –
      which I didn’t like at all, so maybe isn’t a fair test. My bras are totally comfortable when I put them on, but by time I drive an hour home 10 hours later, they are less comfortable. I”m not sure how much that is a fact of life (my body redistributes weight when I sit, and the wires rest on my belly, which pushes them up…) or is that something I could be avoiding?

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  3. “or is that something I could be avoiding?”

    Yes! I sit all day and have a bigger belly. 🙂 My underwires never bother me.

    I’m wondering (1) why you don’t increase the cup size for the bralette if it’s too small? There’s a vertical seam in the cup, yes? And (2) on the bands which are too loose, have you tried taking a “tuck” in the band in the area between cup and where the back strap attaches (IOW *not* at the end of the band)? If that improves things, cut the tuck so you have two “seam allowances” to sew down flat instead of a big tuck lump. (Is that clear?)

    Pretty bralettes though! I’m halfway thinking about getting back into sewing mine … but I can always find RTW that do the job well so I’m not overly motivated. Hah.

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    1. ARggg Forget to say … your wires could totally be the correct size but you’re not wearing your band tight enough so it loosens during the day and things shift. The band should be doing most of the heavy lifting in a bra … not the wires or the straps.

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      1. Thank you for all your ideas, Debbie! I think I’ll talk to the folks at Bra Maker’s Supply when I’m there this week and see if someone can give me some input on my fit. My band is definitely tight – I’m a big fan of a snug bra band! The discomfort under my arms goes away if I hoist up on the straps, so I’m wondering if part of the problem is a too-loose upper band elastic. That upper elastic that goes along the back band and under the arms to the strap attachment isn’t really doing anything, so I think on my next proper bra I’m going to play with pulling it tighter. (The pattern I follow says not to stretch, but other patterns I’ve done say a bit of stretching is good.) Does that make sense, do you think?
        Once I have more foam and elastic, I’m going to do what you suggest to shape the cup – and actually, I think I need a three-part cup to better distribute the shaping!

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  4. So pretty! I absolutely love the look and idea of bralettes, and have made several watsons and jasmines. But my $20 bali d-cup minimizer makes clothes look better and if I’m being honest, it’s even more comfortable than a bralette! If I magically go down a couple cup sizes, it will be bralettes all the way!

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    1. If I could find a bra that was $20 not $120, I’d be with you all the way! Bras are so personal anyway – what works for one pair is not going to work for everyone else! I’m glad you’ve got something that works for you! 🙂

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  5. Here’s what worked for me to get comfortable underwires. I’m really sensitive to pressure, have wide breasts that nearly meet in the middle (but are fairly average in overall size), and not much natural padding over my ribs, so I can’t wear normal underwires. However, at this time in my life I really need the support of wires, so I figured out how to make them comfortable. I can only use Flex-Lite wires, which comfortably bend around your rib cage (available from Sew Sassy and Bravobella), and I put the wires on the outside of the bra instead of the inside. I sew channeling on the inside like usual, then I topstitch a second set of channeling on the outside and put the wires in the outside set. The inner channeling provides more padding between me and the wires, and the wires don’t push into my body this way.

    I had a really hard time finding the right wire size – to get the right curve to fit me, I had to get wires 6 sizes larger than I measure for and shorten the ends. If your current wires fit correctly, you might need a smaller size in Flex-Lite, since they flex outward more than other wires when the bra band is tight. If you try them, get a bunch of sizes to test out. Oh, and I also found that you need a full band bra with these wires – they are too flexible to work well with a partial band (frameless) bra.

    When I do all this, my underwires are as comfortable at the end of the day as in the morning. I actually find underwire bras made this way to be more comfortable than non-wired bras. With non-wired bras, I get pressure points on the sides of my rib cage where the band digs in, which is downright painful by the end of the day. Underwire bras also take the weight of my bust off of my shoulders, so I feel lighter and have better posture.

    While I prefer wired bras for everyday wear, non-wired bras do still have a place. They are definitely more comfortable when I am curled up on the couch!

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    1. So much food for thought! I’m so used to thinking that small-band/large-cup/super-firm-support bra is the best… but as everyone chims in, I’mhaving to remind myself that if it’s painful right now, it clearly isn’t the best for me! I sew with vertical wires (u-shapes, more than half-circle), but my complain about them is that they flex out so much under the pressure of the band that the underarm end doesn’t feel high enough to really scoop things in. I’m puzzled about what to do about that though, because they are already relatively tall wires. I don’t know if flexible wires would be ideal or the opposite of what I need!
      I”m going to Bra Maker’s Supply tomorrow – I’m going to see if they can offer me any advice!

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  6. Cute! As a small person with a very small rib cage and a not as small bust, I’ve found that adding height is the way to go for bralettes to cover my whole chest! Of course, the uniboob is an unfortunate side effect, but when it comes down to a uniboob or the sheer torture of underwire, I’ll pick the uniboob nearly every day.

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    1. I’m totally torn on the uniboob – on the one hand, it is generally not ideal, but damn, the cleavage from the front is spot on! 😉

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  7. oh yes I don’t fit into the bralettes at the store either! They just aren’t big enough! 😦 But I often wear my one nursing bra bc it has no underwire hahahaha. It is just much more comfortable and I haven’t nursed for a year.

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  8. I don’t wear bralettes but I do wear RTW wirefree bras every day. I LOVE them. I can’t go back to wires! I have wide-set boobs I guess, and the sides of my breast fat continues around my torso, so even wearing the right size (or, like… three sizes too big!) or a wide curved wire it digs in and HURTS and gives me a headache. This is part of the reason I haven’t sewn bras, because most bra patterns have wires. I’ve just bought a Kwik Sew pattern with no wires that Katie Sews a Dress blogged about and I’m excited to try that when I get some elastic and powermesh.

    Again this is bras rather than bralettes, but the biggest thing I’ve found is you need a deep band around the torso. That’s where all the support comes from (it’s where a lot of the support comes from in wired bras, and ALL the support if there’s no wire). If the band lifts up the back on you like it does on that dress form, the back is too loose to provide any support. If it were me, I would trial making a 1/2″ band of folded over bra fabric with elastic in it, or a thick comfy soft elastic, and adding that to the bottom, like in the P4P bikini top http://www.patternsforpirates.com/product/siren-swim-top/ (which would also make a good bralette, actually, except if I make it tight enough to be supportive it’s too hard to get on so I need to add a clasp).

    A non wired bra should feel just a biiit too tight in the band when you first put it on. It takes a bit to get used to, tbh, but it does soften during the day and for me, about an hour in it’s so so SO comfy. The band on mine rolls up under my boobs/above my stomach when I sit but it’s soft so it doesn’t feel uncomfortable (I’d prefer to use soft elastic for this in order to minimise bulk though) And it sits solidly in a straight line across the back and sides which is important, otherwise nothing is holding anything, if that makes sense? It should fit and stay up without the bra straps on your shoulders. The straps will hold things in place and make everything a bit ‘perkier’ but shouldn’t be actually supporting the weight in any way, it should all be coming from the band. I could wear mine as a strapless bra if I was ok with it being droopy 😛

    One I cracked this code I found wire free bras to actually be more supportive than wired. Because of the shape of my breasts I could never go down far enough in the band size for it to fit properly, so it was always like my bra was just sort of a floating cover for my boobs. Not ideal. Everyone’s boobs are different though! The bras I wear are playtex and I love them so much. I tried Triumph’s wirefree bras, which look almost exactly the same but they’re just totally the wrong shape for me, so… this is my long spiel about what works for me. I hope some of it is useful for you! But I just wanted to be clear that this is, like… attempting to add to the communal knowledge rather than bossing you about how to wear a bra!

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    1. I love communal knowledge! On the one hand, I feel like I am well-informed about bra fit and bramaking, but on the other hand, I clearly don’t know enough to fix my underwire issues! I’ve been wearing small-band/large-cup bras for years, so I’m definitely used to the band doing the work… but you are totally right, with the too-large bralettes, the band isn’t doing enough. I”ll do some proper measurements next time I sew one so that the band is more likely to be the right size. I’ve just been winging it, and it’s clearly time to get it right! 😛 Your suggestion of fabric covered elastic seems like a good way to get more support than 1″ bra elastic is giving me!

      I’d be curious to see what shape of Triumph bra you wear – i looked, but they seem to have tons of styles!

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      1. Bras seem like the kind of thing where one small change makes a massive difference!

        The Playtex bras I like are this one
        and this one https://www.amazon.com/Playtex-Seamless-Smoothing-Wirefree-Bra-Nude-40DD/dp/B016B5JYM2/ref=sr_1_29?s=apparel&ie=UTF8&qid=1502768013&sr=1-29&nodeID=7141123011&psd=1&keywords=playtex+18+hour and this one https://www.amazon.com/Playtex-Womens-Original-Comfort-4693/dp/B0007YY8H0 which is less comfy and gives a more bullet bra shape which I really like for some clothes but not for others. I tried a bunch of others and they all fit with varying degrees of ok, but the smoothing one is the best for me and doesn’t stretch out too quickly like some of the others did. The cup is clearly sort of shaped and moulded somehow, there’s no way I’d be able to replicate it myself!

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  9. Well this is about the cutest collection of bralettes even if the fit isn’t quite there. The blue one is such a pretty print! Jalie has a soft bra pattern, but it’s a headache to fit…only 1 cup size and I found the band to be huuuuge. I’ve had the Watson on my queue since January, but I haven’t attempted it yet because I just finished nursing. No use hitting a moving target! But I do like soft bras for nighttime and sleeping.

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  10. I’ve never been a bralette person, but they are so appealing! Thus far I’ve stuck with my TNT bra pattern or style alterations to that one pattern, but I want a softer option that’s more than nothing when I’m around home. I finally gave in this weekend and bought the Ohhh Lulu Romy for a try. I have it printed but haven’t started yet. Looking forward to following along with your experiences.

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  11. I too love sewing bralettes, and fortunately have a smaller framed/busted friend to make them for! I have made the Watson for myself, I think I went with the 36E, and it does hurt my shoulders if I try and do anything (even sewing!) while wearing it. The fabric is not very supportive, though. I’m really struggling with fit these days, and I plan to devote my October sewing time to working on bras. I seem to have gone up a wire size, I’m still not sure about the wire shape, and I have resorted to wearing sports bras, even to work, when I feel like I can get away with it! I might try making an underwire pattern with the casing and everything, just no wire, to wear as a bralette kind of thing. I hav!en’t given up, but I need some concentrated time to puzzle through all the bra elements! Might give the foam a try, it looks great with all your fun fabrics!

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  12. What lovely bralettes. The fabrics are gorgeous and it is great that you can make them from bits and bobs of leftover fabric. I would love to be able to wear things like this but even patterns just don’t go anywhere near my J-cup size *le sigh*. Those puppies need a lot of support and I have the “coat hanger” shoulders to prove it. I would love to able to find something like that which was comfy but supportive for loafing around it so will watch how you get on. Xx

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