Sunday, January 2, 2011

Patience, Patience

I have now fully deconstructed, traced to paper and cut new fabric for the RTW plunge bra.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

But with bras, it's always a long view proposition.

Turns out I do not have the right widths of elastic to proceed. My stash is comprised of much thicker stuff. The more I compare the pattern bras for my size, against the RTW bras I own, the less surprised I am that the handmade bras haven't fit. We've been trained to think that wider or bigger is more "supportive". It's really not true. The more I consider this, the more I come to the conclusion that it's the construction mechanism which defines support. Of course, this implies use of the highest end materials and notions. RTW bra companies have ready-access to these supplies. Home sewists trying to make large bras, not so much.

My point is, if you have small(ish) breasts and you look around a bit, you can find totally adequate fabrics, notions etc. If you've got large breasts, requiring "architectural" supplies, that becomes a much more challenging task.

For example, even having spend hundreds of dollars on bra supplies, here's what I've figured out I STILL need - stuff I'm still working to source:
  • Stable, high-end wires. (Note: I have bought some I have high hopes for from Danglez. Dini, the owner, was kind enough, when I requested, to mail me 4 sets of wires in a small box for 15 euros less than 20 euros it costs to send anything from NL to Canada via Danglez. That made the risk affordable and I greatly appreciate the consideration.)
  • 2 wide x 3 long hook / eye sets that aren't made of inferior quality with badly finished siding. I also need them to be 1.25 inches wide, not the 1.5 inches that the other sets I've bought have been.
  • Top band elastic at 3/8 inch. I've got 5/8 inch...
  • Bottom band elastic at 5/8 inch I've got 3/4 inch...
  • Really high quality lingerie fabric with the smallest amount of width stretch. I've been working largely with Duoplex, a fabric with no stretch and it's limiting! I do have all kinds of stabilizers and linings and interfacing but I really don't know how to work well enough with them yet. And till I do, I need some gorgeous, stable, fashion fabric options (the likes of which all the high-end lingerie RTW companies provide).
I am also increasingly convinced that every sloper I've tried has been the wrong shape for me. When I compared the deconstructed RTW against one of my previous patterns (admittedly, the RTW is a plunge and the pattern was a balconette) I was SHOCKED by the difference in every single piece. I'm not yet skilled enough with the 3 dimensional thinking to explain how the shapes of the pieces speak to the shape of my breasts and frame, but maybe I'll figure it out as I go along. And then I WILL share.

Unless you're really skilled or really lucky, I sense that getting from "bra making novice" to "bra making expert" is a long and expensive road. The only thing I can say is that RTW bras are so costly, eventually the scales may level.

I'll keep you posted on developments...


  1. Have you tried making a non wire bra - a bullet bra with thicker band and the support coming from this and brilliant darting on the cup. Have a look at this store

  2. Talk about confidence - what about tackling a bra!? Now that's what I call skill. The hong kong finish is VERY time consuming, especially consider the time saving serger technique, but I did need to conquer it. Not sure that I'd be doing very many projects like that.

  3. I think any skill worth mastering requires a long and difficult road and is often expensive to boot. Count it up to education, somehow, at least to me, that hurts less than thinking of wasted materials.

    And then considering the money and time I've spent finding bras that fit, or that I thought fit until I wore them more than 3 hours etc., I think it will pay off well in the long run. Besides you will get just what you want, which is always worthwhile.

    I applaud your ambition.

  4. Sounds like you may be on the right track!
    If you want to still try your new pattern with the elastics you have, just widen your seam allowances to offset the extra!

  5. Happy New Year K-Line. I enjoyed catching up on the lovely photos.

    Your sewing projects continue to astound me.

    I am sorry the foot isn't 100% yet. I guess it just takes time.

  6. Awww! I was so hoping that Duoplex was the answer! I'm with you on the timeline for making bras. I know it will be a long process but explain to me how the women in the Netherlands like Sannalin ( and Jos ( make such wonderful bra and panty sets. Do you think they have better access to materials? Anyway, good luck with your bra sewing.

  7. Kate: I love that site. And I have considered it but the construction is actually more complicated - when you need support.

    Faye: I saw this really interesting post about an easy way to do French seams - which I always get confused with Hong Kong seams. Have you tried them?? And making a bra is a skill but, if it doesn't fit, it's not that impressive :-)

    Mardel: I'm really surprised that you haven't been sewing bras for years. With your artistry and love of lingerie - plus the value you place on fit - it seems like destiny! Let's see which of us can get a bra to fit first :-) (PS: At this point, I really hope it's me - for reasons of sanity.)

    Heather: I may have to recut the cup fabric to do that because I haven't got my ass in gear to order more elastic yet and this bra isn't going to make itself. Let's see how much longer I can occupy myself with other projects...

    Carla: I know! I just don't know. Maybe it's in the genes :-) I don't know if they have better access to materials - though in my brief experience the materials at Danglez (NL) are better than those at Bramakers (Can). Mind you, I do know that they're MUCH more expensive in the Netherlands, which makes it that much more of an impressive achievement.