The fit fell down in the following ways:
- Wires had minimal integrity (not strong, peeps, and I bought different ones in numerous places)
- Fabrics were firm, but I didn't really know how to firm up some flimsy ones - ok, let's call them delicate - so that I could use those as pretty contrast. I also couldn't make the bands firm enough
- The cups, regardless of what crazy-ass size I decided to make (and I tried 5 different cup sizes) were always too shallow over the full bust point, resulting in a gore that would not lie flat but, frequently, cups that were too large in the top and bottom of the cups (note, the flimsy wires probably didn't help the centre gore to tack at the breastbone...)
So, what's giving me the push to try again?
- I recently dissected some of my RTW bras that had seen better days (oh, so traumatizing) and kept the wires. This means I'll have better support and an opportunity to compare RTW wires against the ones I've bought online for a) shape b) length c) proportion at either side (underarm and centre).
- I have a better sense of how to underline things now and how to use delicate fabrics more sturdily.
- I've finally figured out what depth of cup I need at the full bust i.e. over the centre apex from underarm to centre chest. It's 10.5 - 11 inches, fyi. That's very deep through the centre but quickly less deep above and below that apex.
- I've determined that I need close set gores at heights of 2.5 inches (if plunge) or 3 inches (if balconette).
- I want 3 hooks and eyes and a side band of 3 inches in height. Or a long line. It's not that I can't wear bras with 2 hooks, but - in order to provide the superior lift that I will not forgo - the fabric and construction must be very good if when I do. I think I should leave that to the RTW bra experts.
Furthermore, I sense I've been trying to make bras using the pattern size associated with my UK bra size. That's rather different, once one gets into the larger sizes, that the EU or US bra sizes that all of my patterns are likely constructed in (some are European, some are Canadian). Don't get me wrong, I deviated from my RTW sticker size by a variety of cups in all kinds of ways. But it didn't occur to me at the time that I am basically 3 bra sizes in one as a result of being:
- very full in the centre cup, but narrow from side to side, and
- very narrow in the back and shoulders
If you have, for example, a wire that's 11 inches long (and that's about the wire length I prefer), it might be very shallow under the bust and wide OR very narrow under the bust and long. It can also be bent so that it's narrowed on one side and widened on the other. Point is, the shape matters - and it particularly matters when you're trying to get fabric to lie over a very specific volume between those wires.
So, for my own purposes, and in case you're interested, my next handmade bra (when and if I choose to make it) will be constructed in accordance with the following:
- Underlined lace in top cups, bottom cups in stable fabric
- Band that stretches taut to 31 inches max
- RTW bra, reclaimes wires
- 3 inch, close set gore (reinforced)
- 3 inch side band (underlined for maximal stability) - maybe with boning
- 3 hooks (unless I figure out how to make a long line, in which case 6 hooks and boned sides)
- Depth of 11 inches at the centre apex
- Straps at 1/2 or 5/8 width
Since I started sewing in 2009 (and, btw, bras were one of the first things I tackled in light of my LOVE of lingerie), I've observed how popular bra-sewing has become. I'm excited to find more people are taking on the challenge, because more sewists means more knowledge and - likely - better materials (as demand grows). Also, it's nice to have company!
Having said this, I think it's critical to remember:
- If you've never worn a bra that fits, you're very unlikely to make one that does. So get fitted first. And refer to this post.
- If you're above a 32 band size and a DD cup size, chances are the wires you find are not going to give adequate support. So, unless you've got very light breasts that have yet to experience the ravages of gravity, you may not be able to achieve the sort of lift that will provide your most attractive silhouette.
- Furthermore, the larger your breast volume and density, the more important it is that the materials you use be firm. Underline anything with stretch. And make sure the bottom cup does not stretch at all.