Monday, January 31, 2011

The Bra: An Update and Questions

Well, after 30ish hours of utter stomach flu misery (17 of them spent sleeping), I returned in brief to the bra I'm in the midst of making. Yeah, I know, it's painful to sew these things at the best of times, but when disembodied from light-headedness, it's a special kind of trip...

As you know, with bras it's all or nothing. You can't determine whether it will fit until the last closure is attached. This one is practically finished and I continue to have suspicions it will fail somehow. For one thing, I'm having issues with the closure attachments. I always have issues attaching the closures to the bra back. (You think it would be easy after all the rest of it.) This time the difficulty is compounded because the shape of the bra back, where the closures are meant to attach, isn't right. It's supposed to be a closure-sized notch out from each side. In this case it's a broad, too-wide span.

If anyone has any suggestions about how to change this on the fly, at the very end - yes, I realize it's a pipe dream - pls. advise.

The good news, I suppose there is some, is that the cup fit is MUCH better than in any of my other attempts, which was my primary goal. I'm trying to take solace in that.

The bad news is that I suspect - as with every fucking bra I've made - it's not going to be adequately supportive.

I really need to start addressing this issue. Because if, for reasons of the unavailability of truly high-end bra materials, I can't find really strong fabric (that's also great-looking) and the sturdiest of wires etc., then I regret to inform you all that I will not continue on this path.

I already own some of the most gorgeous, great-fitting, incredibly supportive RTW lingerie in the world. That stuff is far more delicate (smaller elastics, no under band, predominantly lace) than any make-it-myself pattern I've come across in my size. And, to a one, they keep my tits from bouncing around.

Why on earth would I work my ass off till the end of time, were I to determine that the materials aren't out there to do create something comparable at home? I'm all but finished reconstructing my RTW bra to the T, so I know, if this one is the right size and yet does not support in the same way, then there's got to be another issue.

So, those of you with large breasts who make your own bras and who also own some excellent RTW (i.e. Freya, Fantasie, Charnos, Panache, Lejaby, Chantelle) - RTW that you know you are wearing in the correct size - tell me true: Is your homemade stuff every bit as supportive as the stuff you buy?

I know you might be able to make something fabulously supportive in a D cup - and certainly in sizes smaller than that - but what about the Es and Fs and above? For what it's worth, I don't see any Etsy or grass roots retailers making bras in large sizes. Maybe there's a reason. Please bra-makers, tell me straight.


  1. Sorry, absolutely no worthy experience or knowledge to offer. But since I am having a comment-a-rific night here, I wanted to say I would LOVE to see an RTW bra brand with an ad that states outright: "It keeps your tits from bouncing around". Love it. And, good luck with the final fitting, fingers (or other appropriate bits) crossed.

  2. ***Disclaimer: I'm not a bra-making expert; I've just made several successful bras.***

    If you don't care about "pretty" and there's not a huge difference in height between the end of the band and the hook/eye tape, you can put a little pleat in it and at least see if it fits. (Hell, you can wear it that way too, if you so desire--no one will know.) Or, you can remove the elastic along the top edge and using a french curve and a rotary cutter cut off the excess fading out to nothing near the cups of the bra. Re-sew the elastic, attach the hook/eye tape. I can't speak for others who are larger than my 38DD, but I have no problems with support in any of the bras I've made. Perhaps you aren't using the proper fabrics? I use a tricot lining with the fashion fabric just being interlined with another piece of tricot--fashion fabrics and lace should simply be the icing on the cake, they shouldn't be considered as part of the actual structural support. Also, not all powernet is created equal--some is stronger than others. If you have a thinner powernet, overlay it with your fashion fabric or tricot instead of leaving it bare.

    Hope that helps!

  3. As a woman with 32DD bra, I say hats off to anyone who attempts to make a bra. I buy Wacoal and know my limits. I have been circus tents and horse blankets but I will leave the bramaking to the professionals!
    Mary :)

  4. I've decided I won't be able to use any fabric other than non-stretch. Being a J cup it's not practical, obviously. I have a hard time fitting and getting a supportive bra with my handmade bras. I'm beginning to think it has a lot to do with the wires. I took the wire out my Freya and it is about double the thickness of the others I have here! I'm still woking on my copy. It's been lying there for weeks, it seems. I've just lost all sewing mojo lately. I'll get back to it one of these days!
    I'm not sure about the closure issue. I can't seem to picture it in my head, the whole notch thing... My brain is fried though! lol!

  5. I've given up on making anything other than 'sleep bras' - no underwire and minimal support requirements. Even then I've been most successful with non-stretch fabric. But I should play with that more - Pattern Master Curves (the software I draft my bras from) adjusts the sizes of the pattern pieces based on lengthwise and crossewise stretch, so in theory I should be able to tweak it to get proper support no matter what fabric I use.

  6. I bought supplies from and I've been much happier with their underwires and powernet than what I've seen at Fabricland. The underwires in particular, much like what Heather said, sewsassy wires can take the strain.

    I also agree with CGCouture about layering. The bra that turned out best was underlined with tricot for the cups and powernet for the back and purple stretch satin. I loved that bra until the front clasp broke.

    As a 38D, I'm not quite facing the challenges of super big cups, but I certainly need support to avoid looking like a ski slope.

    I'm totally enjoying the bra posts, love to hear I'm not the only one struggling.

  7. Many, many years ago, Sheila Kitzinger and the National Childbirth Trust used to produce the most amazing "nursing bras" for those of us who were, well, nursing. And they insisted that straps should have no stretch whatsoever in them (even given that it is the band that does most of the suporting). So the straps were made of 100% cotton. I wore my nursing bras (expandable lacing at the back - masterpieces of engineering) throughout pregnancy and nursing (J cup), and twenty-five years later am only just starting to fail "the pencil test" (but only D cup now)! Support your boobs! (But hopefully technology and fabrics have improved and you just might find something more sexy than white cotton....).

  8. i have no tips or professional advice to add except MAJOR PROPS to you for soldiering on in this immensely challenging project. stomach flu is the worst. last time i had it i was immobile for basically a day and a half, and non-productive for at least another day. i hope you get better soon!

  9. Kristin, what fun, LPC suggested I check out Inside Out Style as a good source in figuring out one's personal style, so I was visiting, and there you were!

    I've declared 2011 to be the year of dressing better and am blogging the journey :-).

  10. Before I met you I never knew that there were people who would dare to try and make their own bras. I remain, as always, in awe of you.

  11. As a G cup I get the issues, and when you think about it the difference between say a D cup and a G cup is another 5 sizes, that's more than A to D alone, so of course the fabrication has to be twice as sturdy!

    Good luck with this!

  12. Jane: Me too!!

    CGC: I'm totally going to try that for this bra - it's a total mish mash muslin at this point. And I love your disclaimer. I can't wait till I can say that :-)

    Mary Elizabeth: These days I'm starting to wonder if there's a reason everyone's not making her own bras... :-)

    Heather: I'm so with you! When I ripped up the RTW bra and realized a) how much sturdier the fabric was (even than my stretch-free duoplex) and that the wires were 2x less flexy, I realized there's a reason my bras aren't holding everything in. It was disconcerting but also made me recognize that it isn't my technique.

    birdmommy: I am so intrigued by pattern software! I want some.

    chutchings: I'm going to try sew sassy next. Let me say that the Danglez wires are MUCH better than the Bra Makers ones. I really hope that SS comes through but I don't know that industrial grade wires are actually available to home sewists...

    Anon: I am so on your wavelength - support is queen! But you can get really pretty stuff in all sizes now :-) Even nursing bras!

    Sophie: Thanks. I was home again today just trying to get my stomach totally back in order.

    Susan: Secretly, I'm taking over! :-)

    Bel: You just haven't met someone this crazy. If you saw me hovering over the machine, toiling and cursing, you would not be in awe. :-)

    Imogen: I have never thought of it quite that way - really good point! Hmmmm... I guess I have to start by being more grateful that the industry makes bras that work in my size.

  13. It kind of kills me that I haven't ordered from Bra Makers yet (outside of the book, Christmas gift from my husband last year) considering I live in Mississauga. I certainly browse their web site often enough.

    Talking and reading about making bras has been good for my sewing mojo. I started a replacement purple one last night and made good progress. I won't get back to it until Saturday, but I can hear it calling my name, telling me to sew in the channeling...

  14. Chutchings: Isn't that hilarious. We're lucky to have that resource so close by (not that I want to trek to Hamilton under any circumstances!). I've found the channelling and the fabrics are very good. The closures and the wires are very poor.