After much research, toiling and trial & error I'm so happy to finally have a well fitting underwired bra set - the DL01 from MakeBra & self drafted briefs.
I’ve recently enjoyed making underwear starting with a non-wired bra, sports bra, some knickers and jersey boxers for my husband, all posted on my Minerva profile. I recommend anyone to venture into underwear making and starting with similar projects to those listed above helps to learn some different process and skills and understand the engineering behind lingerie & bras. The fit is easier to master with jersey, non-wired bras. I’ve spent a few weeks now perfecting the fit on an underwired bra and although I was really pleased with my first one (The Maya Bra) it didn’t fit well, being a bit too big under the arm.
After following many tutorials online, playing with toiles and using my most comfy ready to wear (RTW) bra as a guide I have finally made a bra that fits and is wearable. I can’t believe what I’ve found out about bra shapes and sizes and my own anatomy! If you are a methodical sewer and enjoy following patterns and instructions making a bra is a very satisfying process and although there are many stages, the seams and pieces are obviously small making it a relatively quick process to sew (if you ignore the time researching and watching videos!).
Having used jersey in the past I wanted to try a cotton fabric although some stretch (or cutting on the bias) is beneficial. I saw this pretty stretch cotton sateen , on the Minerva site, with delicate grey flowers on an ivory background which is perfect for lingerie. It washed well before sewing and needed an iron to remove the creases. It has a slight stiffness to it which made it easier to handle the smaller pattern pieces compared to using sheer fabrics. I collected all the other materials I required from different suppliers, all to co-oridnate with the main fabric (see list below).
Similarly, I searched many bra patterns until I found the shape & style I like and chose the DL01 by Make Bra. It has foam cups, fixed fabric straps and 3 shaped pieces to give a rounded shape. There is a lot of helpful information on the site including the list of materials required and link to a video tutorial.
One of the most difficult stages for me was trying to determine my wire size and once I’d worked this out, I could continue with the rest of the fit. A quick search online will generate guidance about determining your wire size. This gave me a rough idea, but I found the only way to be certain was to make test bras and add different sized wires. From my measurements I consistently came out at needing a 46 wire, but it was much too big, and I ended up with a 42. For guidance, I'm a 36DD in M&S RTW. Wires are around £1.50 each and I bought 3 different sizes once I knew the 46 was too large, so they’re not too expensive to try a few sizes. Some companies will exchange the wires you don’t need once you have determined the correct size.
The things I’ve learned about my own anatomy and preferred/most comfy style of bra is that I’m very close set with no gap between which makes it uncomfortable with a high bridge. Also, most of my volume is towards the centre rather than on the underarm side. Consequently, I shortened the bridge by about 2cm, lowered the centre cup insertion to accommodate the lower bridge and removed a wedge from the underarm side, about 2-3 cm. I tested these pattern pieces on a RTW bra before making a toile of the cups from an old shirt.
The bra cup and side edges are all finished with fold over elastic, which once mastered, gives a smooth finish to the edges. I used plush picot elastic for the lower band and a 3 x 3 hook fastener. The strap is adjusted with a classic ring and bar.
I’m so pleased to finally have a bra that is comfy to wear and does what it’s designed to do. I am planning some final changes to enhance the fit by raising the upper edge of the cups as a little bit of me overflows now and then & possibly to try a partial band as I only need a small section of bridge. It’s very satisfying to now have a well-fitting bra that I can replicate in lots of different fabrics, and I’ve already bought a lovely spotty satin fabric for my next set.
The briefs were made from my self drafted pattern with a central modesty panel in the stretch sateen fabric, stretch galleon lace to the sides and power mesh for the back piece. There is not enough stretch in the cotton sateen to make the whole briefs in the fabric, and I love the feminine effect of the added lace.
Below is a list of materials & suppliers that I used for the set & thank you to Minerva for the pretty cotton sateen fabric.
Stretch cotton sateen (Minerva)
Cut & sew foam
Power net (Ivory)
Power mesh (Ivory)
Sheer cup lining
Plush band picot elastic (Ivory)
Fold over elastic (Ivory)
Strap elastic (Ivory)
Ring & bar (White)
Hook & eye fastening (Ivory)
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