I Need Some Support Here
August 9, 2020 4:56 AM   Subscribe

I need a whole new set of bras -- I haven't bought a new one for at least five years. Good bras are very expensive, especially in the [cough] larger sizes. I can sew fairly well, and have a good sewing machine. Boob and sewing machine owners of MeFi, have you had any success with making your own flattering and supportive bras? If so, do you have any tips to share, and can you point me to resources for patterns and supplies?
posted by orange swan to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Be prepared for it to take a few tries to get a good fit. Bra patterns vary in sizing and shape and you have to make the whole bra in the right materials to see if it fits, which can get expensive at first.

There are a ton of patterns out there but for size range, I recommend the Bra Makers Supply patterns. They have a number of different styles. I started with the Classic, which is very supportive, but you can look through their list and try to find one that matches the style of a bra you have and like. I also like the Cloth Habit patterns, and Emerald Erin's Black Beauty bra has good instructions.

Lots of shops sell kits that include everything you need. Once you figure out what you like, it is cheaper to source all the bits separately but the kits are great when you are getting started because you need a few different kinds of fabric and notions.

I'm part of a Facebook group that offers advice and discussion, Bra Making Forum. I believe there are other Facebook groups too, they can be helpful to learn about fitting and technique, and there are lots of sewalongs. And right now on Instagram it is #braugust, so lots of people are posting about bra making and making videos of construction.
posted by phlox at 5:36 AM on August 9, 2020 [5 favorites]

Demystifying Bras: Bra Fitting and Construction by Norma Loehr [2014] is probably just the book you need;

It's currently unavailable on amazon.co.uk as a paperback, but shouldn't be too hard to find at other booksellers, and it's also available as a kindle book or an ebook from and from various other sources in ebook form.

The author, Loehr, runs their own lingerie company - https://orange-lingerie.com/

It's quite comprehensive, but assumes you have a mid level sewing capability.

I've never made my own bra, but I did make a corset type thing for Cosplay once, that looked very pretty but (because it was for cosplay and not everyday wear, I used cheap alternatives like cable ties for boning instead of proper corset boning) my corset wasn't 'supportive' or very restrictive - both of which are necessary in a comfortable bra !

LizSews: https://www.youtube.com/c/LizSews/ is a youtube channel with quite a few detailed bra tutorials - I've watched a few, but not actually made any of the bras featured.

So Sew Easy has a sports bra pattern and tutorial that also seems comprehensive and yet not mind bogglingly difficult - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pE0NdOfHK2Y

Good luck.
posted by Faintdreams at 6:49 AM on August 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

My Grandma made her own, and she got the supplies right at Jo-Ann Fabrics. I’ve only ever done alterations, but all the bits were still right there at our local store.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:35 AM on August 9, 2020

One idea: a professional fitting (as it's been years) in-store, and trying on a variety of high-end bras to find the ideal one for you. Then buy the winning bra, on closeout or on eBay, twice, and use the second bra for pattern pieces. I've been happy with a couple of craft suppliers on Etsy, but the craft wasn't lingerie sewing. The first shop, Tailor Made, has a link-laden Complete Guide to Bra Making.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:51 PM on August 9, 2020

An alternative thought if you're not up for sewing one yourself. Spend $75 or $100 to get yourself fit for a really, really good bra. Then buy more on ebay for $25.
posted by Violet Blue at 12:59 PM on August 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

On second thought: What Iris said!
posted by Violet Blue at 1:22 PM on August 9, 2020

I have done it, and it is a serious challenge even if you are normally a good sewist. Getting the fit right is difficult - I took classes that involved expert fittings and they were still never quite as right as you would hope. If anyone I know could do it and be successful, it is probably you, but it is a significant challenge and you won't see a huge cost savings on your first couple of bras because of the iterations it will take to get the fit right.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:21 PM on August 9, 2020

I have made many bras, both at home and professionally. Depending on what you're looking for, they can be one of the hardest things to sew. If it sounds like a fun new challenge to level up your sewing skills, awesome, it can be super satisfying! There's good advice above, also search for resources by Beverly Johnson. But tread carefully if you can see yourself getting frustrated by investing many hours and material costs on some bad-to-ok bras before you find your style/fit.

(FWIW, most of the bras in my rotation are mass produced. The ones I made myself tend move to the back of the drawer. And I've been doing this for years! Bras are hard to get right and the good ones use lots of specialized equipment! It's not the question you asked, but in your position right now I would invest in a handful of really nice bras if you possibly can. Take note of the styles and features you like and call it "research" into your future bra-making endeavors.)
posted by doift at 3:05 PM on August 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

My grandson's other granny, Zipporah, started making her own bras 40 years ago, then she made them for friends. Her bras got very popular, she got bored with the whole thing, and in the end she turned it over to her sister and it's now a thriving business: Decent Exposures. So, if you really get into it think about making it a business. Good luck!
posted by mareli at 4:15 PM on August 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Sewcialists has been running an "all chests welcome" thing. I haven't completely dived in, but there appear to be tips, resources, etc for bra-making.
posted by dogmom at 5:36 PM on August 9, 2020

Lauren Taylor (Lladybird) makes a lot of lingerie. She's a small band but large cup size and she's reviewed a number of bras on her blog and lately of course like everyone she's moved over to instagram. I've taken an in-person class with Lauren and she's great. Highly recommend perusing her archives, she's literally made it all.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:56 AM on August 10, 2020

Do you normally like sewing very detailed/fiddly things? I don't and I found bra making somewhat excruciating--there is very little margin for error because everything is so small to begin with and I found the process tedious and frustrating.

Also, is it easy to find bras that fit and support you well? I wear a small band plus large cup and need a lot of support (especially side support). I had the same problems with sewing patterns as I do buying off the rack. Orange Lingerie made me the most angry because there is so much preaching about "you're probably wearing the wrong size"/"make sure you measure yourself correctly" but then it put me in a way off sister size (30F vs 36C) which fit like a way off sister size.
posted by jessica fletcher did it at 4:38 PM on August 10, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, everyone.

I don't find it at all easy to find a bra that works for me, I can't bear the idea of going to all the trouble and expense of making a bra only to have it not turn out right, and I found a tutorial on how to make a bra pattern out of an existing bra, so I think what I will do is buy new bras and (when they wear out, or when I can find an inexpensive copy of that particular design) turn the ones that fit and shape and support me best into bra patterns, which I can use to make as many bras just like the original as I wish.
posted by orange swan at 1:55 PM on September 16, 2020

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