Make Your Own Bra: Lingerie Series Part I

Fabulous lingerie. Source: Agent Provocateur.

Love Agent Provocateur and Victoria’s Secret? Love making things? I get so excited about the idea of sewing my own lingerie, particularly bras, that I want to hop from one foot to another. Odd behaviour aside, I know I’m not the only one fascinated by the idea of making my own lingerie. Who doesn’t want their own custom made stuff? Starting with bras, I will write a series that will hopefully inspire you to make your own intimates. Consider these a sort of tutorial in the spirit of my earlier corset posts The Art of Corsetry and Corset Making. I admit I haven’t tried bra making myself, but I have it up there on my to do list.

Quick, get measuring!

Where to begin, you might ask? The very beginning, as with everything sewing, is measuring. Accurate measurements of your body are key – you might want a helper with the measuring tape if you haven’t measured yourself before. My tip if you’re measuring is to wear lightweight form-fitting clothing, and if you’re measuring on your own, use a full-length mirror to make sure the tape measure isn’t going all crooked on you. Measure twice to make sure the tape measure is level across your body and that you’re getting an accurate measurement. Here’s a helpful diagram:

Taking your measurements. Source: Blush Lingerie.

Basic measurements you’ll need include: 1) Full Bust; 2) Underbust; 3) Waist and 4) Hips. Once you have these measurements down, then you’re ready for the next fun bit – picking out a pattern.

Elan bra patterns. Source: Vena Cava Design.

Bra pattern. Source: Kwik Sew.

Hunting down a bra pattern isn’t as easy as  you might think. Sometimes they’re quite dated when you find them, but often times you can’t find them at all from the major pattern makers. I’ve put together a list of some of your best bets for patterns, including Elan (through Sew Sassy), my top pick for stylish lingerie patterns, Kwik Sew, and Netherlands-based merckwaerdigh on Etsy. Etsy is a great source for vintage bra patterns in general and worth checking out. Be sure to keep in mind that vintage sizes are not the same as modern sizes and you’ll need to rely on your measurements to check out the pattern measurements for the right fit. If you’re experienced at sewing, you may want to make your own custom bra pattern based on a sloper as described at BurdaStyle, one of my favourite websites. There’s a few bra patterns available at BurdaStyle too, some of them free!

Poly satin fabric. Source: Bra-makers Supply.

Bra kit. Source: Sewing Chest.

Once you’ve sorted out the pattern, your next trick is to figure out materials. Often, you can get pre-made packages of bra materials from the vendor selling the bra, for the quickest route. Sometimes tracking down notions can be an adventure, although I personally think it’s a lot of fun – but remember, I also like to hop from one foot to another, so my idea of fun can be a bit twisted at times.  Basic materials you’ll need: fabric with some two-way stretch (like a stretch tricot / satin), bra elastic, underwire, hooks and eyes, bra adjusters, padding (optional), interfacing (optional), ribbon (optional), and/or lace (optional). A few major online lingerie supply shops are Sew Sassy, Bra-makers Supply and Sewing Chest.

Then the real fun begins – sewing! Be sure to go through your instructions carefully and if you like, you can prepare a sample muslin or toile of your bra before using your expensive good fabric. You can even get a toile kit from Sewing Chest. This is a great way to make adjustments before beginning the real deal.

Bra making tutorial. Source: Threads Magazine.

I found a couple of great tutorials for you on bra making. I love Threads Magazine and I’m always so pleased to see what they have online – the Threads tutorial is not to be missed. Hilarious as it is helpful, the Make Your Own Damn Bras tutorial is also really helpful if you have a bra that you love that you want to copy. There’s also a helpful bra tutorial on Instructables.

Have any of you made your own bras before? If you haven’t, are you ready to try?
x Rena

Corset Making

Model wears a King and Company corset.

I admit I’ve never made a corset before, but I’m very excited to try one day soon. I’m truly fascinated by lingerie. I would make all my underthings if I could. If I’m not careful, that might be a new goal. Better reign myself in!

If you fancy yourself a corsetmaker, or are keen to give it a go for the first time, there are some brilliant patterns and tutorials out there. I had a great deal of fun following up the Art of Corsetry blog post today chasing up patterns and tutorials. A great book available about corsetmaking is The Basics of Corset Building: A Handbook For Beginners. Pair this with Couture Sewing Techniques and you’re guaranteed to have a great time and learn a thing or two.

Vintage cloth tape measure.

The very first place to start with making your corset is by taking your measurements. This way, you will know what is the right size pattern for you to purchase, or, for the particularly ambitious, so that you can draft your very own custom corset pattern.

Celine Underbust Corset by King and Company on Etsy.

Mantua Maker late Victorian corset pattern available from voguefabricstore.

Arguably the safer place to start is with a purchased pattern, particularly for the rookie corsetmaker. My advice is to go with the specialist corset patterns rather than the big sewing pattern companies, who make corsets as part of costumes. A few great companies to check out are King and Company, Laughing Moon, Past Patterns and Ralph Pink.

Corset pieces.

There are also great tutorials out there if you want to make a corset from scratch and custom made to fit your body. I will say it helps to have a bit of sewing experience under your belt before tackling this approach. But if you’re determined, why not? I was never one to do things the ‘easy’ way either. Here’s an underbust corset tutorial from Katafalk and another from Leena’s.

If you’re really keen, there is a great series of corsetry video tutorials from Ralph Pink, I believe nine in all.  His videos have fantastic, detailed information to use with his free (yes, I said free) corset patterns. Ralph Pink’s website smacks of awesomeness, so I recommend you check it out sometime.

Rye and Ginger’s steampunk corset kit.

If you want to get on with the corsetmaking quickly with minimum fuss, there are kits already prepared with all the fabric and notions you will need. Farthingale’s has a corset kit ready for a Laughing Moon corset pattern. Rye and Ginger have kits made for their own underbust corset patterns with fabric pieces even pre-cut for you if you don’t want to mess about with tissue and too much measuring.

Glorious peach-pink coutil fabric from bettylabamba on Etsy.

Do you want to know a secret? The secret to creating a fabulous corset is using coutil fabric. It is a special cotton fabric, often with a herringbone pattern – it’s very durable and does not stretch. You can most easily find this from corsetmaking suppliers online. Then there is the matter of boning. Purists will argue that steel stays are the only way to go, although I’d say that plastic boning is surely fine for your first time out.

Spiral steel bones for your corset.

White metal spring steel bones.

A bit of burlesque inspiration before you begin to fashion your corset…

What Katie Did burlesque corsets.

Alice in Wonderland burlesque corset byolgaitaly.

Have you ever made a corset? How did it turn out?

x Rena