When I first started to sew my own clothing, I figured I’d only sew things I couldn’t find that fit me in RTW. Sleeves that went to my wrists! Skirts that went to my knees! Pants that went past my ankle! (Ironically, I have yet to really sew a pair of pants, and that’s like the number one thing I need right now.) But bras and undies? Ha. No way. I can buy that shit right there in the mall.
For a long time, I did. And I bought a loooooot of it. The reason here is two-fold. I feel way more confident when I have cute underthings on — bonus points if they match! That confidence is compounded by the fact that bras and undies fit me, unlike a lot of RTW. I don’t have a very unique bust, so bras were easy to find, and underwear was always really just underwear to me. I didn’t see the purpose of making my own underthings.
Of course, that all began to change when I made my Instagram. All of the sudden, photos of beautiful lace bras crept into my feed. Rumors of scrap busting with undies circulated the comments I was reading. I wanted… to make my own underwear.
The Tailor Made Shop sale at the end of December was my breaking point. I bought two beautiful kits and the Madalynne for Simplicity pattern #8229. Did I choose it mostly because we have the same name? Maybe… And then Rachel decided Maker Style was having a bra-making month and Ohhh Lulu had a sale, and y’all, I was done. It was time to toile some Simplicity 8229 bras out.
Simplicity 8229 Sizing
A benefit of having worked in a costume shop in college is that I got measured frequently. Sometimes it was to teach new hires our measuring system, or to see who was the closest fit to an actor. Sometimes it was just because we were bored. But overall, I have a good feel for my body’s measurements and how items fit me. I’ve also only bought bras at Victoria’s Secret for probably the last six or seven years. I know that people take issue with their sizing, but I’ve solidly landed on their 32C as my best fit based on my measurements and knowledge.
For that reason, it seemed odd to me when I was measuring at a 34D based off Madalynne/Simplicity’s guidelines in the pattern. I measured and measured and measured, and came up with that number each time. I went online and entered my measurements in bra size calculators, and got 32Cs or 34Bs most often. Even though I didn’t read anything about sizing in pattern reviews online, I clearly found it to be off. I did measure myself with and without a bra on, also. The measurements with a bra on were more likely to result in a familiar 32C or 34B measurement. I think that the reason for the size variances is because my bust is wide-set, honestly. I think a smaller band and cup centers the bust line for me, and I prefer that visual.
In the end, I went with the 32C. If you find that your bust is ~unique~, be prepared to do a fair amount of tracing and testing. I was curious as to how the pattern layout would be out of the packet, because of sister sizing, et cetera. The patterns are laid out by band size, and then the cups are overlapped like sizes in a non-bra pattern. If you make bras often, you probably know that, but I traced off a few 38B patterns before I realized how it worked!
I’ve never made a bra before. Have I mentioned that? Never. And my lace from the Tailor Made kits is so lovely, I couldn’t bear the thought of accidentally cutting the wrong size. So, of course, I decided to make a muslin/toile.
The first thing I looked for online was, you know, how to make the toile. All the lingerie fabric terms are so new to me that it was hard to decide what fabric would be the most similar. I have knit fabric with a similar stretch to the lace, but since the cups will be lined in power mesh, they won’t be stretchy. (update September 2018: power mesh is stretchy! I think I swapped bra tulle and power mesh in my first bras, which definitely affects the fit) In the end, I settled on making the cups in muslin and the band in stretch knit. (another September 2018 update: if something is made in a stable fabric or made/lined in bra tulle, use a stable fabric for your muslin. if something is made in a stretch fabric or made/lined in power net, use a fabric with a similar stretch percentage).
I made the 32C and the 34D right off the bat, since I thought the 32C would be my best fit but the pattern said 32D. I don’t have the underwires yet, so I just basted together all the elements and then pinned in some ric rac for straps. “Makeshift” is a nice way to describe the final project, but it worked! I’ll test again when the underwires I bought arrive. I didn’t order any until I had a good idea of what size I was going with.
After some test fittings, I’m ready to cut out the 32C bra. I’ll double check when my underwires come, but I think it’s my best option. I think I’ll need to add a little bit into the band between the cups, and maybe take a little out of the back bands, depending on how the underwire sucks things in. I’m crossing my fingers that the underwires get here in the next week and I’m able to take a me-made bra (or two, or three…) to Florida with me!
I also bought the patterns and some fabric for Ohhh Lulu’s lingerie sewalong after the Maker Style podcast came out. I’m not actually sewing along, but Sarah’s stuff is just so gorgeous that I could not resist. I bought some more bra fabric and findings too, so yeah, you could say I’m obsessed. It’s funny that the thing I said I’d never make I now cannot wait to make more of!
Do you have something you’ll “never sew”? And are you participating in the lingerie sew along (doooo it!). If you need some bra-making inspiration, good news: I’ve got a pinboard for that.