Bra Vocabulary

Happy Friday, everyone!  In honor of this month’s #SewMyStyle2018 theme being lingerie, I thought it might be helpful to have a post explaining some of the vocabulary of bra-making, and with some of my favorite sources for materials.  When I first started dabbling in making bras and undies, I was pretty intimidated!  You need certain types of elastic, you need certain widths of lace, and you have to find it all and get it to you.  I don’t proclaim to be an expert in bra vocabulary, but let’s give this a whirl, huh?  First we’ll walk through what the materials are, and then I’ll share my favorite places to purchase them.

*some of the links on this page are affiliate links.  this means that I get a small commission from purchases you make using them, but doesn’t cost you anything!  I only share things I love and that I think you’ll love too.  affiliate links help me pay for hosting, fabric, and patterns.*

Bra Vocabulary

Exterior Fabric Types

Stretch lace/galloon lace : many bra patterns call for stretch lace.  Most often you will use a specialty narrow lace, often galloon lace.  Galloon lace has those lovely scalloped edges, and then some kind of design in the middle.  The pattern will specify a minimum width.  I’ve seen laces as narrow as 4″ and as wide as 10″.  Could you just use stretch lace you find in your local big box craft supply store?  For some patterns, I guess, but it might not be as pretty!

Stable lace : lace that has no stretch.  You may use stable lace for things like a trim on an edge that is loose on the body.

Stretch knit : any kind of stretch knit will work here!  Ensure that it has the correct stretch percentage if one is specified.

Lining Fabric Types

Bra tulle : bra tulle is a very soft tulle for the insides of bras.  It has no stretch to it.

Powernet : powernet is similar to bra tulle, but has some stretch to it.  Be careful not to substitute powernet for bra tulle or vice versa, because your cups and band won’t fit!

Bra foam : most ready-to-wear bras have cups made of bra foam.   You can buy pre-molded cups, or sheets of foam to cut and sew cups.

Elastics and Straps

Fold over elastic : have you got any of those “no mark” hairbands that are a ribbon-y elastic with a knot in it?  That’s fold over elastic!  Use fold over elastic to finish off edges, especially ones that need to stretch like leg holes and waist bands.

Picot elastic : picot elastic has decorative edging like loops on one side.  It also usually has one elastic-y side and one soft side.  Picot elastic sometimes is called lingerie elastic, and is great for finishing off narrow edges like legs or necklines.

Band elastic : like picot elastic, band elastic has one soft side and one elastic side.  It’s usually a little wider than picot, but still has that pretty edging.  Unsurprisingly, it’s most often used for waist bands and bra bands.

Strap elastic : this is the elastic for bra straps!  It has one soft side and one elastic side, and no decorative edging.  Make sure to get the size specified by your pattern, and that matches the size of sliders and rings you’re getting!

Findings and Notions

Sliders and rings : the metal bits on your bra that attach the straps to the cups (rings), and let you adjust strap length (sliders).  You need two sliders and two rings per basic bra.

Hook and eye : the back clasp of the bra.  These come in multiple row/column combinations (e.g., 3 columns of one hook and eye, two columns of three hook and eyes, et cetera).  Get the right width for your pattern or your back will be off!

Underwire : ensure that you get the perfect fit to your bra with the correct underwire.  This can be hard to identify.  There’s no universal underwire shape.  Push up bras have a different shape than everyday bras, and strapless bras have a different one than demi cup bras.  Measure yourself (or even better, have someone measure you), and then order a set of underwire or two in whatever size you measure at.  If you’re on the edge between sizes, order both!  And if your pattern places you at a size dramatically off of what you’re expecting, it can’t hurt to order what the pattern says and what you think you are.  We know that many stores pad (ha!) sizing, or have sizes that are unique to them, but when I made my first underwire bra, the size the pattern said to make and the size I made were not the same.  Some helpful information on measuring yourself comes tomorrow!

Underwire channeling : similar to picot and band elastic, it has one soft side and one regular side.  There’s no stretch, though.  You thread your underwire through this casing.

Spray adhesive : bra fabrics can be slippery!  Spraying your pattern pieces and fabric together can help you cut them out, and keep fabrics from sliding around as you sew.  It’s light enough to not clog up your machine, and a quick wash will remove the stickiness.

Needle : use a thin, sharp needle for sewing laces and tulle.  Use a stretch or ballpoint needle for sewing knits.  More on needles here.

Simplicity 8711 >>

Purchasing Lingerie Supplies

Now that you’ve got your bra vocabulary, it’s time to buy those pretty materials!  It seems like even in the last year or so, the options for buying bra-making supplies have really expanded.  You can find lots of places on Etsy now, as well as some full-fledged web stores.

A lot of these recommendations are maybe US-centric.  I’m wary of buying lace from China and from Eastern Europe (just not sure how long it’ll take to get to me).  Still, I think many of these shops ship internationally.  A * means that they carry all the basics: lace, tulle, powernet, elastics and strappings, foam, underwire and channeling, rings, sliders, and hook and eyes — so you can shop with confidence!

It’s easier and often cheaper to buy supplies like straps and elastic in bulk.  If you want to save a little money and are planning several pieces, I recommend choosing a common color scheme or an accent color you love.  Maybe your laces are every color of the rainbow, but the straps and elastic is all black!  Or maybe you’re doing various shades of blue.  Whatever you choose, it can be simpler and cost-effective to have pieces in a similar color family.

And now here’s my insider tip: if you’re still not confident about picking your own supplies, buy a kit!  That’s how I got the supplies for all of my Madalynne bras (two from Tailor Made and one from her shop), plus my to-be-blogged Jordys (oh wow I just checked Erin’s shop and there are so many cute kits in there right now!!!).  Knowing that the kit has everything you’ll need is so reassuring, and bonus!  They often include more material than you’ll need, so you’ll have leftover lace, strapping, and/or elastic to make another bra or a matching pair of undies (or two!).

My Favorite Shops

Are you feeling more confident about your bra vocabulary and what to buy for your lingerie now?  I sure hope so!  I can’t wait to share more lingerie with you throughout the month, and to see what you make as well.

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