Attack of the Bra Clone!

I’m not a Star Wars fan (I don’t mind it, but I am a fan of Star Trek all the way; I prefer technical scifi), but I can never resist a geeky reference in a blog title or anywhere really.

Disclaimer: This is the post of lists….. So many lists in this post. I like lists.

Long time no post btw. I lost my sewjo for a bit, but it was a busy non-sewing February so I don’t feel bad for taking a break from sewing. After all I made in January, it was good to have a break.

I made my first bra back in November and didn’t return to bramaking. I got a lot of “when are you making another bra?” questions from my surprisingly interested fiance and I gave him a lot of “um….after this thing….” and then it would be after the thing and I’d start another thing. I put off making another bra, because…to be perfectly honest…I hated my first one. I wear it, but it’s not comfortable at all.

Here are the issues I had with it:

1. The underwire is too small: pokes into my arm and cuts into the breast tissue on the side.

2. The bridge doesn’t sit against my chest.

3. The band is too big and the underwires under my cup don’t sit flat.

4. The cup doesn’t fit snugly under my arm.

5. The cup is not big enough and the shape doesn’t work for me.

6. The straps are too long and don’t provide enough support.

I have been feeling pretty discouraged by the whole process. I have three RTW bras that fit me almost perfectly, but they are wearing out and I refuse to buy more bras when I have all this material waiting to be transformed into bras…

Here are my issues with my RTW bras:

1. The cup doesn’t fit snugly enough under my arm.

2. The upper cup isn’t large enough, but the lower cup is perfect.

3. The bridge doesn’t sit against my chest.

There are two solutions to these problems:

1. Stretch the elastic a little tighter on the cup under the arm and possibly raise the underarm scoop slightly.

2. Heighten the upper cup.

3. Increase the cup size (possibly fixed by heightening the upper cup).

I don’t even want to get into all that would need to be done with the other pattern. I got it in my head that I wanted to make a pattern out of my RTW bras and then tweak from there. Of course, I had no idea how to do that and, being a beginner or advanced beginner at best, I felt pretty ill-equipped to handle such a task.

So I researched it:

I started searching for solutions to this and looking at my first made bra with a critical eye. I read Norma Loehr’s Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction over and over and then researched boob shapes and what I needed to help the girls out. Luckily, I found Anne at the Clothing Engineer and all sorts of wonderful links and posts there. Her post on why the Marlborough didn’t work for her really enlightened why the classic bra from pin up girl patterns doesn’t work for me (it can work for a lot of people, but just isn’t good for my shape). Anne posted a link to boob shapes from Linda Unhooked and I found out why the classic bra didn’t work for me.

I’m a full circle:

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Which means I am just full everywhere: on top, underneath, on the side. I have big round girls and they fill in bras. In RTW, I am a 38-40HH. The bra I cut out for my class was a 48F: way too big in the band and way too small in the cup. I think the major issue with where they fit me was that they didn’t accommodate the side boob I have from being super full everywhere and so the RTW bra at the time they considered ill-fitting because the wire went back so far and the wire was bent out of shape from almost two years of wear (I wear my bras until they literally fall apart, because they are so expensive). Of course, I should have spoken up at the time. I’m actually really shy in a lot of situations and don’t speak up enough, especially when it comes to things I am unsure about like bra fitting or time travel paradox or particle acceleration. I liked where the RTW underwire was located and wanted to keep it that way and should have stated that. Of course, that means having a fuller cup. Overall, I just don’t feel like the classic bra is structured enough for the fullness of my girls and felt the support wasn’t there.

What bras work for me?:

Bras with more room in the upper cup and bras with something I now know is called a power bar (thanks Megan!).

My RTW bras are all Elomi bras with a similar shape like this:

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This is the Caitlyn side support bra. The power bar is the cup piece along the side of the cup closer to the underarm; it extends from the lower cup to the upper cup and includes the strap attachment. There are two pieces to the lower cup and then a wide upper cup that extends above both lower cups. The power bar is meant to provide extra support and push the girls forward. Two lower cup pieces provide a structured shape and the large upper cup provides enough coverage to avoid the dreaded quad booooob!!!! Scary stuff there. This is the perfect shaped bra for me. (edit: the Shelley full band bra from Pin up Girl patterns is basically the same as the Elomi bra above, if you are looking for a similar pattern with the two piece lower cup. I meant to talk about this in the post, but realized later I left out this tidbit.)

Why is cloning a bra a better option for me than buying?:

1. Elomi bras range from $70-$200 for me at my local specialty bra store here in Canada in my size.

2. Online shipping/custom charges from the States or UK don’t save me any money on the above costs even with great sales which do not happen often.

3. Limited choice of colours and styles (I like a rainbow of colours and can only seem to get black and beige here in Canada most of the time…)

4. Working with a cloned bra as a base means more options, cheaper options, and a heck of a lot happier Andie.

So, I set out to clone my Elomi bra.

Seeing how Anne cloned her Panache bra set me on a mission. I investigated methods and chose the pins in a cork board or, in my case, cardboard method from her post. Michelle’s creations also show pictures of this process in her post. Apparently the Bra Maker’s Manual has a chapter on cloning a bra, but I have yet to buy this book.

You first have to take the underwires out of your bra. This can be done without destroying the bra, but luckily I had a bra with the underwires popped out already from it being worn out. Then you pin it with tissue paper between the cardboard and the bra. Pin close to the seamlines around each piece very carefully (those pin holes will connect the dots for your bra pattern. You may also want to wear a thimble. I didn’t and my finger tip is numb now. Bad decision Andie.

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After you pin, you remove the pins once you are happy with it and connect the dots with a pencil. Then you add quarter inch seams around the pieces.

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(sorry, I was using my phone camera instead of the DSLR through this so the photos are not good quality…)

If you have a power bar or places where the elastic was stretched and then sewn on, be sure to get the piece to lay flat. It’s a fiddly process and requires a lot of patience. You may also want to note on the pattern pieces where the elastic was stretched so that you will get it right for your test bra.

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I had almost perfect fit the first time around with a few, but totally fixable issues.

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There were a few mistakes I made:

1. I didn’t pull the elastic tight enough in the underarm area of the power bar.

2. I didn’t install the bottom elastic properly and you can see it peaking out more than it should (you are only supposed to see the scalloped edge there). I had my classic bra pattern instructions next to me, but completely spaced on the band elastic method.

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3. I shouldn’t have added seam allowances to the bridge (the area between the cups), because I pinned on the other side of the wire (in the seam allowances) and not in between in the bridge (d’oh).

4. My machine should have been completely cleaned out and maintained before I started, because it wasn’t working well and didn’t sew properly so my stitches are messy messy messsssssy (embarrassingly so!).

5. I didn’t account for the extra stretch in the upper cup, because I didn’t use anything to stabilize it and so I made a dart in the upper cup to account for the fit.

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Overall, though, the fit is good. So much better than my first made bra, which I wear but feel very uncomfortable in. I altered the pattern pieces for the bridge (narrowed it), band slightly (just to fit the closures), and reduced the length of the upper cup from arm to bridge to account for the stretch fabric and then heightened it a little more to account for the bridge not sitting perfectly (not pictured).

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It’s not bad for my second bra imho. I’m not Lauren in terms of kicking ass at making bras (one day I will be!), but I don’t nearly match Lauren’s skill. I think it’s good for my level. Tons to learn and perfect, but I am really pleased with it. You can see the original (very worn) bra above and the cloned bra in the middle with my first bra at the bottom. It’s quite a difference between the three with the best fit one in the middle: mine!

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I’m not going to plunge right into the next one, because I want to wear it and see where else I can improve the fit. I try to do this for all the things I make and I try to do this before I blog.** I find wearing a garment really changes how you think about it. There will be more issues that arise with how it wears. All in all, it’s pretty exciting to have a bra pattern to work with that I am excited for.

I plan on making a turquoise bra and a fushia bra in the below fabrics and possible laces.

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I will be making some knickers.  I also have a good underwear pattern that I cloned from my best fitting pair of underwear. Cloning all the things! My wearable muslin fits well, but I will be making some tweaks for the next versions. I’ll talk more about that when I have a few million more pairs to show you and I’ve figured out the fit/style I want.

**I didn’t wear my white Bronte top before blogging about it and I regret it. I didn’t even pay attention to the pictures or think about the fit, because the post was mostly about the skirt and I was dazzled by the pretty insides of my top. I will talk more about this in a future post, but the neckline clearly stretched out as I sewed it. Looks nice flat, but wavy on me. 😦