I was so pleased to check my email this morning and see this gem of a blog post with fantastic pictures awaiting me. Jillian from our KK+ bras series is back with some astute observations on developing her patterns and prototypes. As the Lingerie Addict pointed out last week, bra making can be an artisan skill, and Jillian’s quest certainly underscores this. I hope you enjoy the post as much as I do!
Hey everyone! It’s Jillian again with an addendum post to the second entry. I apologize for its tardiness- I experienced for the first time a tension headache that lasted almost two full months. I basically curled up in a ball and tried not to move or look at light the entire time. In the last entry, I spoke about the thought process used to develop my pattern drafts. The actual materials used for the practice bras and for the final products were mistakenly left out *hanging head in shame*. This entry would serve to correct that.
Pick up a bra that you’re not wearing and try to count the different parts that make up the whole. Such a tiny garment having such vast importance and so many parts. My current bra design has:
- Rigid/non stretch tricot knit fabrics for the cups, center bridge and side wings,
- ultra thin padding for a strength/shaping layer in the cups,
- heavyweight powernet for the back wings,
- full plushback satin elastic straps,
- Single picot edged plushback elastic in TWO widths for the band,
- O-rings AND slides on the straps,
- vertical steel underwires,
- underwire casing,
- three row hook and eye tape that can be cut to fit as the back closure,
- Polyester thread.
Twelve components in total- pretty trippy considering everything this garment has to do. It isn’t budget friendly to create an entire complete bra just to test out a design. So practice materials are used to mimic the final result as closely as possible.
When creating a practice garment, the best bet is to use a light toned fabric that is similar to the end product fabric. In most cases for clothing, 100% cotton muslin is the go-to fabric used. It is inexpensive, easy to mark changes on, comes in a variety of weights and is easy to rip across the grain to separate lengths from the bolt. However it is flimsy and can’t support the pressure or weight of a heavy breast like mine without wanting to rip or droop. For jeans, twill and/or drill are often used as their weave is very close to denim and is light toned. But even the non stretch twill/drill does have a fair amount of mechanical give (meaning it stretches slightly on its own without the presence of lycra, elastene, etc.) and would have the ability to throw off the pattern’s physics and lines if you wanted a non stretch fabric for the cups. So my choice of these fabrics in the initial stages was wasteful of time/energy/money and very misguided.
Besides bra making, I’m very much into corsetry, lingerie, shapewear and vintage undergarments like girdles and garter belts. Those in the corsetry community are very open with information sharing and troubleshooting- they are some of the most helpful, kindest, innovative people I’ve ever been lucky enough to meet. When I told the members of the Facebook corsetry group I participate in of the roadblocks I was hitting in my bra journey, they suggested looking at this like a corset. I have an abundance of squish to contain, corsets do just that and I needed my bras to do the same. In my practice corsets I found that duck cloth and heavy duty non-coated cotton canvas served well. Both had little to no mechanical give, easy to mark changes and were blissfully inexpensive. Thank you 50% coupons! Using the duck cloth for the cups, center bridge and side wings made all the difference. My bra design began coming together!!!
Although I lamented about the limited color choices during my RTW bra life, I knew that obtaining the basic colors during my material gathering would be the most cost effective. Stitch patterns, embellishments and thread colors could spice up my designs before I risked cutting into any limited edition/one of a kind fabric. One of the best staple fabrics on the market right now is Duoplex, a lightweight, opaque, non stretch micro knit “jersey” with almost no mechanical give. Beverly Johnson (http://www.bramakers.com) has the gamut of colors (25+ currently, all richly colored with matching components available) and is working with her supplier to create more colorways. Plus she just debuted new colorways in the poly laminate foam to mix and match with the Duoplex. But this lovely fabric comes at a great cost, at least to me. Ms. Johnson is in CANADA so pricing is in the Canadian dollar (CAD). Logically shipping and handling internationally are expensive on top of fabric cost. Because of the currency fluxing, the cost varies. $29.75CAD for ONE METER of fabric is quite rich for me currently. In the last year, she has collaborated with an American company to get her products to the people like me in the US who have small budgets but they only offer kits that can make one complete “large” bra if using a commercial pattern. I couldn’t trust that in those kits there will be enough fabric for my ginormous pattern pieces so I searched until I discovered a rigid lingerie tricot locally. Thankfully it comes in cream, black, white, ballet pink and true red (YEA!!!!!! RED!!!!!). I plan to purchase the Duoplex and other supplies in the future AFTER all the kinks are worked out of my design.
- Band elastic (upper edge and lower edge); I used ¾”and 1” respectively until I realized that the 1” for the lower band edge was too bulky for my full band style bra design. I switched to ½” and ¾” and everything is now laying flat.
- Strap elastic; dependent on the clothing I expect to wear over the bra, I chose to get ¾”, 7/8” and 1” satin plushback elastic. I do have some ¾” looped picot edge I’m saving.
- Plain underwire casing; I should look into getting the plush type casing but so far this kind has not let me down and is pretty comfortable.
- Vertical underwires (also called strapless underwires); I currently use a size 54 which is three sizes smaller than the size 60 wires in the Panache 38K bra. That solves the “jabbing in the arm” problem. But I would like to find RTW strength underwires and/or taller on the wing side underwires. I’m playing with the idea of doubling up the flexi-weight wires I have to increase stability in the cup tension.
- Heavyweight powernet; this has greatly helped in the band strength. There is a fabric called Techsheen that is thinner and more lightweight but just as strong that I do want to try in the future for summer bras. If you want to feel what Techsheen is like, pick up a new Panache Tango and test the stretch of the back wings. It is in a double layer for the 38K.
- Nylon coated metal O-rings, slides and flat oval rings in corresponding widths and colors to the strap elastic plus g-hooks for when I master my design for a multiway bra.
- 1/8” sheer tricot fused, non stretch poly laminate foam padding
- The cut to fit, three row hook and eye tape I have found in black, white and beige. After extensive research, I have located it in other colors on various sites but have yet to buy it.
- I have collected an assortment of galloon laces and embroidered tulles to use in the upper cup areas. Some have significant stretch, enough so that I could use them for the sides of panties that I plan on learning to make.
The best features about the components I found are that all of them are latex-free and the white versions of them are dyeable. Once I master the art of dyeing, then my color options will explode. You would think that with all the hoops I have to jump through that I would have no additional limitations but yeah…. Latex is not my friend. Neither are the companies that have no idea if their elastics have latex or not. But it’s alright. The better I become at research and discovery, the better my end result will be. And I’ll actually be able to use the fruits of my labor!
Ok. NOW the next installment will be on how I prep for the construction of this particular bra design I’ve been developing. I’ll submit the construction tutorial soon after my new materials arrive…. I kinda used some of them up before I knew I would be writing this series. *SEVERE BLUSH OF SHAME* Sorry…..
I almost forgot! Here’s a peek at my self-drafted pattern including the padding layer and a reference of just how big one of the lower cup pieces is (that’s a 12 inch ruler next to that piece!!!).