DIY Swimwear with a Built-in Big Bust Bra that Fits!

I bought swimsuit spandex on a whim a couple of years ago, when I was in a very ambitious mood and thought I could make my own cup-sized swimwear. But once I had it at home in my sewing room, I panicked. Spandex scares me!

Then in May of this year, I came across this awesome tutorial about how to sew a built-in shelf bra. The bra shown in the tutorial is definitely not supportive enough for larger busts, but I figured I could make some adjustments and get it to work. There are some things I would definitely improve next time, but overall I am happy with the final result!


I’m not going to do a full tutorial, since the Burda Style tutorial is really great at explaining how to make the built-in bra. I will tell you the supplies you need in order to do this yourself and provide photos of the full-bust adjustments I made!


  • Sewing machine with a zig-zag, triple stretch, or elastic overlock stitch (or a serger). Any of these stitches will work just fine.
  • Ball Point/stretch sewing machine needles
  • Tank top sewing pattern, or a well-fitting shirt to make a pattern from (I drafted my own pattern, and will show how I did it)
  • Spandex swimsuit material
  • Swimsuit lining, if desired
  • 3-4 yards of strong 1″ elastic
  • Foam cups, either purchased from a garment supply retailer (they typically go up to a E/F cup) or cut from an old bra

I actually used an Urkye top that I own in order to draft a pattern. It has a princess-seamed bodice, which I thought would make for a great fit on a peplum tankini. It definitely did help, but if you’ve never sewn a princess seam before, a swimsuit may not be the best place to start. They’re a little tricky to copy from existing shirts, and they are a little funky to sew on spandex. That being said . . . I know I never listen when people tell me something is difficult and I should start with something easier, so do whatever you want 😉

Here is how I got the pattern for my swimsuit top (don’t worry, I drew on my shirt with this awesome erasable highlighter — it disappears when you iron it. It’s my favorite sewing tool!):


Trying on my Urkye top, and drawing where I would want swimsuit straps and the waistline to be


Final tracing lines for the front/back


I use a roll of aisle runner to trace my patterns – you can also use tracing paper or a roll of paper


My three completed pattern pieces – center front, side front, and back.

I didn’t add a seam allowance – except on the arm holes, neck line, and waist – in order to make the fit snug enough for a swimsuit. I wish I had taken the pattern in even more! It fits snugly enough, but it does shift slightly more than I’m used to with swimwear.

For the built-in bra, I used cups from an old Freya Deco that was falling apart. The cups were still in tact, so it worked for my purposes! Instead of joining the cups with a piece of bias tape, as outlined in the Burda Style tutorial, I overlapped them slightly in the center. This worked fairly well and suited the shape of the cups. If I did it again, I would probably trim the cups and join them with bias tape instead, but this works fine. I used a sturdy 1″ wide elastic for the band, and attached straps directly to the back center of the band (trying to align with the racerback I had cut). Originally I had used 2 sets of straps per side, but that was overkill and totally hurt my shoulders. Haha!


Outside (the part that you don’t see from the inside of the suit


Inside (what you see on the inside of the suit

I had a HUGE struggle with the swimsuit lining that I chose to use. It was flimsy and provided ZERO support. I actually added two strips of thin elastic across the back, parallel to the band, in order to help with support. I chose the lining so I wouldn’t have to cut and sew another princess seam top (it was stretchy enough to fudge the seams a bit). Next time, I would definitely stick to using the outer spandex as a lining, and I would make an exact replica of the outside top to attach the cups to. This would provide much more inner support.

I added a 6″ peplum skirt using a basic circle skirt calculation (there are many amazing circle skirt tutorials out there!) . . . and then I discovered a problem on the back. The lack of support from the swimsuit lining also led to a lot of bunching from the straps/inner support elastic. I solved this by adding a gathering band around the back, to make it look intentional! No way was I going to waste all of the work I’d done and start over from scratch. Haha.


bunchy/baggy back, gathered strap to match the bottoms.

Et voila, it is finished! The polka dot bottoms were salvaged from an old one piece suit that didn’t fit me anymore. I chopped off the top and added an elastic waistband, to make some quick high-waisted bottoms.



I feel GREAT in this suit, and love wearing it! Unfortunately I still haven’t had a chance to give it a complete trial run in a pool/body of water. But when I wear it to chase my kids through the sprinkler, I feel totally contained and supported! Nothing is falling out or jiggling more than is comfortable. I call that a success 🙂

The only other minor issue is that it’s just a bit difficult to pull on over my head . . . as with all small band/large cup items designed to pull on. Next time I may try to add an interior hook to the band, so it could be looser when taking it on/off but still tight enough while being worn. It was such a fun project, I can definitely see myself trying this again soon!

Let me know if you attempt to make your own swimwear this summer–I would love to see it! Let me know if you have any questions.



Off the Rack ~ Partying with Eveden

It’s another Eveden post this week! A couple weeks ago, Darlene and I attended a “70s dance party” thrown by Eveden for bloggers and other members of the press. We got to see models try on anything we requested from the latest season, got fitted (I’m happy to report that I’m already in the correct size), and even enjoyed some muffins and other breakfast goodies.

It wasn’t really a dance party, but I guess some of the collection is inspired by the 1970s, and the lovely PR ladies wore ’70s-inspired outfits. In fact, that’s one of the things I love about the Eveden brands and is part of why I like supporting them—they are very accommodating and welcoming to press!

Most of what I was interested in was the trendy swimwear cuts I shared in my coverage of the last Curve show. It really makes a difference to see these things on a real person in front of me. But I also have a few other tidbits to share…

First up, what I last referred to as the “standout” of the show, the “Pinup” set. I’m surprised to see how long it looks on a real body. With my long torso, I pretty much always expect long items to actually be a conservative length on me. This one’s definitely worth trying!



Moving on to swimwear:

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Fitting In ~ Cup-sized Swimwear Changed My Life

I’m a Jersey Girl. We don’t go to the beach, we go “Down the shore . . .” and the music of Bruce Springsteen was pretty much the sound track to my adolescence. So when the Boss covered the Tom Wait’s song “Jersey Girl”, it should have summed up those 80’s for me, as I actually lived them.

“Cause down the shore everything’s alright . . . .”

Except it wasn’t. For me. Plus-size and full-busted, I had a really hard time ever finding a swimsuit. Even as a child, wearing a hand-me-down one-piece of my older sister’s, I hated getting sand into the crotch of the swimsuit that was stretched out after years of being worn by someone taller than me.

Then when I was shopping for my own suits, I couldn’t find anything in conventional stores and couldn’t find enough bust support in plus-sized swimwear. For two decades, if I couldn’t go skinny-dipping, I would wear men’s swim trunks and a t-shirt over an ill-fitting bra. So, as you might imagine — I didn’t swim much. Maybe a handful of times in my twenties and thirties. Otherwise, I stayed out of the sun and out of the fun. Pool parties, weeks at the beach, vacations to sunny, summery locales . . . I turned it all down and stayed indoors.

Only my dermatologist was happy. Cup-sized swimwear changed all that when I found it in 2007. And I’m making up for lost time trying to get in all the vitamin D I can manage. I even, in my 40’s, took up surfing.

Earlier this summer, a good friend took me to see Sir Paul McCartney perform in Philadelphia as part of his Out There tour.  Comfortably secure in a swim bra under a summer dress, with no cares about straps showing or lingerie being on display, I was able to get lost in the music.  Singing along to old Beatles & Wings tunes, I was completely un-selfconscious about what I wore.  That took nearly half a century, but I was able to be Out There. 

So my hope for my fellow full bust sisters is that you find a swimsuit and sink your toes in the sand or in the grass.  That you build sand castles or run through sprinklers; that you go tubing down a river or snorkeling or surfing or flying kites on a beach.  That you let a cup-sized bikini top do double duty as a bra under a summer dress.  Try one of the suits we’ve reviewed and get Out There.


Happy Summer!

Busty and the Beach – Curvy Kate Starry Eyed Bikini Review

Hourglassy writers have been feeling pretty lucky to be able to review cup-sized swimwear all month, so when I opened my package from Curvy Kate to an extra bikini with my Moonflower tankini, I felt extra lucky! The Starry Eyed bikini was given to me by Curvy Kate, but all opinions are my own.

This bikini gave me a great opportunity to compare the fit of two different Curvy Kate swimsuit styles. While the 32FF unpadded Moonflower fit my chest perfectly, the 32FF padded Starry Eyed gave me a giant case of quadraboob. My need to size up in the padded cups is consistent with Leah’s and Patsy’s experiences with the Coco Loco and Luau Love.

After confirming that I only spilled out the top of the cups and nowhere else, Curvy Kate sent me a 32G instead. As soon as it arrived, I didn’t want to take it off. The 32G top gave me such a nice, rounded lift and so much support that I kept it on under a tee shirt and went to meet a friend for coffee.

curvy kate starry eyed profile

The interior of the cups is the same as Patsy described in her Luau Love review, and there is supportive side boning as well. The band is very firm with black power mesh beneath the print fabric. The center gore tacks perfectly. In these photos, you probably notice some wrinkling in the left cup fabric overlay. Perhaps a little extra fabric ended up in a couple of the 3-part overlay panels because this cup is certainly not too large.

starry eyed front hardware detail

Don’t you love the matching star hardware?

starry eyed bottom tie detail

More matching star hardware in the drawstring bottoms.

Overall this isn’t a “wow” design, but it’s classic and comfortable.

starry eyed front 1

curvy kate starry eyed back

The size medium bottoms didn’t feel 100% secure while swimming my 10 laps at the YMCA (perhaps 92%? I could feel the water resistance pressing down against the waist band–as well as the center gore), but of all the suits I’ve reviewed this month, these bottoms felt the most secure for bum coverage.

starry eyed bottom legs detail

Like the Moonflower bottoms, the Starry Eyed bottoms are only lined in the front and crotch, but I checked the mirror while sopping wet after swimming and didn’t find the back to be see-through. Speaking of sopping wet, here are front and side views immediately after getting out of the pool.

starry eyed after swimming front

starry eyed after swimming side

I’ll remove the tag before I go swimming in this suit next time!

Based on Leah’s, Patsy’s, Mia’s and my reviews, Curvy Kate is a big win for cup-sized swimwear. I hope our reviews of all our suits this month will help your own swimsuit choices for the rest of the summer!