Yesterday’s post was for the dreamer in all us who have yearned for a bra we can’t find in stores.  Today’s post is for the nerd in those of us who like to know what goes on behind the scenes.

Orange Lingerie bras clockwise from top left: Black lace bra with internal power bar and lace straps; everyday bra in stretch "shell" lace with lined cups; everyday yellow bra with special "gate" trim and side seam inlay; basic bra in gold and pink flower stretch lace with internal power bar. Custom for each begins at $325.


Because a bra from Orange Lingerie involves multiple fittings, it is easiest if you live in Chicago, where Norma is based, or New York City, where she visits regularly.  If you don’t live near either city, contact Norma well ahead of at least a 4-day visit to Chicago to see if she can accommodate you.

Before beginning the process, Norma will talk to you about the style you’re looking for, and you can be as involved in or detached from the design process as you want to be.  Next, she’ll put you in her fitting samples.  Forget measuring your band and apex to come up with a traditional cup letter size! Norma’s tester cups are graded in tiny increments.   You can read more about the process on her blog here.

What if You Don’t Like the Bra?

No matter how much the two of you discuss your dream bra, there’s always a chance you’ll be disappointed.  Norma recently had a client who had always worn molded foam cups, or the “foam-dome“, as she likes to call them. The client had never really seen the natural shape of her breast in a bra, a fascinating topic recently explored on the My Curves blog post, “Why You ‘Really’ Shouldn’t Worry about Pointy Cups”.  (Besides “pointy”, there’s also the “beaky bust” shape of the medium support bra that The Lingerie Addict has just learned to sew.  I never knew there was a term for the profile that falls between pointy and rounded, but isn’t it a perfect descriptor?)

If it is impossible to reconcile the client’s expectations with reality, Norma won’t let the client go away unhappy.  Currently, she has a policy of a full refund, which I think is extremely generous.  If it were me, I’d at least have a non-refundable deposit at stake.

The Hardest Part of the Process

Part of the reason I’d require a non-refundable deposit if I were Norma is that the most difficult and labor-intensive part of her work occurs before she even sews a stitch:  when she puts it all together in her mind and then onto the pattern.  For instance, she must consider which strap goes best with a design or the spacing between the cups (she says that the latter sometimes makes all the difference).

There’s no muslin involved in the process.  When it’s time for the first fitting, she will have a complete bra ready for you in your chosen fabric or an equivalent.  For each subsequent fitting of a bra in stretch fabric or lace, she re-cuts  an entirely new bra because if she were to take the first bra apart, you would see needle holes where seams were removed. If you choose silk fabric or a rigid lace, she doesn’t have to use the final fabric for your fittings but the “practice” fabric that she uses in the tester cups.

What’s great for Norma’s clients but inconvenient for her is that she’s a perfectionist.   When we met for frozen yogurt last week, she had just come from the lingerie section of a luxury department store where she had spent the entire time analyzing the garments’ seams, trims and fabrics.  Of some of the pieces she analyzed, she said, “I wouldn’t want that to go out my door.”  That’s exactly the attitude I would want my custom bra maker to have.

DD+ Specific Issues

Most of Norma’s clients have been large-busted; clients with a C cup or smaller have been rare.  (Interestingly, she says that smaller sizes are more difficult to sew because the curves are so much tighter.)  Here are some of the features that she includes in large cup bras:

  • 3-hook minimum in back obliterates any chance of back bulge
  • power bar across the cups for breasts with a serious East-West tendency
  • 3-part cups

Best Part of Her Job

Norma “loves the look on a woman’s face when she finally finds something that fits.”  Although Norma labored over beautiful packaging for her clients to take their pretty little things home in, so far no one has ever wanted her to wrap their purchases up.  Every single client has wanted to wear her new bra home.


Of course after I met with Norma, I came up with another question that I never asked:  what about weight gain or loss–would it be possible to have a bra altered during its lifetime instead of investing in an entirely new pattern?

What questions do you have that I haven’t covered in these two posts?

Maybe you’re wondering when she’ll be in New York City again.  If so, the answer to that question is December.  Be sure to book an appointment with her soon!

And if you’re wondering if you can buy someone a gift certificate for the upcoming holidays, the answer is yes, Mr. Campbell.