I’m a beginner in terms of bra making. I have made a couple of corsets, which takes a different yet related set of skills. I’ve thought about making my own bras for a long time but not until recently did I attempt to start my bra making journey. Sewing a bra together isn’t a time consuming event. It’s rather quick, even if you’re being careful in your stitching. What takes time is fit.
Enter Norma Loehr, founder of Orange Lingerie. She custom tailors bras for her clients and has not only inspired me to make my own bras; she’s written a book that methodically takes you through all the steps of both the fit and the construction of a bra. Her book is appropriately titled Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction.
First off, you should know that it’s only available from Amazon and in e-book format. This might be a turn-off to some but I urge you to suspend your disbelief in e-books just this once. You don’t need a Kindle reader to read this book. It can be read online on any device.
Ms. Loehr is a firm believer in sewing your own bras. She’s been telling her Twitter followers “if you can sew, you can sew your own bras”. She sincerely seems to want the sewists of the world to sew bras. She writes from the point of view of a professional bra maker and I’d say as an educator. Her tone is casual but very professional and she has a way of making the reader feel comfortable with what’s about to be sewn.
What’s in the book?
Norma details how a bra should fit by giving descriptive details and showing clear, well lit color photographs. She takes you through all the parts of a bra, detailing how each component should fit, including the bridge which affects the whole fit despite the fact that it appears to be such a small part of the whole. She talks about the smaller back/bigger cup issue so many of us have debated. She asserts that the band is the main support of the bra and that it’s really up to the individual body what band size you choose. She’s working from measurements so she can get the fit she thinks will give her clients the best support. In her years as a custom bra maker, she’s found that women with larger busts find a better fit in a smaller back/band but that still there are some women who get a good fit from adding inches to their underbust measurement. I don’t think her book will end the debate over this band issue but at least it settles it for me. In her assessment, and I agree, the straps should really just help everything stay in position.
I appreciate that the book doesn’t dramatize fit. It’s numbers and we’re using those numbers to get support. Norma’s approach to bra fitting and construction is encouraging, clear and to the point. She doesn’t waste your time, and she packs the book with lots of information like how to make your own strap, tips on dyeing your materials to match, cutting down and bending your under-wire, just to name a few. This first book does not tell you how to make a foam cup bra.
With some sewing knowledge, you can use this book to construct just about any bra pattern.
Who is this book for?
This book is intended for people with some sewing knowledge. While you are just sewing zig zag and straight stitches, the construction steps do assume you know some sewing terms. There aren’t step-by-step photographs for everything, but the reader is always given plenty of pro tips on how to make your bra as perfect as possible.
I made my first bra attempt–a muslin made out of the wrong kind of fabric–just before this book came out. It’s not a perfect fit but I know I’m better equipped having Norma’s book. I now know what kind of fabric I’m looking for, how the stretch should work and how to get a more detailed fit all around.
Where can I get a bra pattern?
Demystifying Bra Fit and Construction does not come with a pattern, but here are some places you can get yourself a bra pattern. I encourage you to email the site owner if you have any questions as to the size of underwire you need. Norma suggests measuring the underwire of a well fitting bra you already own, but if you don’t own a well fitting bra, you’ll have to experiment a bit.
- Sew Sassy has Kwik Sew bra patterns as well as well as Elan patterns. I recently bought some bra making supplies from Sew Sassy. They’re a good place to buy from if you’re in the U.S. The site is outdated but it’s trustworthy.
- If you’re feeling adventurous, here are some instructions on how to create a bra pattern from a fitted basic block.
- Bra-Makers Supply has a good number of bra patterns in different styles. You can also order from their Etsy shop.
- Make Bra sells several downloadable bra patterns including this cute balconette pattern, but you need A4 paper to print to scale. How can you get around that? They also don’t have exactly my size, but that’s the beauty of making your own bras.
- I bought the Lingerie Collection from PatternMaker, a set of macros that lets you input your measurements so you can print your pattern at home. It does not come with instructions so you need a book like Norma’s to get you through construction. It does come with more than just one bra pattern. It’s probably the most expensive of all the patterns I’m suggesting.
- Ralph Pink has a couple of lingerie patterns, including corsets and this balconette, which I’ve bought but haven’t used because of the alterations I would need to make. Now that I have the PatternMaker lingerie collection, I can use my bra block that fits to get the look of this Ralph Pink pattern.
- If you’re curious about some sewing reviews for some bra patterns, check out Pattern Review. The link will take you to a “bra” search I did. I’m sure you can take it from there.
Any questions or comments, feel free to leave in the comments or email me at AskLeila@hourglassy.com. I’m prepping my next bra as well as some underwire swimwear in case you’d like to check out my blog.
Leila, thanks so much for reading this for us. I am NOT an experienced “sewist”, but I think this could even come in handy for those of us who simply want to alter our bras. One thing that has held me back is the fear that altering one thing will have an unintended effect on another element that provides lift or support or the shape I like. Would it be overkill to read this book simply to help with that?
It might be overkill but I say, if you’re curious, go for it. The price of the book is low enough it won’t break the bank. It’ll definitely have you analyzing the bras in your drawer more than ever. I say do it!
Nice Review Leila! Sounds like a very interesting and informative book for anybody who is tired of not having a proper fit in ready-to-wear bras.
Thanks for reading it. Norma has completely inspired me to make my own bras and not be afraid of the process. It’s really exciting and freeing.
I have recently been inspired by blogs documenting their quest to make their own well-fit bras, and have been looking for the right place to start. This book looks very interesting.
When I was looking for pattern options though…I feel like choosing one is a bit intimidating. Bras never seem to fit quite right, and I don’t have any garment I’m comfortable using as even inspiration for a pattern at the moment. My size has increased at least a cup if not more in the last year (damn hormones), and none of my previously lovely (and expensive) bras fit. I’m a new reader, and if I’ve missed an illuminating post on what style of bra is best for me, well, I apologize.
I’m something like a 36E or F with a high but defined waist, noticable tummy, and wide hips, and need most of my support and lift from the bottom. Every time I try on “comfortable bras” in my size they feel and look absurdly GIGANTIC and I don’t fill out the cups completely. (I think this is because my breast tissue is low, but abundant.) I am fairly “allergic” to the overwhelming amount of fabric that visually takes over my whole torso. I generally end up with molded bras a little to small that look pretty and don’t overwhelm me.
I want to find a good balance. I know it sounds crazy (kidding), but I would like to wear an aesthetically pleasing and attractive bra, that fits and I feel confident in. Gasp. I’m willing to make my own to do it.
Do you have any advice on a good style or particular pattern to look for?
I’m presently considering Bare Essentials by Mrs. Jennifer Lynne Matthews-Fairbanks, which has both construction advice and a variety of patterns. Any experience with this? It seems like an economical way to get patterns and drafting advice.
Thank you for any input you might have,