What a delight to be asked to be a guest blogger on Sewcialist! I’m excited to be able to write about a subject very close to my heart – bras for the bigger bust.
So what qualifies me to write on this subject? Good question! Let me tell you a little about myself before we get down to business! My name is Karin and I run Mrs. Weaver’s Finest Unmentionables, a bra and corset making business in Calgary, Canada. Like with so many things, my business grew from my own very selfish desire to have beautiful lingerie which was never available in my size. I remember as a young girl, developing early and being taken bra shopping by my mother only to find that nothing fit. A small ribcage with disproportionately larger breasts meant I was in a DD/E at the age of 13, and heading to a specialist bra shop where a very elderly lady would instruct me to undress, eye me critically and announce 30E.
Initially the exclusivity of this little shop was exciting, it’s frilly little floral bra’s in the window by brands such as Perele and Aubade gave me hope of something deliciously feminine and fragile. My disappointment was huge when yet another ugly beige ‘thing’ was plucked from a little box, thick with dust which looked as though it had last seen service as an instrument of torture in the Spanish Inquisition. I rejected it outright, I would not wear it. “It’s all there is” was the retort. “But it’s ugly!”, “Don’t be so ungrateful” and with that the offending item was wrapped up, my mother paid an exhorbitant sum for it and I loathed it with a passion, picking at the stitching at the top of the casing in the hope the wires would pop out sooner than later.
Fast forward 25 years and I have never worn a beige bra again. Instead, I scoured the world looking for beautiful bra’s for my size. And sometimes I got lucky!! But not often, and when I did there was always still some little issue with straps slipping, cups puckering, bands rolling. All things I was happy to accept because it was ‘pretty’. Then one day, I decided this was crazy and went on a journey to make my own – now I own over 20 bra’s just for me! And some even have matching panties!! And now I am on a mission to provide beautiful bras to all women who feel overlooked or forgotten by ready-to-wear.
So, to business! In this post I want to share with you some of my thoughts about bra-making for the larger bust. Not all of these techniques are necessary, or will work with ALL sizes, but my aim is to stimulate your imaginations and encourage you to try a range of things in your bra-making adventures; the main thing to remember is to embrace all that you have and make your bust work for you; some of the most beautiful bras I have seen have been made for a fuller bust.
The first thing to state very clearly is that support is everything! A heavier bust simply requires more robust engineering, it’s as simple as that. Despite most ready-to-wear evidence to the contrary, this does not mean it can’t be beautiful. Slightly larger/heavier than average busts will not require all of the measures discussed here, only you can decide which ones apply to you.
Support is provided by a number of items, but most notably they are underwires, fabric, elastic/straps.
There are a number of suppliers out there with varying grades and strengths of steel. I buy mine from Bra Makers Supply in Hamilton,Ontario – they are strong and durable and come in an incredible range of sizes all the way up to size 60, a wire that can comfortably accommodate bra size 48H. If however you feel you need more support than a single, flimsy wire can offer, use two! It really is as simple as that, by sliding 2 wires of the same size into your casing you will increase the support that it can offer. Just be careful to stitch your casing in such a way that there is room for both your wires.
A larger bust requires fabric that is not going to yield to the force of your breasts. For many, duoplex is the answer. Duoplex is a polyester non-stretch knit that is great for a heavier bust. It comes in lots of different colours too – so no need for only beige, black or white! For the very full busted amongst you, you can use a double layer of duoplex, in the same way that you can use 2 wires.
For the smaller end of the large busted range, sheer cup lining provides a great background to lace while still providing a decent level of support. Personally, I love a foam cup bra – not the preformed offerings from Victoria’s Secret – my breasts have never been that spherical! Instead I use cut and sew foam to make a cup which I can then cover with whatever gorgeous fabric I can get my hands on, you may remember Emerald Erin’s post earlier this month in which she showed her preferred method for working with it. Cut and sew foam gives great shape and support and provides excellent nipple coverage. The downside is that some large/heavy busted women don’t like the idea of more bulk, in which case duoplex remains your best friend.
While some may be delighted with duoplex and the range of colours available, others may feel that it’s still too industrial and needs to be prettier, lighter, more feminine. Here too, you have options! Cover your duoplex in the same colour, or contrasting, lace for a glamorous and sophisticated look. Really don’t like duoplex, but don’t get enough support from sheer cup lining? Then use it as your liner fabric and cover all of the outside with something sumptuous and stunning like this velvet that I used in My Thermal Valentine.
Woven fabrics are usually not recommended for bras. The exception is when covering cut and sew foam where you pretty much choose any fabric you like to cover your cups with. This Spring, I did an entire range using silk charmeuse, I don’t think I’ve ever worn anything quite so luxurious against my breasts. And if you thought that only the smaller busted ladies can get away with the most delicate of lace on their bras, think again – over cut and sew or duoplex you can make a bra that is simply stunning in all sizes.
The larger sized bra generally has a duoplex band with really wide elastic. Again, ladies at the smaller end of the big busted range could opt to use sheer cup lining for their band and cover it with something gorgeous, just make sure you reinforce the bridge area of your bra with a tiny piece of duoplex as this is where most of the stress will be when the bra is on. This is exactly what I did on the Peaches and Cream bra pictured below and it works really well! In the picture you can also see that the duoplex reinforcement of the bridge, a gothic arch in this case, is totally invisible from the front.
Elastic and straps
The larger the bust, the bigger the elastic gets. I wish I could say that 1/4” elastic is an option, but it just isn’t. And as most elastic is turned under it isn’t usually a problem. However, every now and then I will get a lady who doesn’t want her elastic to be so wide, she is looking for something more feminine than that. In cases like this, instead of going for thinner elastic, I actually opt to make the band wider still and design a long-line bra. This may seem counter intuitive but like on this Alice bra here, it can optically slim down the rib cage as well as making the breasts appear smaller, or at least, more in proportion to the chest area as a whole – the result is a very feminine look without skimping on elastic. An added tip for long line bras (or any bra for a larger bust) is that you should sew a little casing into your side seams and insert a short length of boning. This will prevent the band from rolling up and help keep everything in place.
Wide straps are not so easy to hide, and no matter how delicate the cups, big wide straps can instantly turn your dream bra into industrial sacking. Instead of wishing we had a perfect perky B cup, we should rejoice! Wider straps provide a wonderful opportunity to truly customize. Use the wider strapping as a base and add ribbon or lace as shown in Cup A – it’s a lovely way to frame your chest. Adding a lace external power bar, as in Cup B is also lovely, just remember to line your lace with sheer cup for extra support and some ribbon or duoplex in the FOE for non-stretch strength; this wouldn’t work for the a very large/heavy bust, but in that instance you can cover your strap with lace for a similar effect. If you really want something more delicate, and you have a smaller large bust, you could try this lovely spaghetti strap technique. These straps are made from duoplex and are super sturdy. Long lengths are folded using a bias tape maker, and are then folded in half along the length again. This narrow strip of folded fabric is then stitched close to the open edge and voila! Super sexy, super skinny straps. Make as many of these as you require, although I used only 2 straps on Cup C, I’d recommend 3 as a minimum and always work with odd numbers as it’s optically more pleasing. You can either space them further apart as on Cup C below, or stitch across them for a more vertical look as in Cup D. Either way, because of the space between the straps, these provide a lovely delicate result while still keeping everything exactly where it should be.
I could go on and on! I hope that at the very least I have given you lots to think about and try in your own bra-making adventures – regardless of your bust size. If you’d like any further information on some of the suggestions and techniques listed above, leave a comment below, or hop on over to mrsweaversfinest.com, check out the blog and leave a comment there and I’ll be happy to provide tutorials on any aspects that come up.