AllChestsWelcome: Sewcialists Editors Try Bra Sewing!

Can I let you in on a little secret? The main reason we decided to host this All Chests Welcome theme month is because the Editorial team could not stop talking about our busts! With that in mind, a few of us decided to try sewing bralettes for ourselves this month. Monserrat and I (Gillian) were the only ones with experience sewing bras before, so this is mostly a journey of beginners, trying to figure out where to start and how to get the desired fit. I hope you enjoy our stories!


Gillian

The magical quality of my bust is that no matter how carefully I follow the size chart for many different patterns, everything comes out small! I spent years sewing custom-drafted patterns by Emerald Erin to avoid the issue, and even those, drafted to my measurements, needed an initial muslin to tweak where the volume was placed. I’ve learned that bra sewing is easy, and bra fitting is hard. If you plan on making at least two versions of any one pattern, you are less likely to be dispirited when the first doesn’t fit!

Which is to say… I sewed two different bras that didn’t fit perfectly. The first was the Emerald Erin Jordy Bralette, which used to fit me when I was a few sizes smaller. I got excited with sewing and thought I could use a 34FF with a longer band to sew myself a 38FF… but no, thanks to sister sizing, that 34FF cup is actually two sizes too small for me. I added some more supportive mesh wings on the back, but I was still “bustin’ out all over,” to quote the musical Carousel! Luckily, it fits my sister Anne, who you will hear from below.

Gillian's Jordy bralette hangs on a clothesline. It's made in bright pink fabric with unicorns on it, with darker pink straps and side wings, and a pink/orange/yellow striped elastic  underbust band. The cups are each made of two pieces, with cut-and-sew foam for shaping, so the bralette has a defined shape despite not having underwires.

My second bra was the Muna and Broad Banksia bralette, which turned out to be a very popular choice among the Editors. I have the “small fat” privilege of being able to choose from many patterns, but I wanted to support one of very few patterns that go up to a 64″ bust. I sewed a size D with a D cup and the narrow shoulder option. One of the key features of this pattern is the option to put powermesh slings in the front that encapsulate and separate bewbs, but I went with the simpler version of lining front and back with powermesh, and leaving out the slings. At first it came out quite snug, so I trimmed some mesh from centre back, and now it’s like a comfortable hug. If I make a future version for lounging or sleeping, I’ll put the mesh just in the front for softer support.

I have pattern tested for both Emerald Erin and Muna and Broad in the past, and I’m proud to support them as local Canadian indie designers. I (Gillian) am co-founder of the Sewcialists.


Anne

I am almost certainly the least experienced sewist on the entire Sewcialists team, but I’m not inexperienced with bra-wearing. I’ve always had relatively large breasts, but a few years ago, in my mid-30s, they started growing again. It started with lumps, which were quickly determined to be benign, but ultimately I went from about a 34FF to a 36JJ (that’s a US size 36N) or a net increase of 7 sizes in just a couple of years. I went through a lot of bras in that time, trying to keep up with the growth! I ended up getting a lumpectomy/breast reduction procedure, which has been just a massive revelation. I now wear a 36F bra (that’s US 36G) so despite the surgery, I’m a sister size of the volume I started with! — but for the first time since early puberty, the shape of my breasts is such that I can get away with comfy, stretchy bras and bralettes.

So, the confluence of #allchestswelcome and #braugust and this newfound freedom meant that when Chloe generously sent Gillian and me some adorable unicorn fabric and other bra-making goodies, it didn’t take much to twist my arm. I was so excited about the launch of the Banksia bralette from Muna and Broad*, and the fact that they specifically said it was an achievable first bra and didn’t require a serger or coverstitch. I opted for the full power mesh treatment: linings front and back, and slings too. After all, I’m used to thinking that my breasts need all the support they can get!

* Note: while we all gravitated towards this pattern, we all purchased it ourselves, individually. This is not a paid review in any way!

Anne's Banksia hangs on a clothesline. It's the same unicorn fabric and striped elastic as Gillian's Jordy bralette. The Banksia looks like a fairly standard sports bra/shelf bra shape at first glance. However, there is just a hint that it's not quite a standard bra, because although the bra is hanging straight, the inner slings are pulling the centre bottom upwards and inwards a little.
I made my Banksia with exposed elastic, because this elastic in the kit from Chloe was adorable, and because I didn’t have enough self fabric to make a whole casing. I had to unpick the stitching twice (ARGH) — I kept catching the slings in the band stitching. Pro tip: power mesh on power mesh is slippery! Pin it in lots of places to keep it where you want it, and also to keep it away from where you don’t want it.

I sewed up the bra one afternoon (size C, with D cup and narrow shoulder), up to the point where the pattern has you try it on and make any adjustments before adding the fold-over elastic… and I was utterly floored to find that this bra had such powers of compression that my chest was almost totally flat, viewed from the side. I had my husband take a photo of my torso, and then literally had to look for a mole on my skin to confirm that yes, that was in fact my chest, not my back! I did go back and add the FOE the next day, to confirm the fit situation, but I was having a huge amount of body dysmorphia — I am so not used to seeing myself flat-chested, and that changes the proportions of the rest of my body, and… ugh, I was not feeling great about my body or my sewing skills. Oh, and I got stuck in the bra every time I went to take it on or off, so my husband had to be on hand at each stage to rescue me!

Thanks to Gillian (who kindly messaged back and forth with Leila of Muna and Broad on my behalf) and Gabby (Sewcialists’ own fitting maven), and some encouraging comments from the rest of the Sewcialists team, I managed not to consign this first bra to the scrap heap.

Leila confirmed that the breasts are supposed to poke through the internal slings in the bra, which are there to control bounce on the top and provide lift at the bottom and separation in the middle — but with so much compression happening in this combination of fabric, the slings were actually sitting directly across my breasts, adding a further layer of compression rather than contributing any lift or shaping. I cut away a few inches of the back mesh lining, and trimmed off a couple of inches from the slings to let them go around my breasts rather than over them. That was an improvement, but I was still not sold on this bra. Gabby then kindly sketched out further alterations, taking out much more of the sling fabric and removing more of the back lining as well. For the first time, I was able to get in and out of the bra without help! I can still jump up and down with minimal jiggling, and there is still very little forward projection in the bra (things are spread more east-west), but I’m not totally flat and I feel like I’m wearing a bra rather than some sort of medical dressing!

I think I probably overestimated how much support I really need in a compression bra. The versions of the Banksia that I’ve seen from the other editors and online confirm that I probably should have made mine with self lining, rather than power mesh, to get the “lounge bra” effect I had in mind. The slings are not a shape that works for me, especially, but I’m intrigued by them and am pondering ways that I could reconfigure that idea to fit me better and maintain that blessed boob separation.

Gillian’s point about not expecting fit perfection from your first bra? Yeah, she told me that so many times throughout this process. Maybe one day I’ll learn to listen.

Anne is the lead Copy-Editor at the Sewcialists, and is Gillian’s older but not wiser sister. She’s on IG as @anniebeeknits.


Chloe

I have had bra / underwear sewing on my “to do this year” list for at least the last five years. Why have I not done this before?

Well, it’s mostly not knowing what pattern and what things to buy. I think the world of bra sewing is the most confusing one in sewing — just this week I asked Gillian if powernet and powermesh were the same thing. She said “it’s not clear; some people say yes, others say they are different.” That just sums it up for me!

So I jumped on the bandwagon of the Muna and Broad Banksia bralette. I chose it mostly because other people were making it (so I could ask them a million questions), but also because of the swim expansion. I want to make a vest / tank top with a built in bra and this pattern will let me (when I get around to it)…

So here are my two Banksias (Banksii?).

I don’t have much to say except my first go at this bra sewing thing turned out great. They are SUPER comfortable, and I will be making more — of these and other bras!

Chloe is a Sewcialists Editor who lives and sews in Australia, on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. She blogs at chlo-thing.com and can be found on Instagram here


Gabby

I made a bra in college and vowed never to do it again — so many pieces! But after chatting with everyone about the Banksia bralette, I wanted to give it a whirl. I went in knowing that I would probably have to make changes to the slings, especially after working with Anne, and talking to a few others. I decided to make one first exactly as the pattern — powermesh on front and back, and the support slings.

I am, of course, between sizes. I cut a size C (D cup, narrow shoulder), and graded the pattern at the bottom to fit a B band. I usually wear a 32K in RTW bras, and my full bust circumference is around 43″, depending on the day. My inherent wariness of knits aside (just plain not my favorite thing to sew), this came together quickly.

In terms of the pattern, I wish the pieces printed out already mirrored — the front and back pieces are labeled “cut on fold,” but the cutting layout specified that everything should be cut single layer and mirrored. This can be confusing especially because the pieces are not oriented the same way (the center is facing a different direction on each), and the main body pieces are not labeled center front/back either. So if you tend to work quickly, here’s your heads up to pay attention! I also just went ahead and cut everything on the fold anyway, because I didn’t want to take the time to mirror the pieces after already printing/taping/cutting out my pdf.

A couple of other things I noticed that I’ll adjust for my next version:

  • The seam allowances are only 1/4″, and there’s a lot of zig zag stay stitching required, so if your machine is at all clunky or fussy, you may want to increase your seam allowances on your pattern to 3/8″ to give yourself a little more wiggle room. You’ll just have to trim down the armholes/neck if you’re using a narrow foldover elastic to finish them.
  • Grainlines/cutting direction are only noted on the cutting layout for the most part, so you may wish to mark your pieces if you are making this more than once.
  • The notches are a very small line, so you may want to highlight them so you don’t miss them and have to go back later on.
  • There are no measurements given for elastic lengths, probably because elastic is so variable. I reduced my armhole elastic about 1 1/2″ from the armhole, and 1″ for the neckline. I also tried to add most of the easing at the front armholes, to keep them tight to the body. You will have to play with this to see what works best for you!

All that said, this is probably the best fitting bralette I have ever put on. I have a small ribcage and large breasts, and most RTW bralettes are alpha sized (S-M-L-XL) but that doesn’t give me enough grade for the length I need for proper coverage. If a bralette, by some magic, is long enough to actually sit at my underbust, the underbust circumference is way too big and then I have no support at all. The Banksia is the opposite!

I’ll still have to make some alterations, but I have generally enough length, and the support is great. I slept in it overnight to see how it went, and here’s what I’m going to do for my next version:

  • I reduced the strap length while fitting 1″ total (1/2″ from front and back each), because the straps were too long. I still need a bit more length over my bust in the cup area to keep the elastic from creeping up while I’m actually moving around (probably about 3/4″), so I’ll add that at the front body and blend to 0 at the side seams.
  • I need much more side coverage, so I will fill in at the front armhole to get it in a more comfortable place and I don’t feel like I’m spilling out. I’ll also shift my side seam back — it’s sitting on my breast tissue, rather than behind it.
  • The slings are definitely not separating, and seem to just be adding a layer of compression. I also don’t like the synthetic in between my breasts when I try to force the slings to sit like they should (powermesh is not moisture wicking!). Next time, I’m going to make them much smaller, as the adjustment I recommended Anne make above, and cut them in self fabric (I’m using a 95/5 cotton spandex). I may play with making them clean finished, and see if I can still achieve the same amount of vertical stretch. I don’t think this is a fault of the slings, their shape just doesn’t quite work for my breast/ribcage combo. The idea is great though, I love it!
  • I added a vertical stay stitch to the band at the side seam, after encasing the elastic, so the elastic won’t roll or move around inside the casing in the wash. I used a no-roll elastic, but it definitely is still rolling (mostly because I still need some length over my bust and it’s getting sucked up and under), so I’ll do this at both side seams for extra stabilization.

I’m really looking forward to making another. I feel like with my individual tweaks this is going to be my go-to comfort bralette, perfect for sleeping and weekends. Wait, who am I kidding — this is the perfect bralette for quarantimes!

Gabby is a technical designer, fit specialist, and prolific googler. She lives in Denver, raises tiny littles, reads, embroiders, makes, experiments, fails, learns, tries again. See her on instagram @ladygrift.


Monserratt

Hello there!

I’m Monserratt, one of the slightly more experienced bra makers from this group. I’m also a plus-size and for me, shopping for commercial bras is a thing of the past. There’s just nothing better than putting a self-made bra, event if it’s not 100% perfect. Trust me, I’ve fallen in the temptation to enter a bra shop, only to remember that there’s nothing that fits the way I want; and because I can make my own bras, I can get more picky and avoid the trauma. Getting to this point has taken a long time, a lot of trials, and a lot of learning. But to me it’s been so worth it. I’ve developed a workhorse pattern for my bras, and inspired by Emerald Erin and her #braaweekchallenge, I might one day venture in drafting breathtaking new designs.

Today, I’m sharing with you my Muna and Broad Banksia bralette trials and tribulations. What a treat to have an inclusive bralette pattern by Muna and Broad. Yes, please!

I have 2 version to show you, my versions are fully supported, i.e., the bralette is fully lined with slings, because that’s what I think I like best.

Monserrat's three Banksia bralettes laid flat on a surface. They're all colourful fabrics with cute prints!

Version 1

A stack of three pancakes sit on a plate, with butter and syrup.

Think of good old fashioned pancakes!

The pattern instructions set me on a size G with narrow shoulders.

As per instructions, I stretched the elastic moderately around the neckline and the armholes. It was quite comfortable at first, but as the day progressed, I felt like the neck and armhole elastics were making the bralette retract upwards, so that the bottom band elastic crept up past my breast roots.

TIP: To calculate my bottom band elastic length, I did 3/4 of the original underbust measurement.

The general feeling of this bralette was that my breasts were being firmly compressed (4.5 out of 5). The lining-and-slings combo does a good job at keeping the breasts up and apart. No boob sweat.

For my following versions, and following what I do for bras, I decided to NOT stretch the elastic anywhere except where the armholes gape (Banksia Instructions: step 10).

Version 2

A stack of English muffins on a plate. They're still a flattish shape, but they're much taller than the pancakes!

Think English muffins!

I wanted to make my next version with a little more space for my breasts and to achieve that, I did a 1/2″ “bralette full bust adjustment (bralette FBA)” to the front piece and slings, which extended the side seams and the length of the bralette by about 1/2″ each to my original pattern. I also narrowed the slings and extended the side upwards to bring the breast projection a little more towards the center.

Comparison of the original bralette sling and modified bralette sling. Move the slider to see how the versions differ.

And then another one.


The general feeling of this bralette is that my breasts were being compressed with medium firmness (4 out of 5) and still well supported. The bralette offers full coverage and it no longer creeps up because the fold over elastic is no longer stretched (except for the gaping area around the armholes), and also because of the vertical extension of the FBA. The sling modifications seem to project my breasts a little more forward while still keeping the breasts up and apart. No boob sweat.

I’m pretty happy with this last version, I feel comfortable and supported. I’m looking forward to making a comfy swimsuit using this pattern.

Monserratt is a Sewcialists Editor, experimental scientist, and business owner @enfance_durable living in Canada. You can read more about her here and can be found on IG @monserratt_l.


Amanda

I too decided to sew the Banksia from Muna & Broad. The prospect of having a divider to combat boob sweat was TOO tempting.

Me, being the person I am, decided to do exactly what the designers said not to do and sewed it without elastic. I wasn’t suuuper concerned about support and the ARQ wide strap bra has been giving me major heart eyes. I figured I could finesse this pattern into that.

The size chart for this bra was not super intuitive to me. My underbust measure is 44″ and full bust is 50″, and because I’m still nursing a babe, my full bust measure fluctuates a little bit. I initially went with size G cup B with the narrow shoulder. It was so laughably too small for me. Like, it barely covered my nipples. So after chatting with Gillian I decided to go a size up (H) and made the larger cup size (D) with the narrow shoulder to account for the fabric I was losing from constructing this bra like a lined swim top.

Overall the fit of this version was much better. I used two layers of good quality cotton Lycra for the exterior and lining, and cotton interlock for the slings. Since support wasn’t my main goal (comfort > everything) I used absolutely 0 elastic. I decided for the fit I’m hoping to achieve and the way this bra is drafted I really needed some elastic in the arm holes, but unfortunately my local craft store was WIPED of all suitable elastic.

This bra sewing journey is certainly not over for me! Sewing a bralette is a quick and satisfying project which is perfect for what my life looks like right now. For my 3rd and (hopefully) final version I don’t think I’ll do the narrow shoulder view. In addition to that, if I still can’t find elastic, I may try doing a single layer of cotton Lycra with slings and binding. This would even make it looks little bit more like the ARQ bralette too!

Amanda is a tired mom of 2 boys sharing everyday normal life over at @mandabe4r. Maybe someday she’ll find time to finish something and post it on the ‘gram.


Well, there you have it! Six members of the Sewcialists team, ten wearable bralettes, and an unmeasurable amount of support. With the range of sizes and styles on the team, not to mention the range of climates we live in, it’s rare that so many of us are sewing similar things at the same time. It was a special treat to share this experience and be able to support each other throughout the process. Thanks for coming along for the ride! If we’ve inspired you to tackle sewing bras, bralettes, binders, or other chest-related items, either with this post or any part of this extended theme month series, please do let us know! Comment below, or post on Instagram with the hashtag #allchestswelcome.


Dear Reader: Our goal is to build community and make everyone feel welcome. We support crafting as an inclusive and welcoming space for people of all ages, abilities, ethnicities, genders, orientations and sizes. Regarding sewing challenge themes, we ask that you take each challenge as you see it fitting in your life, and express your involvement how you like, at the given time. Our challenges are for the pure enjoyment of participation and the love of community. Extended Mission Page Here.