March was a crazy month! Between work trips, a secret pattern testing project, birthday parties, and finishing a dress for my sister I was worried I might not uphold my commitment to 12 Bras in 12 Months. It all came together in the end, however, and I have my first underwire bras to share with you. These are both Merckwaerdigh’s Cut-Out Bra pattern, which I believe is the same bra as the Mix 30 pattern (but with more awkward line art).
I feel like I have finally come into my own as a bra stitcher – not because I’ve mastered fit or construction, but because I can finally spell Merckwaerdigh without looking it up. Ha!
The first bra was just the muslin version, so it’s not very exciting:
(Sorry my bra photos look a bit sad. Bras don’t always photograph nicely when laid flat. Maybe it’s time I look into getting a dress form. Also, I had already yoinked out the underwire from the right cup when I took this picture, which is why it looks especially sad on that side.)
For this muslin I used a firm, grey viscose ponte throughout, underlined with black power mesh on the band and frame. Some resources will tell you to only use non-stretch fabrics on the cups and frame, but others will tell you that smaller cup sizes can get away with stretchy fabrics in these areas. As an A cup, I felt pretty safe using this stable ponte.
I followed Merckwaerdigh’s fitting instructions for choosing my size, which ended up being an 85A-ish. I say “ish” because my cup size is actually even smaller than that, but the pattern doesn’t go that small. Wah wah. The instructions give conversion charts tables for Euro, UK, and American sizes, but I just ignored the UK and American sizes, measured myself in centimeters, and stuck with the Euro size chart. If you are a cup size A, C, or D, you will also have to lengthen or shorten the band piece as noted in the instructions, so beware of that. You also have to add seam allowances. Whew. Once all that’s sorted, you can cut out the pattern and get to work.
It’s true that you have to sew a bra pretty much to completion before you can test the fit. This is a bit annoying, but since this was my first underwire bra I actually found it very useful to go through the process as a learning experience. I found the frame of this bra to fit pretty well, but I had to decrease the cup volume by shaving off the curve on the cup seams a little. I also had some horizontal wrinkles in the upper cup, so I took out some height there. Not sure if that was a good move or not. I also discovered I had ordered the wrong underwire size and had to order some more. I got them from ArteCrafts, and discovered too late that she has a handy size guide for underwires. Next, I forged ahead with my lace version:
I’m super pleased with how this bra looks. The pattern provides several inspiration sketches at the end with ideas on how to change the look of the bra. I followed the suggestions for using allover lace as shown below.
Even the insides turned out pretty neat, although there are a few beginner’s mistakes in how the channeling is cut. Somehow I chopped it off too short to meet the elastic at the underarm of the right cup, and the overlap at the center of the bridge isn’t even. I’m proud of it anyway.
Unfortunately, I’m not as happy with the fit. The frame turned out fine. I took about 1/2″ out of either side of the back band to get a tighter fit there. Did you know if your bra band pulls up in the back, it’s a sign your band isn’t tight enough? Not exactly intuitive, but Beverly Johnson cleared that one up for me. The real problem, however, is the cups. Friends and family, unless you’re really interested in bra fit, you might want to X out now because I’m about to post photos of myself in lingerie on the internet.
I’m still new to bra fitting, so suggestions on how to fix this are welcome. My best guesses are that either the cups are still too roomy or the straps are spaced too wide where they meet the cups. I have a feeling if they were moved inward just a little, they would help pull the cups up a little better and straighten out some of those wrinkles. I’ve already shifted them inward on my next version of the pattern, although I haven’t cut into any fabric yet. There’s also a third possibility, which is that I’m just too flat-chested to wear this style of bra. I’m ignoring that negative thinking for now, though.
Despite the issues, I still wore this bra twice this week (under loose fitting tops), and I was pretty happy with it. I know it needs fixing, though, and I’m trying to decide if I love that yellow lace enough to unpick the cups entirely and sew new ones in.
Sewing these bras was also a fantastic learning experience, and I’m happy to say none of the lessons felt too painful. In fact, it turns out sewing an underwire bra is really not much more difficult than sewing a soft bra like the Watson. The only real difference is adding the wire channeling, and if you go slow it’s really not a big deal. I’m ready to dig into my next one already.