After calls from two different brides who each wanted strapless bras for weddings later this month, I realized that many women have never commissioned a custom garment and likely have no idea what to expect. I suppose, first of all, I should be clear that it takes four to six weeks to make a custom bra for a new client. And if you want strapless we need to add another two to four weeks.
In terms of the process, it is a pretty straightforward. There are four main components: consultation, measurement, fitting and finally delivery of the finished bra (everyone’s favorite part!).
When I first meet with a client I need to first know the bra’s intended use. Is this bra intended to be worn under your wedding dress or are you really looking for an everyday basic bra? There is a pretty big difference between the two! A silk and lace bra is beautiful but may not work under your everyday clothes.
The bra’s purpose drives the next set of decisions: the style, fabric and trim choices. I cannot tell you how much fun it is to play with the fabric and trim swatch cards and place lace over fabrics for different effects. Yes, I am always ready with recommendations and I am very fast with the sketch pad, but in the end it is the client’s choice. This is definitely one of the best parts of having something custom made.
Once we establish purpose and fabrics, we can measure. The measurement process involves the traditional tape measure and some not-so-traditional measuring – trying on a variety of cup sizes, measuring the space, if any, between the breasts, and measuring the diameter of the breasts for the correct wire size.
Unlike the bras in the stores, the bra cups I use for fitting have little variation in size and shape from one cup to the next so I can fit anyone of any size. Between a C cup and a D cup? No problem. I probably have a cup that comes close. I see what each cup variation looks like on you and then I know how to make a cup to fit you precisely. It goes without saying that it is absolutely key for me to get the proper measurements since I use them to draft your pattern.
As a side note on measuring, I would love to have you measure yourself, report back to me, and then I would make a bra, that would just not work. You see, everyone has their own idea of where and how to measure their body. Take the ribcage: should be an easy one, right? Well, I had one bra store “specialist” measure my ribcage and she was more than 3” off because she thought it was ok to let the measuring tape descend down my back at an angle to the floor. Fail! By the way, the act of measuring yourself distorts the results. Think about it – you are twisting and turning to see the measuring tape and your body distorts while doing so.
Most clients require two fittings before the final bra is complete. During a fitting, you will try on a basted version of the bra. This mock up of the bra is made in the selected fabric and has an underwire and fastenings but is usually without the trimmings. You try it on and I assess the fit and note any necessary adjustments. I then go back and adjust the pattern and the mock up for any additional fittings.
Delivering the finished bra is the most rewarding part of the process. When a woman puts on a bra that I have made, casts aside the bra she wore to the appointment and wears her new Orange bra out of the studio – well, that is a great moment for everyone! Don’t you want to find out what it feels like to be that woman?