You know the feeling; you are sitting in an important meeting and suddenly you feel a bra strap slide down your shoulder. There are a few reasons why this might be happening and depending on the cause, there are concrete steps you can take to prevent strap slip.
Let’s back up and just quickly refresh on the role of the straps in the bra. The most important thing to know is that they are not responsible for support! The role of bra straps is to keep the bra in the correct position on the body. If the straps are slipping off the shoulders, they won’t be able to do their job and the bra will start to sag. We don’t want that!
There are several things that can cause bra straps to fall. Let’s take a look at the main causes and how to fix each one.
The first and most common cause is that the bra is worn out and stretched out so the elastic no longer expands and contracts. One sign this is the cause is that you have the strap tightened as far it can go, and it still falls off your shoulder. The best solution here is to replace the bra. A bra with “dead” elastics can no longer do its job to support and shape your body. It is time to make a new bra!
Another reason straps slip is that they are not adjusted properly. I see this happen a lot with new bras fresh off the machine. In the excitement to try on the bra, the strap is not adjusted to the correct length. In this case, you just need to adjust the straps so they fit more snuggly to the body.
One cause of strap slippage is not very obvious. The straps may be slipping through the sliders and out of where you want them set. This means that the sliders may be too wide for the strap elastic. If you have different rings and sliders sizes in the right color for your bra and a desire to unpick some stitching, you can re-make the straps (it is fiddly but doable). A simpler solution is to be sure when you are making your next bra that the strap elastic is secure when threaded through the slider. The elastic should not move very easily through the slider.
Strap slippage can also be caused by the strap position on the bra. If straps are placed too far out on your shoulder they are predisposed to slipping. There are a couple of ways to fix this but both adjustments should be made to the pattern before you cut out the bra.
When adjusting the bra strap location, you can move the straps in toward the center of the body on the front, back or on both sides of the bra. Where you decide to make the change depends on the style and the look of the bra.
To move the straps on the front of the bra, start by marking the outer edge of the desired front strap location. Do this by placing the strap on the pattern and marking the outer edge where the strap meets the upper cup.
Then redraw the underarm curve on the upper cup to smoothly transition into the outer edge of the strap in its new location.
To make the change in the back of the bra, redraw the scoop on the back band with the topmost point of the band corresponding to the desired strap location. Moving the back straps is where I start to adjust strap placement if the bra looks beautiful and proportional on the front of the body.
In the above tutorial I used the Boylston bra to illustrate the pattern changes. To find out how to make these changes with the Marlborough bra, see this tutorial. For moving the straps on the Devonshire bra, you can read more here.
Happy bra making!
Over the summer I shared a lot of my favorite pro tips for bra making. As I was putting those posts together, I thought of even more tips to help you make your own beautiful and professional looking lingerie! Below I capture a few of my favorites.
Sewing Small Pieces
Sewing small pieces can be tricky. If you are having difficulty you can always sew from the middle outwards. No one ever said you have sew from end to end! This can make it easier to control those tiny and sometimes slippery bits of fabric in a bra making project.
Another way to sew small and/or slippery pieces is to start your seam with a small fabric leader or piece of paper at the beginning of a seam. A fabric leader also helps if your machine wants to eat the fabric at the start of the seam.
Chain sewing where you sew continuously from one seam to another is another great technique and saves construction time overall as well.
Working with Shifty Fabrics
When sewing power net (or power mesh) to another fabric on a conventional sewing machine, such as when you attach the frame to the band, sew with the power net on the bed of the machine and the other fabric on top. With this method the power mesh seamline does not get stretched and you get a nice flat straight seam. Of course, you could also overlock this seam on your serger!
Working with Bra Kits
Before you cut out your pattern, check trim and elastic sizes on your pattern and compare them to what you plan to use. On Orange Lingerie bra sewing patterns these lines are all clearly marked on each pattern piece for easy reference.
This tip is especially important if you are using a bra making kit where the trim and elastic widths vary and may be different from the pattern allowances. It is so much easier to make any necessary adjustments before you cut out your garment.
Add to the Band
I have students add 1 ¼” to the band, regardless of the size they are making, to account for the different properties of various Power Net fabrics and elastics. This adjustment (tutorial here) gives you some breathing room (literally) to account for different materials.
This is especially important for the A to DD size ranges for the Marlborough and Boylston bras since those bands were drafted to be firm using a fairly stretchy power mesh and a soft and stretchy band elastic.
Over the years bra kits have evolved to include firmer power net and firmer elastic. This is great for support but using the kit materials without first increasing the band could lead to a bra that is too tight! It is super easy to make a band smaller if it turns out to be too big, but it is difficult to make a band larger!
That is why for insurance, and to avoid a lot of extra work with stretch calculations, I just add 1 ¼” to the band. You can read the tutorial here.
Check the Closure Height
I teach this adjustment in all of my workshops and have been adding this to our bra patterns as well as a reminder to check the closure height of the bra and to adjust as necessary to precisely fit your hook and eye closure. You can read the tutorial here.
Track Your Changes
Take notes while you sew! Write down the settings on your machine like your sightline/guide you use on your presser foot, and your preferred presser foot for topstitching.
Also write down the date of any pattern changes along with what you changed and what you want to alter next time. I also recommend taking pictures of each version of the garment on the body and storing all the information your preferred note taking app. I cannot even begin to tell you how important my notes are to the design and pattern making process!
Add your bra making tips to the comments below!