If you saw our Lexington bra sewing inspiration blog post, you already know that there are so many fun ways to sew up our newest bra pattern! Today I’m going to show you how to turn the Lexington bra into a lounge bralette without foam. This version is also a delight to cut and sew because it simplifies both the cutting and sewing.
Bonus – depending on the firmness of the stretch in your fabric, this variation could even be used for practicing yoga or another low-impact exercise!
The original Lexington pattern has different pieces for the different materials used for the cups. For this foam-free version, you only need to use fabric cup pieces for both layers of the cups. If you are using stretch fabrics (as recommended in the pattern), cut one set of cup pieces with the stretch line as indicated on the pattern and another set of cup pieces with the direction of greatest stretch in the opposite direction to help stabilize the cups.
For this lounge version we altered the band to remove the hook and eye closure for a slip on/slip off style bra.
Here’s how to do this:
1. Measuring ½” from the top point of the center back, draw a line that is parallel to the side seam. This is your center back line.
2. From this new center back line, draw 2 perpendicular lines towards the side seam. This is an important step because center back will now be a fold line, so if the top and bottom are not at 90 degrees, you will end up with an unflattering V shape at center back after you cut it out.
3. Blend the perpendicular lines from step 2 into the original pattern cutting lines. Don’t forget to add the notches to the top of the band about 3” from the center back.
4. Cut 1 of the new band of piece on the center back fold line.
Now that we have covered the pattern alterations, let’s take a look at the construction process.
Once the cup and bridge sub-assemblies are sewn together per the instructions, sew on the front crisscross elastics before attaching the back band piece at the side seams (as opposed to after, as instructed in the pattern).
Once the front cross elastics are attached to the cup assembly, sew the band to both sides and sew in the boning casing as described in the pattern instructions. For this version, I opted to keep the boning casing at the side seams for some added stability but skipped the actual boning to keep the bra extra light and comfortable. If you feel like you need extra support you can insert the boning as instructed.
Since the back is now one piece, the rest of the elastics sew on a bit differently. For the bottom elastic, it is easiest to start and stop at a side seam, overlapping the edges of the elastic about ¼” and then zigzagging over the cut ends to finish and secure. The important thing is to not stretch out the elastic too much.
The elastic calculation for the top and strap is also different with the pull over style. To figure out how much strap elastic to cut for the top and strap elastics, mark 16” from one end (for one standard strap amount) on the strap elastic, then measure out the sewn part of the elastic by aligning the marked point with the top of one armhole point and walking the elastic around the armhole, back and opposite armhole. Then mark that point on the elastic and add an additional 16” for the other strap and cut the elastic. Don’t be alarmed; it will seem like a lot of elastic!
The straps must also be made a bit differently. Both ends of the elastic must be finished with rings and sliders before attaching it to the bra. One end gets the ring and slider attached according to the pattern instructions. The other end is a bit of a mind-bender but it’s a great trick to have in your bra sewing arsenal. Here’s how to do it (shown on a smaller piece of elastic below):
1. Thread the elastic, shiny side up, through the center bar of the slider then and add the ring.
2. Pull a few inches of elastic up and away from the center bar of the slider then, coming from underneath the slider, carefully pull the cut end of elastic end up through the rear opening of the slider.
3. Now pull the cut end of the elastic over the center bar and through the front opening of the slider and pull the extra elastic on top of the slider down along with the cut end of elastic.
4. Pull enough elastic toward the ring out of the way so you can stitch the cut end down to the elastic just below the slider. Then stitch the cut end of the elastic to the top layer of elastic to complete the doubled ended strap.
To finish, align the marked points on the strap with the top of the armholes and attach the elastic along the top of the bra and back as instructed in the pattern. The back straps are also attached to the band as instructed in the pattern.
Enjoy your new lounge-y version of the Lexington and don’t forget to tag #lexingtonbra and #orangelingerie to share it with me!
I prefer making lingerie bows myself largely because pre-made bows always seem a bit “off”. Either they are tied strangely or are just not quite the right color. I also feel that making my own bow adds that extra special touch that elevates the finish of the garment. Of course, once I realized how much fun it is to shop for ribbon, well, that was it for me!
To make a bow you can use a ribbon, as shown in this tutorial, or you can follow my perfect spaghetti strap tutorial to create a thin tube of fabric to tie into a bow. So many choices when we make our own! Don’t you just love sewing?!
To help me tie perfect tiny little bows every time, I use this handy tool called “Bow Easy”. There are several different size bows you can make using this super simple tool. I generally use the 1 ¼” bow template with ¼” ribbon for most bra bows, but you might experiment with different sizes based on the width of your ribbon.
Here are the steps!
1. To determine how much ribbon to cut to make a bow, multiply the finished bow size by 8. For a 1¼” ” bow I cut 10” of ribbon (1.25 x 8 = 10).
2. Working from left to right, wrap the ribbon around the template leaving ¼” – ½” extra ribbon on top. Wrap the ribbon near the bottom of the template, as shown, to facilitate later steps. Hold the end down with your left thumb on the template.
3. Continue to wrap the ribbon around the template so that it wraps back around to the top. Hold that loop, along with the original ribbon end, with your left thumb.
4. Bring the tail of the ribbon through the top of the center channel without twisting the ribbon. This should form a loop on top of the template.
5. Wrap the tail of the ribbon around the center channel, and, still working from left to right, bring it up through the loop you just formed.
6. Pull to make a snug knot.
7. Push the tail end through the top of the center channel again to flatten the knot a bit and slide the completed bow off the template.
8. Trim the ends to your preferred length. I like them when the bow legs are about the same length as the loops, but sometimes it’s fun to play with the bow’s proportions!
Here is an animated summary of the steps to give you an idea of the overall movement.
8. Finally, seal the cut edges of the bow ends, lightly bring the raw ribbon edge to a flame from a lighter or candle to melt any frayed threads together. The flame should just kiss the ribbon edge. Please handle any flames carefully! I recommend doing this over a sink with some water in it for added safety. Fray check is another alternative to keep the ends of your new bow tidy through wash and wear.
Now you can attach the bow to your bra or other lingerie! Here we added the orange bow to our Boylston bra.
Fun tip: you can make two-colored bows, using the exact same method but with a double layer of ribbon!
If buying this tool isn’t in your budget but you’d still like to make your own bows, you can get away with using a large dinner fork instead! Just hold the fork with the tines pointing down and use the tines as the template. It won’t be quite as easy but with a little practice the results will be almost the same.
Just a word of warning: bow tying is addictive! ☺
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!