Introduction to the Ideal Bra Wardrobe by Orange Lingerie

Sewing By The Book

It may seem to have been quiet around here but I do actually have a couple of very good reasons.

First I have been hard at work on my upcoming book, “Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction”. After a lot of work, the book is nearly ready and it will be released this April. If you want to be alerted when my book is available, you can head over here and add yourself to the email list.

The second thing keeping me busy also has to do with the book. Over the last few weeks my book has undergone testing by an amazing group of sewists and as this lovely group was testing my book, so was I!

To test my book I worked through a selection of commercially available bra patterns to see what it was like to sew a bra from a beginning bra maker’s perspective. It was fun to work with some different styles but there were two main problems:

1. Bra pattern instructions leave out a lot of important construction details. In some cases they make construction more difficult or just don’t make sense. There is also a lot of missing information such as the fabric properties that the pattern was drafted for.

2. A beginning bra maker would not know how to adjust the pattern to get a good fit or to how fill in the missing instructions to get a professional looking result.

Now I truly understand why even intermediate to advanced sewists shy away from bra making.

Good news on point two: I think my book solves this problem since I wrote it from a beginning bra maker’s perspective. On point one, well, time will tell, though I have some ideas!

 

10 Reasons to Sew Your Own Bras from Orange Lingerie

10 Reasons to Sew Your Own Bras

Over the last few days, a lot of sewists have said that one of their New Year’s resolutions is to sew more lingerie.  In case you need any more incentive to follow up on this goal, here are the top 10 reasons to sew your own bras.

1. It is actually cheaper than buying a bra.

Surprise! Once you have the pattern, all the materials – fabric, findings and trims – can cost as little as $15. Of course you can also spend a lot more too! Regardless of what you spend on materials, the quality of the bra you make yourself will far surpass the one from the store.

2. It is faster and more efficient than shopping for a bra.

With experience, it will only take a few hours from tracing the pattern to wearing the completed bra. Compare this to the time it takes you to get to the store, park, find the bras you like, try them on, pay, etc. Even finding bras online can take some serious time, especially once you factor in the returns and exchanges as you try to find the ones that fit.

3. You get what exactly you want.

You get to choose the color, fabric, trim, etc. You could, if you were so inclined, make a bra for each outfit. That plunging top? That racer back tank? That sheer blouse? No problem. You have a bra for that.

4. You get a bra that fits.

With no real size standardization for ready-to-wear bras, your best hope for a bra that fits is to make your own (or have one made for you!). Plus, once you have a pattern that fits, you can replicate it time and time again without worrying about the bra being discontinued, sold out or no longer available. Since bras must be regularly replaced, this is a big deal.

5. It will be easier to fit the other garments you are sewing.

You will find fewer alterations are necessary to the bodice of your garment when your bust is contained and is positioned correctly on your body, due to a bra that fits you properly.

6. You will become a better seamstress.

There are plenty of construction techniques in a bra making project to help you refine your skills. We can all benefit from practicing precision ¼” seaming and parallel lines of topstitching. The best part is that no one else but you (well almost no one!) will see any of those microscopic sewing “imperfections”.

7. You can regain your sewing momentum.

There is nothing like a high utility project that can be completed in a few hours to get you back into sewing. Bras are a perfect sewing jumpstart when you are stalled on other more complicated projects.

8. You can replicate your favorite bra.

We have all been there. You love it, it fits, but it must be retired. You search and cannot find one anywhere. Copy it. You can also improve on the fit in the duplication process.

9. You’ve just found a way to use your sewing machine’s embroidery and embellishment features.

All those decorative stitches that you have not used since you bought your machine can be put to work. Astonishingly, with today’s embroidery-enabled machines you can even make your own lace.

10. You become a better judge of quality materials and craftsmanship and know when to pay for it.

There you have it – ten great reasons to sew your own bras. Time to get sewing!

#bramaking #brasewingpattern #brasewing #lingeriediy #sewingpattern

 

 

Orange Lingerie Custom Bra Fittings in NYC

Calling all New Yorkers…

I will be in Manhattan fitting clients Sunday, February 12. Just send me a message to schedule your appointment.

What are you waiting for? Now is the time to have bras made that truly fit you!

Fabric Sample Box in Orange Lingerie Studio

Return to NYC

I will be in New York for client fittings on Saturday, December 17. As of this posting I still have some availability in the afternoon. Just send me a message if you would like to make an appointment to give yourself the best fitting Christmas present ever!

I will also have with me the last few 15-Minute sets that I made for Dose Market. They are in ‘standard’ sizes with just 34B bras and medium underwear left. This set makes such a cute gift!

The next New York trip will be in February so best to get started on your custom bra now so you can have it complete by Spring.

Threads in Orange Lingerie Studio

New York Trip!

I will be in New York for client fittings on November 8. I still have a few open appointment time slots. Send me a message if you would like to make an appointment. I am looking forward to seeing everyone on this trip! Did I mention I have some new fabrics and laces?

The next New York trip will be in December so if I miss you this time, I will add you to the list for the next trip.

Beyond the Foam Dome by Orange Lingerie

Beyond Foam-Dome

I am just going to come out and say it. I don’t like foam. Foam cups, that is.

To me, seamless molded foam cups give all women the same rounded shape. Not only is it boring but it is unrealistic and not a good look for everyone. In defense of manufacturers, it is much easier to fit a wider variety of breast shapes using foam cups. Any fit issues with the cup of the bra are disguised under the “foam dome”, as I call it, making it easier to sell more bras to a wider variety of shapes.

Foam is a relatively recent phenomenon in the history of bras. It started in the early 60s with advances in knit fabric fabric technology. It was not long before the process to produce seamless molded foam cups was perfected in the mid-1970s. Seamless molded foam cups came at a time when women wanted a smooth look under the fitted knit clothing of the time.

I have never really liked the “foam dome”, I prefer the lightness and beauty of bras made from laces and silks compared to fabric wrapped around a sometimes weighty foam cup. There are more design possibilities with fabric bra cups (called “cut-and-sew” bras) as well, which from a designers perspective is much more interesting.

I completely understand that many women like the enhanced profile that can be achieved when the breasts are given a padded boost. However, I think a properly designed and fitted cut-and-sew bra should be the first step. Many women are surprised to find that when a bra fits properly and is put on the body correctly – scooping the breasts out of the armpit and into the cup – natural assets are enhanced. Also keep in mind that bra makers have several tools in the their design arsenal to help enhance breast size and shape without the use of any padding. Of course for a bigger boost strategically built in padding can do a lovely yet subtle job.

The other argument for foam comes from women who say they want foam to conceal their nipples and aereola. Well, I have found that a fitted cut and sew bra can also accomplish this – depending on the fabric choice of course – since the cup seam directly passes over the bust apex.

For those that still crave foam enhancement, you can still set yourself apart from the pre-molded crowd via foam that has been fitted to your contours. Yes, this is possible via a custom bra and occasionally I make bras using this method, especially when some extra support is called for via strapless styles. So while I don’t use foam as a rule, it does have its place in my set of tools to make the best bra for each client.

Orange Lingerie in the studio

How and Why I Became a Bra Maker

One of my close friends looked the About section of the Orange Lingerie Website and told me it was a little, well, thin. Ok, constructive criticism accepted. When my husband sheepishly agreed with her assessment, I knew I needed to share more about how I started making bras and why I started Orange.

It all started with learning to sew stretchy knit fabrics at age 9. I was the youngest one in the sewing classes hosted by the local Stretch-And-Sew shop in Eugene, Oregon. One of the early classes I took was on making your own lingerie. I ended up making all my own underwear and was hooked! Throughout my school years I made a large portion of my clothing and in doing so became very particular about the fit of my clothes.

After college I started working in finance and I had no free time to sew my clothes so I started buying more clothing off the rack. Despite having relatively “normal” anatomy, I found I had to have most everything altered to fit to my standard.

This fit problem grew as my love of all things athletic grew. As I became more physically developed after taking up CrossFit in 2004, less and less fit me or could even be altered to fit me. I am still sad when I think about the Stella McCartney jackets that fit in the shoulder but were enormous everywhere else and any fitting would ruin the style. Anyway, at this point I moved on to custom clothing.

As it turns out, the switch to custom was very liberating. I was always pretty specific about what I wanted but now I did not have to shop around to try to find the closest thing and deal with fit issues, I could select what I wanted up front. And I could have it made to fit. Finally – jackets and shirts that fit me properly!

So what about bras? Well, a side effect of becoming physically developed through exercise is that your pectoralis major muscles (pecs) and latissimi dorsi (lats) become quite large. The bra back needs to be shaped so that it does not cut into the lats. On the pec side of things, well, larger pecs lead to a wider breast diameter (read: larger wire size needed). Pair all this with less overall body fat leading to a smaller breast volume and well, no bra fits!

As a long time lover of lingerie, I had many lovely pieces I could no longer wear. At first I thought I had a great excuse to shop for more but I could not find anything that fit me properly.

I actually ended up buying foam bras so the poor fit of the cups was hidden under the camouflage of foam but I don’t like foam bras. I don’t want my breasts to look like a molded foam cup. I like laces and silks. So following the custom made route, I looked for bra makers but I found no one who would make a bra that was fitted specifically to me unless I wanted to make multiple trips to France and pay around $800 for the bra as well. Oh there is also a waiting list too. Yikes!

This was the final straw. I decided to do something about it. I was sure that I was not the only woman who had a problem finding bras that fit. I quit my Wall Street job. I got right back into sewing and pattern making. I studied the specifics of fitting bras to real women of all shapes and sizes. I studied high quality fabrication techniques for bras and lingerie. I opened Orange and found I was not the only one who needed to have a bra custom made to her dimensions. There are a lot of us out there!

Orange Lingerie in the studio

Demystifying the Custom Bra Making Process

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!).

Consultation
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.

Measurement
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.

Fitting
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.

Finished Bra
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?

Everyday Bra by Orange Lingerie

Bra Wardrobe Essential #1: The Everyday Bra

When building the ideal bra wardrobe, we need to start at the beginning with the first type of bra everyone must have, the everyday bra. This is the bra that you can reach for each day without even thinking about it. You know it will work with your outfit and will not show underneath your clothes. You can wear this bra all day without even noticing you have it on.

Let’s talk about the fit, style and color that put this bra into the every day category. You can get a refresher on fit from “The Best Fitting Bra” post. Needless to say fit is the first requirement for every bra. For the every day bra, you should place a premium on support and comfort. This is a bra that you are going to have on most days, all day long so it really needs to hold everything in place and it must do so comfortably. A supportive bra that is not comfortable is not a bra you ever want to wear!

In terms of the style, the everyday bra provides good coverage of the breasts so they remain securely in place and you don’t have to worry about any unintended exposure. The degree of coverage recommended is a function of your body type and personal preference. Smaller breasted women may prefer less coverage on top of the breasts and some exposed cleavage, while larger breasted women may want to conceal cleavage and have the feeling of security that full enclosure of the breast tissue provides. The point is that the style of the basic bra keeps your breasts covered and enclosed. The cups of this bra may be seamless pre-molded foam for maximum invisibility under close fitting clothing, but cross cup seamed cups are fine under most garments as well with the bonus of offering more style variation choices.

The color of the every day bra is close to the color of your skin. This allows the bra to go under pale colors and whites without being on show. Yes, there is a place for showy bras in your wardrobe but for most of us that is not an everyday look. While I recommend a skin color for every day wear, if your wardrobe is all dark colors you can select nearly any color you want (a solid bright white being the only color that should be selected with care since white nearly always shows under clothing).

Turning to fabrics, the everyday bra does not have to be from a solid beige stretch fabric (think beige foam cup bra), it can be made from lace or even silk. For summer, you may even want a bra made from moisture wicking fabric to keep your body dry. You are also not locked into a solid color. A subtle pattern of neutrals is a possibility. The everyday bra does not need to be boring!

While I am using the word “everyday” to describe this bra, I certainly do not recommend you wear the same bra every day. You can review my post on “Bra Care & Maintenance” to see why this is not a good idea. I recommend a minimum of 5 everyday bras since they should be washed after wearing once (maximally twice) and I am guessing that no one really wants to wash a bra every night. If you want to go longer than a week without doing your hand washing, get more of these bras to add to your drawer. If you enjoy doing your hand washing more often, you can get away with fewer of these.

Since I am hard at work on a sports bra design, and they are an important part of my bra wardrobe, that is the next bra up for discussion as part of creating the ideal bra wardrobe.

Orange Lingerie Custom Bra Fittings in NYC

NYC Client and Fabric Visit May 26-27

As many of you already know, I will be in New York this Thursday and Friday for client appointments and fabric shopping. I am looking forward to seeing all of you and stocking up on more laces and silks. Oh yes, I will also be working in a visit to see the McQueen exhibit at the Met! Look for my Tweets from the trip at http://twitter.com/orange_lingerie.