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!

5 replies
  1. Aesha
    Aesha says:

    Oh my gosh – a fellow Eugenean here in Chicago! It’s funny; I’m often wishing my mom had taught me to sew (and, of course, would give me one of her three sewing machines!). Sewing classes are definitely on the agenda at some point.

    Best of luck!

  2. norma
    norma says:

    Hi Aesha,

    Happy to hear there are more Oregonians in Chicago! If you ever get to the point where you want to learn to sew a bra, let me know!


  3. Kim Robertson
    Kim Robertson says:

    How do you get a custom made bra. Can you do it without seeing you? My daughter is 25 and 1/4 inches around and a D cup. She is now wearing a 32 D because that is all she can find. My understanding is the smaller around you have to go up in bra size. If she sent you one that fits in the cup could you make it fit around her. It makes her crazy.

  4. norma
    norma says:

    Hi Kim!

    I certainly can make a copy an existing bra that fits. In your daughter’s case, I can make a smaller band as part of the commission. To start the process, I will need you to email me pictures of the bra you would like copied from the inside and outside, front, side and back and detail on what you would like adjusted. Then I will then need the actual bra sent to me so I can make a pattern and duplicate the fabrication.

    I will email you to get the process started!


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