Unique to our bra styles, our new Devonshire bra has a two-piece vertically seamed cup to provide beautiful uplift. With this new style I thought it would be helpful to post the most common pattern alterations that you can use to customize the fit of your Devonshire.
Like our Boylston bra, the Devonshire bra is a balconette style. For balconette styles, the straps are purposely positioned out fairly far on the shoulder. This strap placement is to allow for the display of the maximum décolletage.
Because all bodies are different, this strap placement does not work for every body. Luckily it is simple to move the straps in toward the center of the body. The easiest way to do this is move the strap in toward the center of the body, we will remove the excess material from the underarm area.
Start by measuring the amount that you want to move the straps in by pinching out unwanted length from the upper cup near the strap. Another method is to roll the strap over (right side of strap to right side of cup) and measure the amount of the material folded over the bra.
Next, lay out the outside cup, frame and band matching them at the seamlines and mark the amount that you are moving in the strap on the cup. Then draw a new trim line (the dotted line in the underarm area) that smoothly connects from your marked point to where the cup attaches to the frame. Finally, add back your cutting line (the solid line). The orange lines show the alteration.
I recommend laying out the pieces as shown above to be sure you have a nice smooth line all along the top of the bra.
Another possibility with a balconette bra is that the straps are in the right place, but the upper cup is too large, that is, the cup stands away from the body. To decrease the upper cup, we will remove excess fabric using the cup seam.
Start by determining how much you want to decrease the cup by pinching out the excess material along the top of the upper cup from your toile (a.k.a. muslin or mock up). I recommend pinching out a dart, not just a tuck at the top, so you can have greater accuracy on the decrease and how deep to extend the decrease down the cup.
Now, measure in ½ the amount of the decrease from the top of the cup at the center seam line on each cup piece and redraw that center cup seam on both cup pieces tapering the decrease to zero at the existing seam line. Finally, draw in your new seam allowances to get your new cutting line.
If you need to increase the upper cup, that is the upper cup is too tight on the body, you will add to the center seam of the upper cup.
Start by estimating the amount you want to increase to the upper cup. To estimate it is helpful to determine how far you would need to move the upper edge of the cup in from the underarm for the fit to be smooth along the upper cup.
To make the alteration, start by taping the cup pattern pieces to some tracing or pattern paper then measure out ½ the amount of the increase from the top of the upper cup at the center seam line on each cup piece and redraw those center cup seams, tapering the decrease to zero at the existing seam line. Finish by adding in your new seam allowances to get your new cutting line.
Want more upper cup adjustments and strap moving tutorials!? We have got you covered! Here is our tutorial for moving the Marlborough straps, our tutorial for moving the Boylston straps, and our tutorial on upper cup adjustments.
Happy bra making!!
After personally fitting hundreds of students and working with even more bra sewing pattern customers, I have decided to revise our bra sizing guidelines.
Let’s start with some bra sizing basics. First of all, there is no single sizing standard for bras (or clothing either for that matter). This means that bra sewing pattern sizing differs from company to company, just as it does from one ready-to-wear maker to another.
To further complicate matters, there is no single measurement method to determine what size will work for every body (including the one on my pattern envelope!). As sewists, we know that when you measure around the body, that circumference measurement does not tell us anything about the shapes and curves that are underneath the measuring tape. Of course bras are all about fitting those very shapes and curves.
The only reliable way to determine bra size is to try on finished bras. In the case of ready-to-wear, you just try different bras on until you find the size that works best in the style you like. When sewing, you need to try on finished bras made from that pattern. Of course sewing up all the sizes you want to try on can be quite the task.
Given the bra sizing challenge for everyone sewing their own bras at home, I have long recommend that bra makers start with any new pattern by making their ready-to-wear size – if it fits well! The vast majority of the time I find that students’ well fitted ready-to-wear size and their bra pattern size match up.
Because ready-to-wear generally matches with our bra pattern sizing, we are changing our bra sizing guidance standard to the be, well, what is commonly considered “the standard”. This means that if you need size guidance for our patterns, our guidelines now follow the classic technique:
- Measure body circumference directly under the bust with the tape measure parallel to floor. Round the measurement to the nearest inch, rounding down if you are at the ½” mark. If your measurement is an even number, add 4″, and if it is an odd number, add 5″. This is the band size.
- Measure body circumference at the fullest part of the bust while wearing a bra that is supportive yet out of a relatively thin fabric. Again, keep the tape measure parallel to the floor.
- Derive cup size by subtracting the band size from the full bust measurement. Then consult the chart below to find the cup size. For example, if the full bust is 36″ and the band size is 34″, the difference is 2″. Based on the cup size chart below, this difference corresponds to a B cup. If you are in between sizes, use the larger size.
I still always recommend making a muslin first to test the fit of the bra! This applies not only to new patterns but also to any new fabric you decide to use. I have two posts on how to make muslins (a.k.a. “toiles”), a fast way and a more thorough way.
We updated our Sizing Information page to reflect the above and also added international bra size conversion tables. The sizing section of all our bra sewing patterns will also be updated shortly.
P.S. If you want learn a systematic approach to bra sizing and customizing bra fit, you can enroll in our video course to learn how to fit your own custom bra!