Thank you all for your lovely response to our newest bra pattern, Lexington! I am so excited to be able to offer you this bold and unique style, and I can’t wait to see all your versions of it!
While very few bras on the market currently offer the same combination of supportive cups without a wire and a strong graphic look, I’ve put together a few images that offer jumping off points to spark your inspiration – and I am loving this all black & powdered pink line-up as we move toward Halloween!
1 – TRANSPARENCIES
While this Playtex Perfect Silhouette Bra has a different construction to our Lexington bra, it is visually comparable with the horizontal cup seam and strong upper cup trim statement. I love the idea of using a lightweight tulle or mesh for the upper cup. I think this works best with fabrics that are tonally similar but I could be convinced otherwise with the right mix of colors!
2 – COLOR BLOCKING
The beautiful Rasa bra, under Aritzia’s Community brand, is a great example of how you can play with color contrasts by using elastic of different shades. I love the width of the straps here – they give a contemporary feel to the bra, which, along with the simplicity of the lines & textures, make it very wearable on its own. You can check their different colors online by doing a quick search, so many ways to have fun making this bra!
3 – TEXTURES
I can’t wait to make a sweet version of the Lexington bra with lace cups, like this Playtex Non-Wired Bra. I love the swiss dot mesh bridge too! There are so many beautiful laces out there, I’m excited to play with the scale of the lace repeats. For larger sized cups, you’ll want to make sure your lace is wide enough.
4 – CUT-OUTS
This Dita Von Teese Madame X Bra has so many possibilities! I love the peek-a-boo bridge area and will definitely make one like this by cutting away the bridge fabric after the elastic is sewn on. You could also use a skin tone tulle in the bridge to get the same effect without disrupting the stability of the bra. I’m also itching to try the echo stitching on the cups. It’s purely decorative but I think it adds so much sophistication to this bra!
Have fun sewing this bra and don’t forget to hashtag with #LexingtonBra and #OrangeLingerie so I can find all your lovely makes!
One of the most common questions I am asked is “How often should I wash my bra?” and every time I answer, I am greeted with a shocked response.
So here it is: If you want your bras to perform at their best and last as long as possible, you need to wash your bra after wearing it once, or maximally twice. If you need to wear your bras twice before washing, you should give the bra a day off in between wearings. The elastic needs time to recover and to go back to a neutral position.
It is pretty easy to understand why this is the case. The bra is worn directly against your body, so it collects body oils and skin cells. Elastic, a key component of the bra band and straps, does not respond well to either substance. When these materials get into the elastic its ability to stretch and contract is decreased. It takes a proper wash to remove these substances so the elastic can go back to doing its job of keeping the bra snug against the body.
This begs the follow up question, “How do you wash a bra?”
Let’s start with what you do not do: do not put your bra in the washing machine. I know you want to because it is so easy. But on behalf of your bra, I beg you not to do it!
Bras are a delicate and carefully engineered garment. As part of its supportive structure, many bras have wires encased under each bra cup. Those wires do important support work in your bra. They need to keep their shape and stay put. In the washer (yes even in the delicate cycle), the water pressure and the pressure of clothing around the bra (even in a lingerie bag) could cause the wire to twist and lose its shape. Think about your other clothes too. Those bra hooks can catch on whatever else you have in the washer or the lingerie bag (yes, even if you fasten them before you put them in the wash).
What about the dryer, you ask? I’ll be blunt: the dryer will ruin the elastic. I don’t care what temperature you use. Elastic is key to the bra’s function, and, as outlined above, elastic needs to be cared for properly.
All of this means one thing: hand washing and air-drying are the way to clean the bra. To wash a bra, use lukewarm water and a gentle detergent. Gentle is the operative word. I like Soak wash since it is widely available in even comes in handy travel packets.
To clean your bras, separate by color then soak for 20 to 30 minutes to allow the soap and water to work their cleaning magic.
Then rinse the soap from the bras in lukewarm water. To gently extract the excess water from a bra without squeezing it, lay the bra inside a towel and gently press down on the towel.
Then lay the bra flat on a towel to dry. This soak-and-press technique is actually quite easy and does not require much active time at all. My strategy is to clean bras weekly, letting them soak while I take an extra-long and luxurious weekend shower.
The overall life of your bra, that is how long it will provide meaningful support and shaping, depends on the quality of the bra (materials and construction), cup size, frequency of wear and how the bra is cared for. The care of your bra is one of the factors that is completely within your control and we all want our beautiful handmade bras to last as long as possible!
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!