Check out the entire Consider Making your Own Bra Series [HERE]
Part 1 - Cost, Time, Need and Difficulty
Part 2 - Breast Anatomy in Relation to Bra Fit
Part 4 - Alterations/Additions to Consider
How to Choose a Bra Pattern
Considerations for a Bra Sewing Novice.
How much sewing experience one has
Quality of Construction Directions that accompany the pattern
Pattern size range
Style of bra
PRIOR SEWING EXPERIENCE
As mentioned in Part 1 [link HERE], the amount of prior sewing experience can make a difference in the time needed to sew a bra. Someone with less experience may want to start with a wireless bra or bralette before diving into wired bra patterns. By the same token, someone with more experience may also want to start with a wireless because it has (generally) has fewer parts and thus take less time. Of course, there are also those who just enjoy a good challenge! That said, NEED may supersede TIME and DIFFICULTY.
I have heard several instances where someone stated their immediate need for a well fitting bra as they are down to 1-2 bras that remotely fit. Such a situation can spurr someone to jump right into a wired bra pattern. With a bit of moxy and lots of support, it can definitely be done!
The quality of the instructions that accompany the pattern plays a bigger role than most people realize. A poorly written set of directions read by a beginner can be enough to put them off bra making for a while! Consider it a barrier to entry. Some patterns are better than others.
For example, with Merckwaerdigh's patterns, they explicitly state which patterns are good for beginners and which are not. Heed the warning. One of my patterns from Merckwaerdigh had instructions but ZERO pictures (save for the one indicating style). It was clearly stated not for newbies.
The Watson by Cloth Habit and Classic Bra by Pin-Up Girls have great reviews partially due to their well written instructions with diagrams (the latter also has a Craftsy video!) - great for beginners and the more experienced alike.
PATTERN SIZE RANGE
KNOW THIS: Your bra pattern size may NOT be your RTW bra size! In the same sense that you may need a size SMALL at your favorite store but need a size 12 in a sewing pattern. Go by your measurements not your size.
While on the topic of measuring, each pattern company has a different way of measuring! Luckily the companies tend to stick to the same method of measuring across their line of patterns. In general, there are 4 methods [link HERE] that could potentially yield 4 different sizes! That said, every bra pattern company I've come across (and I do not profess to even remotely know all companies that make bra patterns) DOES NOT use the method favored by most department stores/specialty stores and that ubiquitous chain lingerie store that focuses on "sexy".
Here's what that means. If the bra pattern of choice's size range doesn't include your size (say 36F), do not fret. Look for the patterns measurement chart and find your size ACCORDING TO THEIR MEASUREMENTS. If you are still outside their range, consider looking for the sister size (aim for large band, smaller cup). Take the larger (equivalent volume) cup but your correct band size. So a 36F => 38E => 40D. Yes, you will need to make adjustments - but that is the norm even if you were to find the exact size.
An aside about the different methods of measuring. If the pattern size (using the recommended measuring method) yielded something DRASTICALLY different than your RTW (as in A cup vs your F cup), try a different method. Say the Bottom Cup Method vs the Full Bust/Upper Bust Method. Keeping in mind pattern designers are trying to cater to a broad range of sizes, the measurement method they choose may [only] work on MOST people. For example, the Pin-Up Girls Classic uses Beverly Johnson's (The Fairy Bra Mother) favorite method: Full Bust/Upper Bust. It works for a broad range of people but does NOT work well for those with "a very small ribcage or an athletic build" [link HERE] as stated by Beverly herself. In my case, it gave me 38A when I wear a 32E. If you are like me, try the Bottom Cup Depth version instead and use that size for the pattern.
Due to the relatively small community of bra makers and bra pattern companies, there have been reports of some pattern companies providing custom grading for someone *just* outside their range. (*Just* as in 1-2 sister sizes.) Doesn't hurt to email and ask.
For those who are particularly endowed (larger than 48H or equivalent), you may need to consider copying a well-fitting bra, learning to draft a bra pattern yourself, have someone draft a pattern, or have a bra custom made for you. Unfortunately, I have not personally seen bra patterns beyond this size. Please keep me updated if you find larger sizes!
STYLE OF BRA
*******Refer to PART 2 for a quick guide of breast anatomy in terms of fit. Please keep in mind this is a short guide to help get one started on their bra making journey. It is only meant to provide general introduction and by no means is this an exhaustive list of terms or patterns. Recommendations are based on anecdotal experience, diagrams via designers website and are not a personal endorsement. ********
Shallow Breast - look for cups with vertical seams and/or triangular cups. Bonus: the vertical seams make it easier do the shallow breast adjustment. Consider the Watson by Cloth Habit, Jordy by Emerald Erin, Merckwaerdigh Mix 30, Madalynne x Simplicity 8229 and Fenway by Orange Lingerie, Pin-Up Girls Sweet Sixteen and 2025 by Hugo Quili (not in English but has construction videos - just turn on the English subtitles), Angie by B. Wear (not avail just yet as of 3/1/18)
Omega Breast - look for cups with more projection - ideally with at least 2 piece lower cup. The key is fitting the wire first. Consider the California Dreaming by Porcelynne, Harriet by Cloth Habit, Shelley by Pin-Up Girls, Bravo Bra #2 by Bravo Bella, Ruby by Pin-Up Girls
Tubular Breast - look for cups with more projection - ideally with at least 2 piece lower cup. Consider the Shelley by Pin-Up Girls, Classic by Pin-Up Girls, Bravo Bra #2 by Bravo Bella, 2023 by Hugo Quili (not in English but has construction videos - just turn on the English subtitles).
Outward orientation (AKA apex points East/West) - look for bras with powerbars and/or internal slings. Depending on how full you are, you may also need something with more full coverage to prevent "falling out" when bending over. Consider the Shelley by Pin-Up Girls, Bravo Bra #2 by Bravo Bella, Marlborough by Orange Lingerie
Inward orientation (Apex points inward) - look for bras with a low center gore. This can mean partial band bras, plunge bras or front close bra patterns. Technically, any bra pattern could work if you're willing to shorten the bridge yourself. Consider the Linda by Pin-Up Girls, Sharon by Pin-Up Girls, Madalynne x Simplicity 8436, Fenway by Orange Lingerie
Tall Breast - look for bras with more "open" neckline instead of curving toward the body (when in profile view). This includes balconette and vertical seamed bras. Bonus: the vertical seams make it easier to make neckline adjustments. Also consider bras with a lace upper cup as they tend to have a bit more stretch to accommodate a tall breast. Any bra pattern with an upper cup can be adapted to have lace. Consider the Pin-Up Girls Shelley, Harriet by Cloth Habit, Wings by Merckwaerdigh and Angie by B. Wear
Short Breast - look for bras that are shorter similar to demi style. Depending on how short the breast root is, it is also possible to "simply" shorten the height of upper cup. As in draw on the muslin bra where you want the neckline to be and cut off the rest! Consider the 2022 and 2017 by Hugo Quili (not in English but has construction videos - just turn on the English subtitles), Cut Out by Merckwaerdigh
Strapless bra patterns - Underwire Corselette by Ralph Pink, Esplanade by Orange Lingerie and Strapless Bra by Merckwaerdigh [Most of these have a very limited size range]
Nursing bra patterns - Maternity Bra by Ezi Sew, 2027 by Hugo Quili (not in English but has construction videos - just turn on the English subtitles), most wireless/bralette patterns (pull aside or add nursing clips)
BY BRA STYLE
Patterns with powerbars - Great for Innerfull, Omega, projected, soft tissue
Patterns with multi-piece lower cup - Great for projected, soft tissue, Full on Bottom
Patterns with vertical seams - Great for shallow, short breasts
Patterns with lace upper cup - Great for Full on Top, Tall breasts
Patterns with partial bands - Great for those who are narrow set, Outerfull
Patterns with plunge necklines - Great for those who are narrow set, Outerfull
Patterns with triangular cups - Great for shallow and tall