Wedding season is fast approaching and I’ve been itching to try out some new techniques and designs. This particular strapless bra has been a UFO in the studio for quite some time as clients always come first!
There were a few criteria that the strapless bra needed to meet:
Bra itself needs to stay up
Bra needs to keep the girls up
Bra needs to push the girls together (to counteract East/West orientation - cleavage is a bonus)
DESIGN AND PLANNING
The first 2 requirements can be addressed by making the bra a long line to the waist and inserting a generous number of spiral boning. I have found that longline bras that hit the waist or below stay put throughout a night of dancing as there is “nowhere” for the bra to go. In general, the waist is smaller than the rib cage and a traditional “short” strapless would naturally slide down (despite the wonders of the silicon elastic) over time and/or due to sweat. It should be noted that the methods listed here is tailored for those who are more well endowed. In general, more bones are needed for larger cup sizes and those who are smaller can get away with fewer. For reference, this bra is approximately a 32E (UK) or 32DDD (US).*
Requirement #3 required some thought and testing. In order to push the breast tissue toward the center, there would need to be more “fabric” near the underarm area of the cup. Likewise, there would need to be less “fabric” near the center to allow for cleavage. This created a bit of conundrum as less fabric in my case would require a shorter bridge as my girls are very narrow set. Without the full coverage wire, there may not be enough tension to keep the cups in shape and possibly flop forward! This fear was confirmed during the muslin stage. Inserting boning in the cup itself would help keep the shape.
In addition to the above three, I wanted to experiment with drafting using a vertical wire and with NO WIRESPRING! This was a strategic decision based on the stretch band (with just a strip of non-stretch fabric at the center gore) to maximize comfort and (hopefully) a bit of shapewear effect.
I had been itching to make something out of the Bemberg fabric I purchased in Japan and was happy to discover I had just the right shade of purple to match the purple lace. Since Bemberg is a high quality rayon lining fabric, I was cautioned by those in the know that it can be difficult to work with on account that it can fray like crazy. To combat this, I applied an iron-on tricot to the back and limited its use to the cups.
The construction of the cups needed a bit of planning as I needed to sew on bone casing in such a way that it wasn’t too obvious. I achieved this by sandwiching the casing between a layer of cup lining and foam. Once complete, I treated the two as one piece and attached the outer fashion layer as normal.
The cradle was sewn up the usual way attaching the side pieces to the center front then the back pieces. Since the majority of the structure is the band, I decided to add seven pieces of spiral boning - 2 in the back, 2 on the sides , 2 in the front and 1 in the center. As such all the of the bone casing needed to be sewn on BEFORE the elastics.
Process-wise, the upper elastic needs to be completed before the cups can be sewn in. I opted for the widest plush elastic with silicon I could find - this meant using the same type of elastic often used in cycling shorts. The trick to sewing with silicon backed elastic is very low tech - a strip of paper covering the sticky portion while you sew!
Once the upper elastics are complete, its time to attach the cups (remember to insert the boning in the cups first!!). Take extra care when sewing to ensure the height of the underarm edge of the cradle MATCHES on both cups. Since the cradle stretches, it can be quite easy to have them misaligned if not vigilant. Then sew on the channeling.
Now the bra is ready for bones. Having prior experience making corsets, I had a distinct preference for spiral bones for their strength and flexibility. In this case, I cut the spiral bones to size (subtract 1” for the lower elastic) and added the end caps. No filing or drying time needed!
The lower elastics are then applied in the usual manner - remember to avoid hitting the bones with the needle! I didn’t have hook and eye tape that matched either the cream or the purple and was feeling too lazy to dye so I did a little lace matching and opted for black.
NOTES AND CHANGES
While I am happy with the overall fit and design of this piece, the band is slightly tight. This is likely due to the bone casing being non stretch. In this case, each casing was 1/2'“ wide multiplied by the number of casings within the stretch band (4). Forgetting to take this into account would result in a too-tight band! Another minor change would be to lengthen the spiral bones to the full length of the band (instead of 1/2” shorter). I’m fairly certain the slightly shorter length is attributing to the excess creases in the band.
The combination of ZERO wirespring and a stretch band proved to be a success! While this does make the drafting easier, it DID require a bit extra care during the sewing process. I have no doubt that sewing cups into a stretch band will become more second nature with experience. Due to the styling of THIS particular strapless bra, I found that a large gauge vertical wire better created the shape I wanted to achieve. Lastly, as mentioned earlier, the band is just a smidge tight but supportive and not uncomfortable. This bra is a labor of love and the culmination of a lot of research, hard work and experimentation!
Wore this bra to a semi formal event - did the job! Held the girls up, didn’t peek through under a low cross-over front and didn’t slide down. Didn’t have to tug at the bra even once. =)
*I may have been a little heavy handed with the support structures for my size but my post-nursing girls are not as perky as they use to be and need the extra help.