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Sewing Bras - Designing a New Style Based on a Well Fitting Pattern (aka Block)

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Now that the Costume Season (aka Halloween) is over, lingerie sewing has resumed its full course. Yay!

In my pursuit to further my (bra) education, I've decided to try out a new style with different materials.  As I am not quite ready to completely draft my own patterns from scratch, using a well fitting pattern (aka Block) seemed like a step in the right direction.

I really liked this style of bra: integrated powerbar/lower cups with strap tab with small section of lace upper. Add a few minor tweaks to suite my particular preferences (lower center gore and foam lower cups) and its perfect!

[Cleo Lucy, Gorsenia Marlene, and Freya Arabella]

As I already had a great fitting foam bra pattern [my fabulous Comexim copy - details HERE], I used it as my block.  Following the directions from the Bra-Makers Manual (Vol 2) by Beverly Johnson, I ended up with this:

Basically taking the curves off, draw new lines then add curves back on. [You can see a bit of this in action on Erin's Blog HERE] A quick muslin (just one cup) then basted into my test band, and we were ready to for final adjustments.

Here's the final!  I'm super spiffed.

THE PROCESS

I cut out the lower cup pieces in cut-and-sew foam and identical pieces in my fashion fabric.  The satin-y material is wonderful under fitted clothing. For the upper pieces, I used a stretch lace from

Trim Expo

during my last foray into the Fashion District (Nice selection, great prices!). Then cut the same pieces in bra tulle for the lining.  Since I wasn't using a pattern with accompanying instructions, I assembled the pieces together in the order that made the most sense to me. Zig zag foam pieces together then sew lower cup fabric pieces together. Baste tulle and lace together, add tiny elastic for neckline, sew combined upper cup piece to combined lower cup pieces.  Sew just the strap tab portion of the fabric to the foam (right sides of fabric to wrong side of foam) then flip open. With wrong side of fabric facing up (and right side of foam), overlap the fabric and foam a few mm and sew INSIDE the seam allowance.  Flip over and top stitch on the cross seam.  Pin down lower edges of fabric to foam and baste.  Finish as usual.

A few minor tweaks to the band - added a gothic arch and doubled up on the power mesh in the back.  Also some adjustments to accommodate the lace on the back band.

THE FIT

I am pleased to report it fits! [with caveats].  Cups fit wonderfully - a little too good as this is definitely a push up bra w/ lots of cleavage.  Since I used the Comexim pattern, the girls are lifted and centered without the help of any additional padding or internal slings!  The gravity defying shape was created by relatively FLAT cups (the cups gain shape when they conform to the underwire) - contrary to everything I've read about bra making thus far.  Immediate projection at the wire is non-existent - this would normally cause major fitting issues for me but not in this time! The bust point of Comexim bra cups tend to be above my bust point (I believe this is by design) and was also perfect for this particular re-design.

THE PROBLEMS

My myopic focus on the cups had caused some oversight on the band.  1.) I had raised the height of the wide wings (for that super sleek silhouette I crave) but had forgotten to raise the back band as well.  Thus the band only has 3 hooks in the back, caused some lumps and bumps. 2.) I had also doubled the powermesh for the back band AND added stretch lace resulting in significantly less stretch.  Thank goodness I had one of those bra extenders handy! 3.) The shorter back band also made the back straps too far apart. Sigh.

Overall I'm very pleased.

Satami Bras - An Introduction!

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EDIT 5/30/2017: To include www.satamiusa.com site and review.

In my pursuit to find a bra that fits, I rediscovered an old favorite: bras by Asian Brand, Satami Lingerie.

ABOUT SATAMI

Satami is a Hong Kong based Lingerie Brand that offers bras which have some interesting features.  Many Asian brand bras focus on pushing the girls, up and forward to create the maximum amount of cleavage.  What sets Satami apart is their ultra wide bands and underarm crescents - both designed to smooth out bra induced bulges.  While their range of sizes is not as large as popular European bra companies like Panache or Freya, I have found their bras to be a haven for those with narrow set breasts who usually seek relief with plunge styles or have gone Polish with Comexim or Ewa bras.  Satami bras seem to range from 32A to 44G.  In my limited experience, that 32 band in Satami is closer to a 30 band in UK sizes. More on sizing below.

Their website (https://www.online-satami.com/home) is well designed and has the ability to search by size and style number.  They ship internationally to most of Asia, Europe and North America with the exception of the United States.  Satami has an exclusive distribution agreement with Personal Touch Lingerie in the US so all sales must go through them.  Personal Touch Online Store: www.shopptouch.com.  Please note that the returns/exchanges policy varies between the two sites so please read accordingly.  There is one last option: www.satamiusa.com.  This link seems to be a portal to the Personal Touch site as it states PTL Global at the top of the web page AND the return/exchange policy is the same as Personal Touch.

ONLINE STORES

I found the Personal Touch online store to be utilitarian.  The photos are smaller, fewer and of lower quality.  There is no zoom or the ability to search by bra size.  While there is a drop down menu to filter by size, it didn't pull up the one bra I liked in my size.  I would recommend using the Satami online website to do initial research then jot down the style number.  Use the style number to find the item you want on the the Personal Touch site.  This is also due in part to the fact many of the official bra names are pretty generic. Example Lace Full Cup Bra (2185) is completely different design than Lace Full Cup Bra (2187). Prices seem to be the same as in store. Satami USA site requires one to create an account before you can view prices AND a passcode (password: shape).  The usability and ease of navigation is almost identical to that of the Satami Online site.  Lots of photos, details, ability to zoom, sort by size, etc.  All styles are available through this site including SALE items! Items on this site seem to be a bit cheaper than the Personal Touch site (between $5 and $11 on the 2 bras I tried on).

The Satami online webstore is pretty great with lots of info, pictures, and the ability to search by size, style and color.  I very much liked their "Personal Shop" - a curated selection of items in your size, style and shape.  To "activate" just click on the "Get Fitted" button at the top right or "Online Bra Fitting" at the very bottom of the Home Page.  They will ask you a series of questions that somewhat mirror our discussions at A Bra That Fits.

Narrow vs Wide Set

Shape. This isn't as extensive as ABTF but is much more detailed than most bra manufacturers!

This was the part I had the most issues with.  

It took some trial and error to get the calculator to "come up" with my correct Satami size.  It took me 4 tries but I got the best results from using my tight underbust measurement with the smallest bust measurement (laying for me) while not on my period/bloated/or nursing.  Measure the upperbust (underarm) according to their instructions.

I am fortunate to live in an area with several Personal Touch Lingerie stores and took a trip especially for you guys!  There have been quite a number of you who are curious about the fit and size conversion from UK sizing.  Officially, Satami uses the UK standard (from their FAQ):

What is your bra sizing standard?

Remember there is no universal standard for bras and bra sizing varies between brands and countries. Whilst we follow UK standard, there may still be little difference

I find using your UK size as a good starting point.  [Don't know your UK bra size? Try this very data oriented bra calculator!]  Due to their extra wide band, Satami bras are ALOT less stretchy than any other brand I've ever tried (US, UK or Polish!).  For example, the 32D bra I bought many moons ago measures 25" in band length but only stretches to 30.5" (full data on Bratabase.com).

BRA SIZE AND FIT

Here's the ultimate testament: I wear 32F/32E in most UK brands (Panache, Freya and Fantasie).  In Satami, I wear 34G.  I attribute sizing up in the cup partially to the lightly lined "padding" in the cups (pocket and side wings, crescents in the cups, etc), the shallow cups due the plunge style and for more coverage.  When I tried on the bra in 34F (up one band, up one cup), the cups were still too small.  Lots of quadding and wrinkles under the cups as it wasn't projected enough at the wire - or at the apex.  For reference, I have wide roots that are narrow set with lots of immediate projection at the wire.  [Need help with the terminology? Try theABTF Glossary!] So size up in the band for comfort (unless you are accustomed to tightlacing corsets) and increase the cup size by 1 or 2.  This means those of you who wear a 30 band have a fighting chance of fitting the 32 band in Satami!  I should also add that these styles of bras - plunge, low center gore, shallow-ish cups are GREAT for those whose shape are on the shallow side or FoB.

I hope to get my hands on some Satami bras to review (in detail) soon!  In the mean time, check out my experience shopping for Asian bras in store in California at Personal Touch Lingerie!