Ready to wear never quite fits. Because, honestly, it’s not meant to.

RTW will only ever be your exact fit by happy accident. These items are intended to fit a body type and average size of that customer, graded up or down. Since we’re unique – and changable – we get our own unique fit issues by clothing type and brand. Even sometimes within a single brand…

  • Crotch depth in pants (and waistband gaping)
  • Bum coverage in undies
  • Bodice vs bottom sizing in dresses
  • Torso length in dresses/one-piece bathing suits
  • Bathing suits in general
  • Calf circumference in tall boots or even socks
  • BRAS. Freaking bras.

I hate bra shopping maybe slightly more than I detest pant shopping

These can be reasons we sew, but each of them includes specialized issues and techniques for a good finished product. Just because I can make a corset doesn’t mean I can tailor a suit (or want to spend the time learning to do so). Just because someone quilts doesn’t mean they can or want to sew a dress. I don’t know that I want to make my own bra…

I have a long history of being unhappy with bras (like probably 95% of you). I’m small busted with a small ribcage. My ribs are small enough that probably half the US brands don’t come in my band size. I usually find a brand that runs small and if it comes in a 32, great (but a 30 with the right cups would be better). If not I get a 34 and start on the smallest hook. That means my bras wear out faster.

Last year I bought a couple Warner bras that fit rather nicely. I even started on the outer hooks in a 34! But quickly moved to the middle ones. That was the point where I realized there was no elastic in the band, just powernet. WHAT!#@$??? The hem is folded up and I guess I assumed there was elastic inside. I already knew the bras were on the cheap side (though not MalWart cheap, that’s a whole different low) because the band isn’t lined. Lining can be cushioning, but it also means there are two layers of fabric taking the strain. Elastic helps with that even more. But not this bra. Incidentally, a similar bra in the same line, but in the previous year’s model, does have elastic. That version is lasting better, no surprise.

My solution is to add elastic. I bought some plush back to match. But how much negative ease do I need? Too much and it will be constricting. Too little, pointless. From the single t-shirt I’ve made I know that a self fabric band collar gets 15% negative ease, so that’s a place to start. But I want to do it once and be done. To the internet!

Whereupon a rabbit’s hole is discovered and an afternoon all but lost. I think I’ve mentioned before that I like research and planning and plans. Today, my rabbit hole is your gain:

  • A highly recommended bra size calculator that gives me a rather different size than what I’ve been wearing forever
  • Bra making supplies here, here and here
  • Discussions of what goes into creating an ideal custom bra pattern and challenges of a bespoke bra startup with Bra Theory (tons of great info in intricacies of underwires, finding suppliers, fittings, shape, etc)
  • Basic bra making at Threads
  • Custom drafting a bra made in your breast root measurements here and here
  • And the info I was looking for in bra elastic negative ease. Looks like that 15% is what I’ll be using.

Next stop, the actual bra upgrade.

Do you make your own bras? Alter RTW?

Also, Happy New Year to you!