So, my brother recently signed up as a subscriber to my blog, just in time for a post all about my breasts. Yeah, you might want to skip reading this one, bro.
I’ve never been able to buy a bra that fits. When I was younger, I wore stretchy non-wired bras that didn’t provide much support because they were all I could fit into. My measurements say I should wear a 34C, but they lie. My breast tissue (not just fat) nearly meets in the center, and my breasts extend well under my arms, so there’s more breast volume there than a typical 34C cup size. Lately I’ve been wearing non-wired foam cup t-shirt bras in either 34C or 36B, which aren’t too bad, but I end up with pressure points where the bra cuts into my ribs, I overflow the cups at the center and sides, and they are not terribly supportive. Lately I’ve noticed that there is a lot of tension on my bra straps, too.
Many years ago I decided I wanted to try sewing an underwire bra, thinking that if I custom fit it, I could wear a wired bra. I bought a pattern, fabric, elastic, The Bra-makers Manual, and a whole set of underwires in different sizes. I found a wire that fit the curve under my breasts, and then had to shorten the ends by an inch or two. The wire that fit me was six sizes larger than the one used in a 34C bra. Every day after work I’d come home and sew a new bra, then make some adjustments to try the next day. I made at least a half dozen versions before I quit working on it. I ended up with a bra that almost fit, but wasn’t comfortable enough to wear regularly. The wires still dug into me, and wouldn’t lie flat against my chest in the middle.
I’d like to add that The Bra-makers Manual (I have what is now the first of two volumes) was a huge disappointment for me. It’s almost exclusively dedicated to sewing wired bras, with a couple of notes here and there about non-wired bras. And I just now discovered that near the end of the book, the author mentions that women with breast tissue extending under their arms cannot wear wired bras. Wouldn’t it have been helpful to put that at the beginning of the book? She just jumps right into discussing wired bras, as if they are the only kind. Also, I couldn’t find any info on what to do if there is no room for a bridge between your breasts. The author just says that the bridge should lie against the chest, rather than the bra acting like a hammock. But I can’t figure out how to do that since I don’t have room for a bridge. This book was very expensive, and did not lead me to figure out my fit issues.
After giving up on sewing a bra, I went to be professionally fitted. I came home with an expensive underwire bra that I wore once, and some not very supportive non-wired knit bras. The underwire bra felt OK for the first hour or so, but by the end of the day I couldn’t think of anything other than the pain of the wires digging into me. I’m not the type to be willing to suffer for fashion, so I ended up wearing the knit bras. They didn’t give me a very nice shape, but what else could I do?
I decided I’m going to give making my own bras another try. I figured if I blogged about it, I’d be more likely to follow through with the project, since that worked for finishing my jeans.
To help me drape a bra pattern, I made an upper body form of myself, with semi-soft breasts stuffed with beans. This was a lot of work, but I enjoyed it simply as a craft project. Apparently I really like cloning myself- I’ve got all sorts of body parts scattered around my sewing area – a dress form, skirt form, pants form, and a pair of plaster feet. It’s really kind of creepy.
For anyone wanting to make a paper tape dress form, I have a few tips on working with kraft paper tape in my skirt form tutorial. I also took lots of pictures while making this bust form. I put them up on Flikr. I added further descriptions and explanations to some of the pictures, so click on the pictures to see the comments. One thing I don’t show in the pictures is that prior to taping the shoulder area, I marked my desired armhole location directly on my body with washable marker. I found this is very important – it is very difficult to get the left and right armholes the same otherwise, especially if you don’t have an experienced sewer doing the taping.
The bean-filled breasts are firmer than I anticipated, since I used foam bra cups and packed the beans in so tightly. But they are nearly in the shape I wanted, and I can pat them into slightly different shapes.
If I end up making a bra I really like, I plan to perform a double mastectomy on my full dress form, put a bra on her, and fill up the bra with lentil filled stockings. Then I’d have a much more realistic bust to work with for fitting.