Bra Making Part Three – the First Attempt

From January 2010

Or, Elan #511 Right Out of the Envelope.

Elan #511 is a partial band bra, meaning that the band connects to the cups on either side and does not go all the way around. The center front connects with a “bridge” of fabric and it hooks in the back.

As I mentioned before, I had high hopes for this pattern. I traced the pieces onto pattern paper and then laid them against a well-fitting RTW bra of the same style and the match seemed to be pretty good. I would later learn that “pretty close” is miles off when speaking about bra fitting.

Now, what fabric to use? The kit from Sew Sassy has everything necessary (except the pattern) but looking through my Unmentionables Stash I discovered that I had some nicer, thicker stretch lace, and the tricot seemed a bit thin and flimsy so I decided to try some of this recycled vintage kimono silk that has been in the stash for a couple of years –

So many options!
::No, I am not capable of sewing or knitting anything straight from a pattern, no matter how well written or reviewed – I’m just not wired that way and while it does cause some sewing/knitting failures, in general I’m usually quite pleased with the changes I make::
::Also, there’s nothing wrong with the fabrics in Sew Sassy’s bra kits. In fact, if you compare the fabrics to your high-end RTW bra, they are exactly the same. I just have this notion that thicker fabrics will wear better and last longer and if they’re already in the stash anyway, why not use them?::
It actually took longer to decide how to cut the silk than it took to sew the entire bra together! The fabric has no repeat and in the end I settled for “sim-to” cutting both lower cups more or less on the bias and more or less matching in color if not pattern because, really, how hard am I making this little project?
The lace, tricot (for lining the silk) powernet, etc. cut out quickly and I went to work. The pattern is well written, with lots of pictures. The bridge is confusing and I knew it wouldn’t work for me so I copied the basic size and shape of the bridge of my RTW model and winged it. It turned out perfect.

:Sommerset has a very detailed tutorial so I didn’t bother with pictures, just got to the sewing::

The Critical Moment arrived and I tried my new creation on. Sigh. The fit is Not Quite Right. The band is too short and narrow, the straps are in slightly the wrong place. The whole thing feels rather flimsy for a woman of my, er, maturity. A younger, firmer woman would find this bra fit just fine, I suspect, but I need a bit more support and this leads me off into uncharted territory.
Here’s the finished article –
Please pardon the lackluster staging – it’s too small to fit my dress form without a bunch of adjustments and there’s no way I’ll pose for this project!

I didn’t bother to do the final hand finishing once it was obvious that it wasn’t going to work. It was a great lesson in bra construction and the differences between fabrics and very basic shapes. While it is very similar to my RTW bra, there are a few key differences which I’ll detail in my next Bra making post. I will not be defeated by such a simple little bit of fabric!

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