Leather bra tops are great for summer festivals and other warm weather activities, but they are almost always prohibitively expensive. I saw a bra very similar to this one in a store recently and it was $300! I mean, I'm all for spending money on quality craftsmanship, but that was a bit much for something that, as it turns out, is incredibly easy to make. A lot of leather work requires specialized skills and tools, but you can actually get really professional looking results with some very simple techniques if you know a few tricks. Especially if you are someone who has an aversion to sewing, or doesn't own a sewing machine, leather is the perfect material to create some simple garments like this one.
I constructed this bra with no sewing and very minimal patterning, using just leather glue and a few rivets. It took me about half a day and cost $50. The end result is comfortable and durable, fits well, and I was able to give it my own style. I chose to add a fringe detail to the bottom and straps of my bra because I love the look and feel of fringe, and it is an extremely simple detail to create with leather. I even gave my fringe some extra love with an ombre effect that I created by painting the ends with black leather stain. All of this is really surprisingly easy to do, and I'll show you how.
Step 1: Supplies
- Leather - about a 24" x 36" piece of very soft stretchy leather. I used a green lambskin about 3-4 oz thick (1.2-1.6 mm) with a very soft spongy quality. You want the leather to have this softness and stretch to work properly as a bra, but still be thick enough to hold it's shape.
- Leather Glue - I used Ecoweld Leather Cement
- Small rivets
- Snaps or two 1/2 buckles
- Snap setting kit
- Rotary hole punch
- Exacto Knife
- Sharp Scissors
- Disposable Paintbrushes
- Ruler, paper, pencil, wax paper
- Black Waterstain - if you want to create an ombre effect like I did on the fringe
- Leather sealer - to seal the waterstain
- Sponge or wool daubers
- Optional - metal studs or other decorative embellishments to add to your bra
Step 2: Pattern
This bra is basically a glorified version of a string bikini top with a few modifications. Since the leather is slightly stretchy, and you are gathering it a little at the bottom, you don't need a bust seam to create the cup shapes. That is part of what makes this design so simple.
To create the pattern for the cups, I started by looking at a string bikini top I already had and doing a little internet research. Then I created a few mock-ups in felt to test different shapes and sizes for the triangles that make up the bra cups. I started with an equilateral triangle 8"x8"x8", with a curved bottom side, and made slight alterations from there. I ended up with the pattern above.
I am a 34C and this fits me well. I'm sure it would need slight alterations to fit different cup sizes, but this style of bra is relatively forgiving. When it comes down to it, the size of the triangles is mostly just determined by how much skin you're interested in showing.
Once I had my main pattern figured out, I added fringe to the center of the bottom side. I made each strand 1/4" wide and the longest strand 9" long.
I drew in twelve 1/2" long slits 1/4" up from the bottom curved side to thread the underbust strap through (actually I drew in thirteen slits, but decided I only wanted to use twelve of them later).
Then I added 5/8" seam allowance to the sides of the triangle, and 1/4" to the bottom.
I also made a pattern for my top straps. I wanted them to be 1/2" wide when finished, so I made them 12" long and 1 1/4" wide tapering out to 2 1/2 at the base to allow them to wrap around the top of the bra triangles. Then I added fringe to the bottom of these straps too because I thought it would be a nice additional detail.
Step 3: Cut the Leather
To cut out my pattern pieces, I lay each one on my leather and carefully traced around them with an awl. Then I cut them out with sharp scissors.
I also cut a 1 1/4" x 36" long strip for the underbust strap.
Step 4: Mark the Leather
When everything was cut, I used my ruler and a pen to mark my seam allowances and fringe lines on the back side of my leather. I marked a line down the center of my straps to make them easier to fold over neatly.
I also used my my awl to mark my 1/2" slits through from my pattern onto the leather triangles.
Step 5: Create the Ombre Effect
To create the black to green ombre effect on my fringe, I lay my bra triangles and top straps on a piece of wax paper and sponged the bottom ends of the fringe areas with black waterstain, fading it out into the green.
When the stain had dried, I treated the whole thing with a pro gloss finish to seal it.
Step 6: Glue and Fold the Bra Cups
To create finished edges on my leather triangles, I spread leather glue onto the backsides to cover the seam allowances and another 5/8" in. I trimmed off the top tip of the triangles, waited until the glue was tacky, and then folded the edges down onto themselves. I trimmed the bottom corners and then folded them up as well.
It doesn't look so great from the back, but you won't see any of this when you're wearing it.
Step 7: Cut the Fringe and Slits
I used my sharp scissors to carefully cut along the lines I had drawn to create the the fringe on the bottom of the triangles and top straps.
Then I cut the twelve slits in the bottom of each triangle with my exacto knife on a cutting surface.
Step 8: Glue the Underbust Strap
To create the underbust strap I covered the whole back side in glue and then folded the two sides over to meet at the center line, creating a finished strap.
Step 9: Thread the Strap
To attach the bra cups, I threaded the underbust strap through the slits on each triangle, making sure I had the right and left cups on the correct side. I also made sure to center the two triangles so an equal amount of strap was left on each side.
Step 10: Attach the Top Straps
To attach the top straps I first covered the back sides of the straps with glue, then folded the two edges in to create the strap right up until the it starts to taper out. Then I coved both sides of the very top point of the bra triangles in glue and wrapped the end of the straps around them pressing them together in the back.
This should leave the font of the triangles looking neat and finished with the fringe hanging down over the top.
Step 11: Rivet
Now I added a few rivets in strategic places on my bra. I laid them out first to see where I wanted them to go.
Then I punched holes through the straps and cups to hold them together in the center front. You could leave them completely free to move on the strap, but I think the whole thing stays together and fits better if you secure the cups in the center front.
I also added extra reenforcement to the connection between the top straps triangles by adding two rivets to each side.
Step 12: Add Snaps
I chose to close my straps with snaps, but you could just tie them, or use buckles.
To get the correct positioning of the snaps, I tried on the bra, and marked where the straps met in the back and around the neck when they were pulled as tightly as you would want to wear them.
I marked this center point with a pin on each strap and then measured out 1/2" on each side and punched holes for snaps.
I attached the snaps by pounding them on with a hammer and the snap setting tool that goes with this kind of snap.
Then I then I trimmed the straps about 2 inches from the last snap.
Now, if you wanted you could add more details like metal studs. But I chose to leave mine like this.
Step 13: Try It Out
Now try on your finished creation and make sure everything is siting right. You can adjust the fit of the cups by moving them around on the strap, and you can always add more snaps to give the straps more adjustability. Ideally this bra should be supportive and comfortable, and the leather will also conform more to your body with time.
This is one variation on a great basic pattern, but you could use this idea to create many different styles by adding unique details.