Introduction: Patternmaking Tips for Bras

Picture of Patternmaking Tips for Bras

some patternmaking & sewing suggestions to help guide you through your first underwire experience

Step 1: Breast Basics

Picture of Breast Basics

before getting started, it is useful to review some basic breast physiology. you may have your own method for brushing up on this, but to aid in your research at home, here are one or two facts:
+each breast is 90% water, can weigh 200/800 gms, sits on the chest wall between the 2nd and 6th rib,

+statistically, left breasts are often slightly larger than right ones, (up to 2 cup sizes!) though i encourage anyone to challenge this by submitting your own research on the topic.

+breasts have no internal support structure and rely almost totally on skin tension for their shape. this is where the bra comes in.

Step 2: Making Your Pattern

Picture of Making Your Pattern

you can do this however you like- above are some basic pattern shapes for a simple balcony bra (ive graded it for sizes 34 and 36B)

as with many things, the best way to learn is by taking a good bra apart. (its also possible just to reproduce the measurements of your current favorite bra . be exact; its deceptively easy shave off a few millimeters here and there and come out with a very odd looking bosom.)

Step 3: The Underband

Picture of The Underband

here is a picture of an ineffective underband.
the underband of your bra is critical for fit, support and comfort; it cantilevers the weight of the breast into the lower back, making a secure platform for the weight of the breast.

(keep in mind the length of the bra underband is smaller than the natural rib cage measurement of the wearer-- a common underband length for a 34 band bra is 24.5". The formula fit for a 34 band size has a 29/30 rib cage measurement-- therefore the underband has to stretch from 24.5"-29" when worn.

Step 4: Underwire

Picture of Underwire

your underwire should not sit straight in the x-y axis of the cradle, but should be offset by 5mm; when it is on it shifts back into place. basic wire length is 196mm, and when making your pattern, trace around the wire and extend the shape by 8mm at each end.

Step 5: Center Front Tape

Picture of Center Front Tape

the key to getting that angle and uplift, this tiny piece of fabric between the cups is what determines how much cleavage is produced. it took a team of designers 6 months to work out the magic of the wonderbra (still the most popular bra style in the world), and the secret is in the angle at which the centerfront tape is cut. will i tell you the angles? go measure for yourself!

Step 6: Fabric & Other Components

Picture of Fabric & Other Components

stretch fabric is preferable, obviously. even a silk that has 5% lycra works nicely. in general, you want the stretch in the cups to go horizontally so that the cup does not move up or down, or can be tilted a few degrees.

it can be tricky to find lycra lace in the color you like. dying fabric is, in my opinion, super fun. use hot water dye for anything with synthetics in it. i am particularly fond of dying lace in shades of cherry.

(i recommend the marche st pierre in the 18th arrondissement for the best european fabrics. its conveniently close to the moulin rouge, too, if you want additional inspiration. living next to that revered establishment resulted in a number of feathered bras and thongs.
or if you're in london, broadwick silks has a really spectacular taste and selection, and its just down the street from agent provocateur!)

in any case, you'll need your fabric, straps, clasp, additional elastic, and anything else you choose to add.

Step 7: Cutting & Sewing

trace your pattern onto selected fabric, and cut delicately. (alternatively, a laser cutter might work brilliantly, especially for slippery silks that you have to cut on the bias)

if using rare or expensive fabric, it is worth your time to make a toile (using a cheap but similar material) to work with the fit, before cutting and sewing the final.

once you're done, you can wear your new bra in a whole panoply of contexts. my favorite is lounging on a lazy and hot summer afternoon with a close friend, sharing secrets, sipping tea or a vodka tonic, and trying on underwear!

Step 8:


zzhappy (author)2012-02-27

Great.That is amazing.I like this Bras.

deneicer1 (author)2011-07-11

Here is the page for the free bra pattern! It is on the Burda site...and you might have to read in the comments to figure out which pattern size you will need!

I wear a 34GG and I had to get pattern #5. I will have to alter it a bit down from the 36....but is pretty darn close!

I am excited to give it a try soon!

I will probably start some personal sewing after my daughter gets back to school from holiday.

Hope you all post great pics!

Thursday Next (author)2011-02-13

go to amazon/books/ hobbies and crafts/sewing. and type in underwear. there are a lot of them. I tried to post a link but it didn't show up as a link.

JenXer (author)2011-02-09

"here is a picture of an ineffective underband." LOL!! :D

melissabalaban (author)2010-12-08

you are great.

neffk (author)2010-11-29

Looks like good information but I wish I could find a set of patterns that had various sizes. Reverse engineering every piece of clothing I want to make takes a lot of time.

crafthooligan111 (author)2009-09-25

very helpful, thanks millons

fineline (author)2006-08-14

Great information - thank you for sharing ! Now lets see if I can make a 36G.

nehmah (author)fineline2009-09-03

good morning fineline; If you goto: and check out the "free patterns" member fiefje has posted bra patterns and basic directions. There are, at last count, three styles, and I lost count of how many individual sizes. But, G was one of them. You do have to register to download patterns. It is still free, and not full of spam. Cordially, Nehmah

artychick (author)nehmah2009-09-04

hi I couldnt seem to find the pattern could you post a link? thanks Stephanie

nehmah (author)artychick2009-09-04

Hi Stephanie, I'll try but am lousy at linkage. There are two sites to cover. About both, you must be registered to download any pattern. It's free and the spam was minimal. Also, at the "old" site, the Sept.closing date is for real. If you want any of the free patterns best to download now. Many of these never made it to the new beta site. Here they are: and for the others, change number from 1 to 6. Now, let's see if I got it right. Cordially, Nehmah

nehmah (author)nehmah2009-09-04

The second link to the new site may not work, due to registration restrictions. If you goto: you get there, (on my username(?) oh well, as long as you get there. I hope that you find the site(s) they are useful. Cordially, Nehmah

nehmah (author)nehmah2009-09-13

NOTE: The "" will be unavailable after September 30, 2009. If you want to download any of these patterns, get them now. They may not all be transferred over to the beta site. There are some super patterns on there that are still free. Cordially, Nehmah

artychick (author)nehmah2009-09-14

Hi thanks going there now Stephanie

1955momaduck (author)2009-07-21

Thank you so much for the information. I have had many years of unfit, overpriced bras...and now I will make me some.

BoxOfAshes (author)2009-06-29

Sounds fun!! =]

Jollyrgr (author)2007-04-28

Actually the breasts do not rely on skin for support. Breasts are supported by Cooper's Ligaments. Ligaments stretch over time but do not rebound. Hence this will eventually lead to sagging if the breasts are not supported by some other means (i.e. a bra, corset, etc.)

BoxOfAshes (author)Jollyrgr2009-06-29

I remembered reading from many places though, that bras actually contribute to sagging...

WurdBendur (author)Jollyrgr2007-10-31

I'll also note It doesn't really matter if the breasts are supported. The ligaments weaken and stretch naturally, not because the breasts were unsupported, so they'll sag either way. Wearing a braw is more about keeping them shapely now, not so much preventing the sag later.

acexkeikai (author)WurdBendur2009-04-16

Breasts are going to sag anyways.. exercise can help but it's like other parts of the female and male anatomy... after a while nature takes its course downward with gravity

hautemommies (author)2009-06-10

Looking for a patternmaker to help get a nursing bra biz up and going! Anyone up for a challenge with exciting possibilites?

akinich (author)2009-04-10

the first picture in which the bra and the person is in who is it can you paste more like that

gingersroots (author)2009-03-29

Hey there, would you happend to have, or know where i can find info about underware grading?

karossii (author)2009-03-11

Of course every statistic has its exceptions, but my wife's right breast is the one which is larger... about half a cup size, though not quite.

kevinnjanet (author)2009-03-08

I need help I have a step daughter that has just gone beyond all things puchasable I cant sew is there anywhere or a maker that can make me a HHH or better bra please email me at she needs a bathing suit that hlods her in also I cant do it I cant even make a pattern of her body well too jerry springer she is 16 and I am dad just too well you know any help would be nice even fig leves doest have anything for her anymore would a taylor do this ? I cant find anything in my area at all please help picture this dolly parton without a bra yikes

sonisonali (author)2008-03-14

Dear jenna, extremely good information. will be very helpfull for my students.thanks. sonali

bumpus (author)2008-02-29

woah thats intresting, the left breast can be bigger than the other...wierd

CARLAELANE (author)2008-02-16

I´m pattermaking, I study about bras. Please Can I get the email of who did this? Dou you know some books it. Thanks

CARLAELANE (author)2008-02-16

step 4. I love it! Please,Can I get the email of who did this.

inquisitive (author)2007-10-27

Way to support the girls! I was a certified bra fitter for years {known in some circles as "The Bra Guru"} and really think the information you included on the physiology and engineering of the proper bra really quite superb! One thing I would remind makers is that it is all-too-common for women to wear bands too big and their cups too small. A good fitting can change your life!

Darkshot (author)2007-08-26

cool <):D

Delkaetre (author)2007-07-04

Very useful... the left/right imbalance in size holds true for me, so if I can make my own bra I can make sure that I've actually got support for both instead of feeling oddly lopsided! Now... to find some way of making a similarly accommodating steel-boned corset...

Austringer (author)2007-06-13

Mrs. Austringer wants to know where one can get underwires? I suggested that they could be forged from old box springs but she seems resistant to the idea.

rachel (author)Austringer2007-06-22

One useful source is old worn-out bras. Any time I throw out a bra, I first cut out the underwires. The metal lasts a lot longer than the fabric!

dchall8 (author)2007-05-22

First of all, how the heck did I end up linking to THIS Instructable. The last thing I remember I was looking at a Universal Nut Sheller!?!?! Secondly, aren't you missing a few elements of the design? Maybe if I was more of a seamstress (or seamster), it would follow logically to the conclusion, but I need more drawings at least. Thirdly, I'm imagining Kathleen Turner's breathy voice saying, "my favorite is lounging on a lazy and hot summer afternoon with a close friend, sharing secrets, sipping tea or a vodka tonic, and trying on underwear!" and finally, I'm really a girl who wants to make a bra and I live near you, too. Maybe we can meet...and bring your friend Josefina.

Nilu (author)2007-03-21

Great. I learnt a lot. Thanks Jenna. Can I know more info on this.

such_momjeans (author)2006-11-23

TIP: Instead of real wire, I have used junk mail papers. Roll it, dunk it in decoupage-type medium, then shape when wet. Let dry and voila! Boob Tube.

jenna (author)such_momjeans2006-11-24

ooh! i love that idea. have experimented before with making a hoop-skirt out of paper, but didnt think of using medium to make it hard. are you going to post photos?

boocat (author)2006-09-01

I've wanted to work over some of my bras, but was very intimidated by the idea for some reason. (I've made lots of doll clothes over the years.) I love La Perla but would never pay those crazy prices. I do beading and can make much better lingerie myself. This is great! Thanks a lot for your help.

wildjinjer (author)2006-01-19

Jenna, super, super tutorial. I'd love to hit you up for more info, if yer willing. I live in Oakland, so we could even actually meet. Jinjer

Kathleen_Fasanella (author)2005-12-12

this tutorial is great and I'd love to reprint it on my site (if that sort of thing is permitted); I'll be sending people here anyway.

neutral leopard (author)2005-09-24

Wow, I had no idea one could make bras that look so good! That is amazing. Would you consider doing any um, challenging, custom work? (That sounded dirty - not what I meant) I'd love to hear from you if you have time: -elise

Robyntheslug (author)2005-09-21

Ah a beautiful tutorial!

jenna (author)2005-09-20

crocheted lingerie- fabulous idea. take a look at some of those bikini's missoni was doing a year or two ago... and post it once youve made a few items! (i indeed have created much lingerie, including the picture above!)

audra (author)2005-09-09

This sounds like an 80's movie.

Lisa the Diva (author)2005-09-08

Thank you so much for this information. I have been wanting to create lingerie from crocheting and knitting and I did not know how to properly make bras. I was thinking of only using my own bra's as a basic but now I know what to do and not to do. Have you created any lingerie? Or any suggestions for me?

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