My Second Bra, Part 1: Choosing a Pattern

I’m now in the planning phase for my second bra! And since I started this blog only after the first one was completed, this time I can show you my process, from beginning to end. I’m starting today with choosing my pattern.

For me, this part is easy. I’m going to use the same pattern as for my first bra: The Marlborough Bra pattern from Orange Lingerie. I’m choosing this because, although my first one really fits amazingly well, there’s a bit of fine-tuning I’d like to make to the pattern this time around.


 Tip: According to bra-fitting experts, if you’re smaller-busted, styles with rounder cups will help enhance your shape. Larger girls tend to benefit from the structure provided by cups with 2 to 3 pieces, rather than seamless cups. I generally wear a DD/E cup, so I’ve started with the Marlborough’s 3-part cup.


In this photo, you can see the some of the original pattern pieces (on regular printer paper), and a piece I traced from the original onto tissue paper. The red line is the cutting line, and the dashed green line is the seamline.

My pattern: The Marlborough Bra
The Marlborough Bra pattern is the one I used for my first bra. Now I’m going to tweak some of the pattern pieces for an even better fit. (The book, Demystifying Bra Fitting & Construction, is by Norma Loehr, the designer of this pattern and owner of Orange Lingerie. It’s incredibly thorough, and has given me a lot more confidence about making changes to my pattern, and bra-making in general.)


Tip: I learned this from the Orange Lingerie owner’s bra-making book (see link in caption, above): Plan to make a “toile”, or test bra, using the actual fabrics and notions you intend for the final one. Because fabrics vary so much, there’s no better way to ensure that your bra will fit as well as the test one. I realize this means you need twice as much of all the materials, but there’s a good chance that you will be able to use your test bra as well as the final one, or at the very least, reuse some of the materials, like straps, back closure, etc.


Once you’ve picked out your pattern, it’s always a good idea to devise an organization scheme before going any further. Here, I’ve used the simple-yet-genius zip-top bag to house everything related to my pattern:

Organizing my bra pattern
Having an organization system for your projects in place before you start sewing is one of the best ways to ensure repeatable results. (This all fits easily into a 1-gallon zip-top bag.)

Now I’m ready to make changes to the pattern. The only fit issues I had with my first bra made with this pattern were (1) a slight amount of bagginess around the top part of the side seam (underarm area), and (2) the horizontal seam across the cups needs to be a little bit higher for perfect placement.


 Aside: In order to keep this blog in the appropriate realm, I’ve decided not to include photos of myself wearing my bras. I’m sure you understand. I’ll do my best to illustrate my projects without actually modeling them. End of aside.


Here, I’ve retraced the original pattern pieces. Note that each piece is marked with the pattern name, size, grainlines (the lines with arrows on both ends), etc. The #2 visible on these pieces indicates that this is version 2 that I’m making of this pattern.

Marking pattern changes
Towards the right, you can see where I’ve added 3/4″ to the top edge of the lower cup, to raise the horizontal seamline across the cups. Drawing both the original pattern lines and the alteration lines helps me keep track of the changes I’ve made. The pieces that don’t need alterations are marked “no change”, so I know I didn’t just forget to make the changes.

Meanwhile, here are a few more places to explore for bra patterns.


 Note/disclaimer: I’ve only tried the Marlborough Bra pattern myself, so far; the others I’m listing here are some I’m planning to try, based in part on users’ reviews. If you’ve already tried one or more on this list, I’d love to know what your experience has been with them.)

OhhhLuluSews (on Etsy) has a great selection of patterns for bras (mostly soft-bra styles, as opposed to underwired), panties, swimwear, and more, including this vintage-inspired style. (I’ve purchased this pattern, but haven’t made it yet. This is also where I got my high-waisted panty pattern, which I have made.) Downloadable PDFs.

The MakeBra website is impressive not just for its range of original patterns (including foam-lined styles), but also for its comprehensive tutorials, sew-alongs, and general pattern support. Most, but not all, patterns are downloadable.

And because I’m more than a little obsessed with vintage lingerie, I love Mrs. Depew‘s pattern selection (also on Etsy). I’ve purchased the French Pin-up Bra pattern (I’ve made a muslin toile, but not the final bra yet), and patterns for a corselet and tap pants as well. Downloadable PDFs, and some patterns are also available in the paper version.


Now that I’ve chosen my pattern, organized it, and made alterations to it, I’m ready to move on to (drum roll, please) choosing materials. In my next post, I’ll get started by raiding my own fabric scrap stash!

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4 thoughts on “My Second Bra, Part 1: Choosing a Pattern

  1. How do you know how to alter a pattern if you don’t know anything about drafting? Even if you can figure out that your bra doesn’t fit (surprisingly tricky), how would you know what to do to fix the next one?

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    • Ooh, good question! The truth is, virtually all alterations (including on ready-to-wear garments) are a matter of trial and error. So far, at least, bras don’t seem to be any different. For my second bra, I’m making some slight changes to a few of the pattern pieces; honestly, I’m just guessing how much to change them, based on what I want the results to be. For example, I felt the back band on my first bra was just a little short (meaning I’d need an extra-long closure to make the ends meet at the center back), so I added 1.5″ to the pattern. Sneak preview: now that my second bra is nearly finished (coming soon to a post near you), I’ve found that that adjustment actually was a little too much, so I’ve trimmed a bit off of that back band. I know, it’s not very satisfactory to be told, “Just take a wild guess!”, but truthfully, unless you have someone handy who can measure things for you while you’re wearing your bra, you do just have to experiment. Within reason. : )

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