Size Matters: What a Difference a Wire Makes

As you know, I made my first and second bras using the same pattern, the Marlborough Bra. Considering my lack of experience, I think they both turned out surprisingly well. But here’s a funny thing. Even though I used the same pattern, and the same type of fabrics (silk for the main parts, powernet for the back bands, as specified by the pattern), they somehow turned out different in size— different enough that, although I’ve worn the second bra several times, I can’t wear the first one at all. It’s just too tight around the band.

First bra size
With the back closure fastened on the loosest setting, my first bra measures 13″ across the bottom. And notice how the fabric is bunching up under the cups? More about that later.

Here are both the first and second bras for comparison:

Both bras compared
Without even looking at the tape measure, you can easily see the the second bra (bottom) is noticeably larger than the first: 14.5″, vs. 13″ across the lower front of the band.

How could this have happened? Well, I have a few theories.

1. I have a lot of experience sewing garments, which almost always call for 5/8″-wide seam allowances. Lingerie, at least what I’ve seen so far, calls for 1/4″-wide seam allowances. I think it’s possible I just made my seams bigger than 1/4″ for my first bra. (In this particular pattern, there are 4 seams that would affect the band size; if I was off by just 1/8″ on each of them, that would add up to 1/2″ total difference in size!)

2. When I was making the first bra, I hadn’t yet learned about DOGS (direction of greatest stretch), and its impact on bra fit. It’s fairly likely I made some mistakes with the DOGS which restricted the “give” of the fabrics, making the bra feel tighter.

3. The powernet on the first bra’s back band is a bit heavier, and slightly less stretchy than the powernet on the second; it certainly seems possible that just the back band fit alone could account for the difference in size.

Or maybe it’s all of the above!

I was staring at the 2 bras this morning, after taking the first pictures with the measuring tape, and it occurred to me to measure across the underwires; just looking back at the photos now, it looks like the wires in the first bra are smaller in diameter. Let me check that with the tape:

Measuring underwires
Wow. That is a BIG difference. Maybe those smaller wires on the first bra (top) are keeping the fabric from spreading out into its actual size?

Okay, here’s the thing. It’s not an excuse, but when I was making that first bra, I was treating it like a practice run (which the pattern designer recommends, and it is a good idea in general), so I simply put in wires I’d taken out of an old bra. (Gee, do you think that old one might have been too small?) By the time I was making the second one, I’d received an order of supplies (from SewSassy), including a few different wire sizes to try out. So when I was finishing the second bra, I was able to put in wires that actually fit me properly.

I think I’m onto something! I’m going to take the smaller wires out of the first bra, and replace them with the same size wires as I have in my second bra. Cross your fingers— just this one change may solve my fit issue!

Whoa. I’ve just taken those wires out of Bra 1, and look at the difference in size!

Comparing underwires
I think it’s safe to say that my wire size was affecting the fit of my bra!

I’m so curious to measure this bra again, after changing to the larger wires.

After changing to larger wires
What a difference— the space across the cups has increased by 2″! (The tape got knocked over to the left a little in the top photo— I was juggling the tape and the camera.) And the measurement across the bottom of the band has increased by 1″, which means 2″ total. That will definitely make a difference in the fit!

Just to double-check the size, I laid the newly-wired bra on top of Bra #2.

Last size check
The first bra (on top) is still just a little smaller than the second, but it’s a whole lot closer than it was before I changed the wires! (And again, this difference may simply be due to seam allowances that were too big.)

Remember me saying something about the fabric under the cups bunching up? Well, after changing to the larger wires, it still isn’t lying perfectly smoothly, but it definitely looks better, now that it’s not being crammed in by too-small wires. I’ll just chalk the rest up to lack of experience with the lingerie elastic method.

The bottom line: Even though I originally made this bra as a practice one, it now fits me well enough to actually wear it— hurrah! And I know from wearing the nearly identical second bra several times now that it’s really comfortable, and even luxurious, with its beautiful silk fabric and lace trim. Sometimes the solution to a fit problem really can be this simple!

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3 thoughts on “Size Matters: What a Difference a Wire Makes

  1. I’ve met this problem when the fabric is bunching up under the cups. Yes, it’s the sign that the wire used with that cradle do not match in size. From this, I have deduced two cases: when the under-wire is in your size, you’ve chosen and sewn a wrong bra pattern (or the pattern sizing system is different from the one you know); and the second case, like yours, when the pattern size is right, but the under-wire is not 🙂
    Great article! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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