08 Apr 2013 • • by Heather Lou

Brassiere Fever


I caught it. BAD. The bra fever. Once it gets in your bloodstream, you're finished.

How could I not? Have you seen some of the magic that our friends are making? Novita's CAT BRA? Kazz's VINTAGE DOILY NUMBER? Madalynne's floral longline? Everything Amy has ever breathed on?

How else to explain the fact that I've made FIVE in the past 2 weeks? A brief (actually, not really) timeline:

  • Spend few days tweaking the Elan 645 pattern. Technically 34D but after much tweaking and pinching and darting go down to C cup on D underwire.
  • Make simple black bra using Fabric Depot kit using simplex cups and powernet band. It fits. Perfectly. A little more conservatively cut than I normally wear but it's SO FREAKING COMFORTABLE. And boobs? Never better. Like being 17 again. MY BRA BEAT GRAVITY'S ASS.

Exhibit A:

  • Start on second bra, another kit from Fabric Depot, this time using nude lycra. Here things get gnarly. I never tell people who are interested in this hobby that sewing is hard. Because it isn't. It's so accessible I don't know why everyone doesn't do it. But bra-making.... bra making is hard. It's a lot of fiddly pattern adjustments, and then a lot of fiddly sewing with fiddly elastics, and then trying to get nice straight topstitching on fiddly underwire channel.... It's a fiddle fest. Not impossible, but challenging, at least at the beginning when learning the ropes. This bra was victim to that learning curve. So much seam ripping, hair-pulling, frustrated tears. And blood. Actual blood. I bled on this bra, and when I tried it on I had an ill fitting, too small, over worked nightmare with blood on it. Boobs? Not impressed.

Exhibit B (I took the underwires out... it wasn't QUITE this bad):

  • But I'm tough. From a blue collar town straight out of a Bruce Springsteen song. Women like me, we put our hair up with old bandannas, crack our knuckles and figure it out. Realize we need to make the band a little longer. Find a little stretch black lace and try again........ We fail. Again. We fail again so hard. We fail to properly underline the stretchy cup fabric so that when we try it on, we have saggy sad cups. We cry again. Another bra bites dust.

Exhibit C (hard to tell lying flat, but the cups were a disaster):

  •  Okay. Debate throwing in the towel. Have mild existential crisis where I question my ability to make anything ever again. Pity party. Self loathing is a 7 on a scale of 0 to WORTHLESS SACK OF BONES. Then.... watch 10th episode of The Good Wife and realize Julianna Margulies would never give up after a few bad cases. Take deep breath. Crack knuckles. Tighten bandanna. Modify pattern to make a longer line cradle/band with a demi cup. Cross fingers. Give purple polka dot mesh scored at sample sale a kiss for luck. Apply lessons learned in 2 epic bra fails (longer bands, properly lined cups, magic touch that comes with sewing in a few underwires) and.... OH MY GOD IT FITS. And it looks good. Amazing, actually. And boobs? Dancing perfectly supported jig of joy. (Described fit as almost as good as a pair of loving hands). Speaking of... a crying shame single right now. Don't think cats appreciate how good I look in underwear these days.

Exhibit D:

And while we're at it (winning), may as well throw in a pair of matching Rosy Ladyshorts (which are the perfect pair of knickers, btw):

  • Whew. Bra fail streak broken. But now have a new problem. Now all I think, breathe and eat is bras. Salivate over Pinterest inspiration. Infiltrate expensive lingerie shop and take sneaky spy photos of construction photos in dressing room. Realize the only way I'm going to win this war is by reinforcing my supplies. Trawl a few local notions shops and score a variety of elastics and other necessary doodads. Make a road trip to weird stretch fabric store down in the trade only rag district. After deliberating for 1 hour over various meshes and stretch laces, doing mental math to figure out how much ramen I will have to eat to feed the more important gaping bra hunger, discover huge crate of various pieces of stretch lace, mesh and lycra sold by the pound. Lose mind. Spend $20 and get enough material to make 100 bras. Restrain self from embracing lycra salesmen.

Exhibit E (officially crossed the edge to Glen Close in Fatal Attraction compulsion):

Please note silver lamé.... expect crazy space woman bra very soon.....

  • Buy dye at drug store. Spend afternoon experimenting with dilution and dye ratios to come up with all the fixings needed to make a clean kelly green and light mint number.
  •  Spend rest of weekend in bra rabbit hole. Phone is on silent. Forget to look at it. Forget to return Mum's urgent phone call Saturday regarding booking our flights to San Francisco in May. Mum has uncharacteristic freakout Sunday, convinced I am dead in ditch. Have to explain to her when I finally check phone and see many missed calls that I fell into a bra fugue zen state so intensely concentrated I laughed that it was like what the 50's housewives must have experienced when high on amphetamines manically cleaning all day. Mom is relieved, annoyed, excited to see bras.
  • Sunday force myself to take a bra break. How many bras does a woman need?  A woman must wear other clothes after all. Start work on By Hand London Skirt. Love. But still have bras on back of brain. Will probably make silver lame space bra this week.
  • Sleep.
  • Want to tell anyone interested in learning to make bras that a) Is challenging. At first. But has steep learning curve. Gets easier. Then gets addictive. b) Takes almost no fabric to make bras. Good for stash busting. c) Your boobs never knew they could have it so good. All those lying foam bras that make us all look like we have bubble boobs need to go.  Bra-making celebrates natural shape of body. This = good. d) Having your breasts look natural and beautiful in something you made and sweated over and customized is one of the most thrilling things I've ever experienced as a sewist. Been happily flashing anyone (uh, minus straight guys) curious about said bras. Including boss. Neighboring office building was probably really confused. e) If interested in pursuing bra-making, get thee to Amy's Bra Sewalong. Insanely helpful. Keep referring to it. Not sure I would have persevered without her Bra Buddha wisdom. Also to her lovely and thoughtful replies to my emails when I wrote her in near tears. Amy is the best.
  • Terse point form-ness of this blog post inspired by a short story in the best book I have read in years, maybe ever. Go get Tenth of December by George Saunders. So funny, smart, wise, empathetic, prescient. Makes one grateful for all of it.
  • Bye.

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