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The Bra Dilemma Solved

You can fit and sew your own bra to get just the style, size, fabric, and 
features you want.
To make your own bra, youll need some special materials and findings. Check our source listings.
Bras can be custom-fitted for your build.
You can fit and sew your own bra to get just the style, size, fabric, and 
features you want.

You can fit and sew your own bra to get just the style, size, fabric, and features you want.

Photo: Scott Phillips

by Cynthia Elam
from Threads #71, pp. 36-40

For some women, it's easy to find bras that fit in styles they like. But many others aren't so lucky, spending endless time and money in search of that elusive perfect style and fit. And even if they do find it, chances are that the style will be discontinued the next time they shop. (In fact, it's estimated that 85 percent of women who wear bras are wearing the wrong size.) And others of us are just tired of spending so much money on so little fabric.

Bevy of bras
Just because you want a bra that fits, doesn't mean you have to wear beige. You can fit and sew your own bra to get just the style, size, fabric, and features you want. From left, above, a stretch-satin basic bra resembling a Victoria's Secret classic (Élan B530); a navy polka-dot swimsuit top that's easily adapted from a basic bra; and an orange-lace padded push-up bra that flatters a smaller-busted figure (Élan B540).


bras More on bras

• How to Turn Ready-made Bras into Strapless Dress Support
• Adapt a Bra to Accomodate a Prosthesis
• How to Install Bathing Suit Bra Cups

Well, if any of this sounds familiar, you'll be pleased to find out that making your own custom-fitted bra can be a quick and rewarding project. And rest assured, if you're able to cut accurately and sew a precise 1/4-in. seam, you can make a bra.

For the first bra, plan to spend an evening or so. After this one is fitted and finished, you'll find that additional bras take two hours or less. Best of all, once you perfect the fit, you can keep the pattern forever, secure in the knowledge that you've solved one of a woman's trickiest wardrobe problems. Don't miss other Threads techniques like this by purchasing a print subscription which comes with FREE access to our tablet editions.

Bra-styling options
The four elements of a basic bra include a bra band, cups, straps, and a closure (see Anatomy of a bra). Variations in these key elements determine the bra style. A full-band style, for example, offers the most support; it has a continuous band that extends around the body, with the cups set into it (see Styling options). A partial-band style has a band attached at the sides of the cups, with a center-front piece or hook separating them. The bra band may be a single layer or lined.

Anatomy of a bra Styling options
Anatomy of a bra: Variations in the four basic elements of a bra-bra band, cup, strap, and closure-determine bra style. This basic bra has a partial band, a two-piece cup with underwires, wide comfort straps, and a back closure (Élan B530).   Styling Options: In addition to the basic bra style, other style variations include full band, padded push-up, front closure, and sports bra, based on the patterns in parentheses. You may find similar features on other patterns.

Cups can be made of one, two, or three lined or unlined sections, with two being the most common. Cups may or may not include underwires for shaping. Lace cups are often lined with sheer tricot to add stability and reduce scratchiness. You can even add padding to the cups to make a push-up bra like the orange lace one in the photo above.

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Comments (35)

calenlass calenlass writes: Please consult for proper bra fitting methods, a bra size calculator, and extensive information on worldwide brands and size ranges.
Posted: 12:38 pm on June 15th

calenlass calenlass writes: Your fitting method is WRONG! It dates from the 1940s when elastic was less stretchy and women needed the extra inches for breathing room. Modern lingerie elastic can fully accommodate any ribcage while still being supportive. The bra band should be tight enough that it can stay in place WITHOUT straps!
Posted: 12:34 pm on June 15th

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Posted: 5:08 pm on February 11th

GracefulSewing GracefulSewing writes: eimat, if your underwires are poking, it is because they do not fit. You can go to and print out a PDF of all the bra wire sizes (be sure to set your printer to Actual Size). Then you can cut the wire sizes near what you think will work out of something like shirt cardboard. Hold your breast up and place the wire where it fits under the breast. It should fit around the breast perfectly. You could even buy wires and change them out in your RTW bras as long as the sizes are close. The other option is to check out She uses a different type of wire for her underwires that she says is better. I haven't tried them but you can view the same YouTube about it that I did on her website.
Posted: 2:26 am on July 22nd

GracefulSewing GracefulSewing writes: Ltuhy, how to add underwires would depend on whether your swimsuit is considered a partial band or a full band because these differ in how the channeling is applied to the cup to hold the underwire. Beverly Johnson's second Craftsy class starts with how to convert a full band bra to a partial band bra and the information could be reversed to help you add underwires to a full band "bra" swimsuit. You may be able to contact her at She is extremely open to sharing her knowledge and she can either point you to the right place to obtain the information or help you with the process.
Posted: 2:18 am on July 22nd

GracefulSewing GracefulSewing writes: Jameseslipdip, if you have not found what you need to make bras yet, I suggest that you check out This is Beverly Johnson's store in Canada (in addition to home sewers, she also teaches professional bra makers) and has a fantastic array of everything you need for bras, panties, shapewear, etc. She also has patterns, but her patterns work from the high bust measurement above the bust instead of the underbust measurement, which is affected by breathing, fluid retention, etc and the high bust measurement. If you use her patterns (and I recommend them) you will want to leave you preconceived idea of your bra size behind and go from the measurements she calls for alone and how they work with her patterns. Better yet, she has two classes on Craftsy (I have taken both) and some wonderful manuals if you really want to get into this field that are very informative. If you decide to order from Beverly, she has arrangements with SweetCupsBraSupply in the US to carry some of her materials without custom fees, as well with a European source and an Australian source. Her staff is knowledgeable and ready to help however they can. Another source is Monica Bravo uses most tricot for her bras and has a few free video to acquaint sewers with her methods and suggestions. I hope this helps.
Posted: 2:07 am on July 22nd

eimat eimat writes: Anyone have any ideas re: what one could use as an alternate to traditional underwires. Eventually, they poke out, even on bras I've made myself. I'm thinking I'll experiment with cutting up a plastic margarine container for starters, but there's must be something more sturdy, but still a little flexible, preferably wider than current underwires. I'd like to put holes in each end to sew them into the bra fabric to keep them in place better....
Posted: 11:49 am on September 17th

Corset_Training_Girl Corset_Training_Girl writes: I have been looking for a decent bra making tutorial forever! I tried one about two years ago, it didn't turn out too bad -
but this has really inspired me to have another go :)
Posted: 2:45 pm on June 24th

alain78 alain78 writes: Hi all I make all my wifes bras and panties because she is between sizes and i found this website is very good to get bra fabric and all the bits u need and i found Kwik sew pattern # 2101 is very easy and quick to make and if you want make matching panties then use kwik sew pattern # 2100 i hope this a help to all
Posted: 7:17 pm on February 28th

ddp32354 ddp32354 writes: I love this, it's so hard and so expensive to find a bra that fits. I can sew anything & you canbet I will be giving this a try.
Posted: 10:22 pm on October 21st

ddp32354 ddp32354 writes: I love this, it's so hard and so expensive to find a bra that fits. I can sew anything & you canbet I will be giving this a try.
Posted: 10:21 pm on October 21st

helloroxy1 helloroxy1 writes: I have 2 bikini tops, 1 is triangle ad the other is strapless. As i am a DD is there anyway that i can put
underwires in them for better support plus better apearance? I am not a sewer BUT will give it a go to do the alteration. Please I need your help !!!
Posted: 12:30 am on September 23rd

Kiranadia Kiranadia writes: Another thing I'd like to add tells you how to fit yourself. So if you find a store that carries what you believe is your size but the sales person doesn't know squat you can accurately assess whether you have on a correct size bra.

I am unfortunately between sizes meaning that out of 40 bras I tried on all similar sizes only 4 fit... I am considering making my own bras because the retail ones break down on me so quickly and trying to replace it for $70 is just impossible for a college student. I would rather invest the money in the $35 (for 1 or 2 bras) kit and a $50-90 book and make tons of my own bras so I don't have to deal with the dressing room drama anymore.
Posted: 1:53 am on August 2nd

bethsewyoung bethsewyoung writes: Just found this artical and it is very clear and easy to understand. Brilliant, I am constructing my first bra and this has made the patter cutting/ contruction process much faster! Thanks very much x
Posted: 2:21 pm on July 20th

lottiejosie lottiejosie writes: Just weighing in the band discussion. I have to side with the ones who disagree with adding the 4 or 5 inches. I'm a 32 DDD. The band measurement suggested in the article would make me a 36. When I try one that big around it falls to my hips.

I loved the article otherwise. Bras in my size are hard to find and cost a fortune. Wacoal makes one. Prices range from $55.00 to right at $100.00. Wacoal once made a bra with a molded contour underwire cup covered with lace. It was fabulous. I wish I had saved it for a model.
Posted: 6:56 pm on June 3rd

MsMocha MsMocha writes: Hello Ladies,
I have just found the site thanks to my seamstress, and I wanted to say. I took time to read over each of the post I saw on the site under the "Bra Dilemma Solved" article. I would like to welcome you ladies, and any other new members to email me as well with "Bra" concerns. I have been working for the last 5 years on some Bras and am happily launching my full figure line soon. I will have most sizes starting from DD up.
I will also offer custom fit. email me at
Posted: 2:02 pm on May 5th

alwayslearning19 alwayslearning19 writes: To Cyanne89: Do you know where i can find a good, supportive pattern? I am a 32J also and I shop at when there's a good sale, but a lot of those patterns are too "old" for me. Being under 22, I do not like half lace bras, I feel too exposed. I want young, fun-styled bras like those I see in stores. If anyone has anysuggestions, please let me know. my email: Thank you and have a wonderful day!!!
Posted: 8:14 pm on April 30th

Ltuhy Ltuhy writes: can a non-underwire swim suit top be converted to an underwire one? I found a suit that I love but it does not come with underwire but I really feel uncomfortable without one. Is there anything I can do other than not purchase it?
Posted: 7:46 pm on April 30th

mcclennon mcclennon writes: Hi my name is Mary i really need some help i want to make my own bras. I'm a 52i and it is hard to find bras in my size can someone help me thanks my e-mail is
Posted: 7:10 pm on March 16th

Ladyfire3374 Ladyfire3374 writes: frogclan,

I would seal them. My choices would be something like Shoe Goo (shoe dept at Wal Mart) or a two-part epoxy like JB Weld (auto parts store or Wal Mart). I have not tried either of these but I suspect they would work. I'd try the JB Weld first.
Posted: 5:09 pm on February 14th

frogclan frogclan writes: I am thinking of making my own underwires...from wire jewelery making I know that lightly hammering on wire causes it to if I shape the wire as desired and then hammer on it to cause it to take that shape permanently...I should have underwires..why do this? I live in the not yet know the size of wires I need and the mail order business that sells the supplies...charges almost $20.00 for shipping. wondering how long it will take the wires to rust...
Posted: 6:12 am on December 30th

frogclan frogclan writes: I was able to add 2 inches to my band size by going to a gym and working out with weights...then I had a size that was commonly available...a 34 instead of a 32..and I saved money too. You need to ask a trainer for the specific exercise. If its a small gym with a trainer owner you, like me, might get the information for free.

It would be nice to know from the author, which method of measuring for band size is the correct another method has been suggested.
Posted: 6:00 am on December 30th

lorrwill lorrwill writes: By the wacky math used for these measurements, I have a negative cup size.

Ribcage 29" + 5" to make and even number 34"
Full bust 32.5"

Difference, -1.5

Yet in UK/European sizing I wear a 30 - 32 B or C depending on the manufacturer.

I don't get it. I smashed my girls into 34A and 34AA bras for years because that is what the sales clerks sold me - based on similar math. Those bras were freaking torture.

Posted: 10:18 pm on November 12th

krivers krivers writes: hello I created a bra but I can't sew,so I'm looking for manufacturing. Can anyone help me with that please?

Thank's kendra
Posted: 11:14 am on October 27th

LadyeWitch LadyeWitch writes: I strongly suggest that you utilize a store such as Nordstom's to get you exact measurements.. I went and found that instead of the 44DD that I had been wearing I acutally wear a 38G or H, the G is US sizing and the H is UK sizing..amazing what a well fitted bra can do for one! Now to find patterns in this size?? any suggestions??
Posted: 8:13 am on September 9th

ptocheia ptocheia writes: Great ideas for making bras! One thing though - one of the reasons that so many women wear the wrong bra size is because of the myth that you're supposed to add 4-5 inches to get your band size. This is an outdated method of measuring, and as a result too many women are wearing bras with band sizes too big and cup sizes too small. It would be great if you could update this article to reflect the best way to get an accurate fit.

This article on Wikihow gives some good instructions for how to measure to determine one's bra size:
Posted: 11:37 am on August 17th

TheManInTheBlackHat TheManInTheBlackHat writes: What do you do if you are a man? Say, creating a special present for your girlfriend? Or, I know this is *threads*, what if you use chainmaile?
Posted: 11:32 pm on April 6th

RosieBryce RosieBryce writes: Hello, I'm still finding it difficult to get a bra pattern in my size- 30 D, no-one seems to do bands small enough! Is it possible for me to alter the commercial patterns? Or do i have to resort to chopping up one of my limited collection to make one that fits!?
thank you
Posted: 8:30 am on December 23rd

truebuddy truebuddy writes: Cyanne89 can you post instructions as to how you obtained the measurements to sew bras? The method that you know seems better than the one shown on this article.
I've been searching on the internet, and it seems that there's conflicting information on this subject and that the method above has been critized.

I hope you Cyanne89 can see this request.


Posted: 3:08 pm on November 17th

cyanne89 cyanne89 writes: Hi,
I just wanted to point something out to you; the method of measuring for bra size that you have posted is incorrect. In fact this incorrect method, which is the one you'll usually find when searching on the internet ; is actually one of the reasons why such a large percentage of women wear the wrong size.

The error is adding 4 or 5 inches to the band size. This is not the correct way to measure; it is an old method which manufacturers no longer use to MAKE bras.

Nowadays, to get the correct size you either add 1 inch if the number is odd, and nothing if it is even. And then of course subtract that number from the bust measurement.

The support from a bra comes from the band(not the straps) so it needs to fit snugly, so that it does not ride up in the back. So obviously someone who measures 30 inches around the ribcage would get no support at all from a 34 inch band. I know this as well as anyone could since I used to wear anywhere from 34B to 38DD bras(vainly trying to find one that fit), none of them fit well. The boobs would always slip out underneath the bra and the band would go up in the back. generally I relied on the shoulder straps for support and they would dig into the shoulders.

When I discovered the correct method of taking measurements I was surprised to find I was actually size 32J ! Just in case you are thinking that I must be crazy and used the incorrect method; I ordered a bra in this size (from in case you're looking for bigger bras!)and it fit PERFECTLY and supported BEAUTIFULLY, absolutely no bulging, falling out, or digging in anywhere. No bouncing around everywhere either for that matter.

So please, you would be doing a lot of women a huge favor by updating the method you posted to the correct one. Trust me on this one, I am one of those lucky girls who actually has bras that fit!

Posted: 5:31 pm on September 30th

abrose abrose writes: I'm not brave enough to make my own bra yet, but I do need to take in the bands. I have to buy a 38D even though I measure a 36 because I had a breast reduction and my shape is wide but shallow. I need to take in the band at the hook site. Does anyone know how to do that? I usually take them in on the sides, but that makes the straps fall off. If anyone has any info please e-mail me @
Posted: 11:50 pm on September 28th

MeowCyn MeowCyn writes: To jameseslipdip
I recently discovered the website I live in Panama where the ladies are typically much smaller than us Gringas. It makes it nearly impossible to find bras that are comfortable and/or fit properly. I have undertaken the challenge of trying to make my first bra, and BraMakersSupply carries all the necessary supplies, patterns, fabrics, notions, etc. Can't wait for my order to arrive!

Posted: 12:14 pm on September 7th

Katielynne Katielynne writes: Thank you Cynthia. I've been looking at bra patterns--in fact yours--to get myself started making my own bras. This article is fantastic! Its so nice of you to share.
Posted: 2:31 am on August 12th

jameseslipdip jameseslipdip writes: My problem is that I am lager than a DD. In fact, I am a 38H. As you can imagine it is EXTREMELY difficult to find a bra at all. Can anyone help with where to get supplies, patterns, and suggestions on material please????!! If so please e-mail me at
Posted: 1:56 pm on June 20th

Posted: 4:37 pm on May 15th

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