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Help! Sewing Lingerie

Ocrafty1 | Posted in Gather For A Chat on

OK gals, I need help. I have a client who wants me to make lingerie for her. She is a large lady and is a new ’empty nester.’ with a younger hubby. She wants sexy, pretty lingerie. The RTW she’s bought doesn’t fit well, and she has trouble finding things in her size: 2 or 3 XL. She’s a large boned woman. Most patterns for the pretty things only go to size XL. I’ve altered smaller patterns to fit much larger women before, but they were dresses, not lingerie…do I do it the same way?

I’d really like to help her out. I lost quite a bit of weight a few yrs ago and know how hard it is to find pretty things, that don’t let ‘the girls down’ if you know what I mean. I’ve not done much with lingerie, and don’t own a serger. My 1970’s Kenmore does zigzag and a few finishing and stretch stitches. It can’t be that difficult, I’ve worked with stretchy and slippery fabric before, and am very familiar with chiffon. Any and every suggestion will be sincerely appreciated!!!



  1. BernaWeaves | | #1

    I can recommend a couple of things to try.

    1.  The sexiest nighty I've ever owned was a piece of 1/4" black ribbon about a yard long and sewn into a circle, that draped around my neck and shoulders.  The front and back had long silky fringe sewn to it.  The shoulder areas are bare.  Not only does this fit absolutely everyone, but the peakboo fringe is the sexiest thing ever.  Top it off with being easy to sew.  All you have to do is find long black silky fringe.  Mine's about a foot long, but I've seen the same nighty with longer fringe, too.

    2.  The second thing I would recommend is a babydoll style that uses an existing bra.  If the lady can find a good sexy bra that fits her well, you can add floaty panels to the bottom edge, or lace, or fringe.  Having the skirt part open in the front and /or the back is sexy.  It's easy to whip up matching panties, as they can just be a triangle of lace or chiffon with ribbons attached to the sides for a string bikini look that comes undone quickly.  It's even sexier if it doesn't cover everything.  This hinges on the lady splurging on a more expensive bra than she normally wears. 


    Edited 3/17/2008 10:38 am ET by BernaWeaves

  2. fabricholic | | #2

    Martha Pullen's Lovely Lingerie Book has sizes 6 to 28. Have you looked at it?Marcy

  3. MaryinColorado | | #3

    At http://www.marthapullen.com  (the lady from the PBS tv show and Sew Beautiful Magazine), there is a book called Lingerie Secrets, sizes from 6-28.  Although the patterns are not silky sexy items, the sizes may be a good place to start.  There are kimonos and tap pants and camisoles, a nightshirt, and a gown..  I have the book but can't find it right now.  Mary

    oops, looks like Marcy beat me to it, just call me "rePete!"

    Edited 3/17/2008 6:15 pm by MaryinColorado

    1. Ocrafty1 | | #4

      Thanks, you two....I don't have that book, but it looks like I should get it.  I have a few OLD Sew Beautiful mags. Got the idea for that Christening gown from one. I've made a couple of other baby things from that mag. too. I really like the older ones...haven't had the $$ to buy for many yrs., but with hubby's new job  :^) 

      Here's another question.....

      When making alterations for larger bust, which is better....slash and spread method, or slide and pivot?  I've used both or combinations of both. It seems to me that slide and pivot is more accurate, but this client is going to be a challenge....54" bust...DD cup. I know I can do it....its just figuring out the best way to 'attack' this project. 

      Why can't pattern makers figure out that not all of us are runway models? I'm tiny, but with a DD bust. Most women I know are nowhere close to the patterns they have for sale. KwikSew is probably the closest, but even they don't deal with the bigger gals. Maybe some of us should get together and come up with our own line of larger size patterns?????  RTW is just as bad.


      PS  Keep those ideas coming....I can use all that I can get!  You gals are GREAT!  Its like I've met a whole group of new friends that love the same things I do....and have the same problems with kids, DH's, etc.  I have to check email 1st thing in the AM and again before hittin' the hay...Intelligent conversation with adult females...doesn't get any better than this!

      1. MaryinColorado | | #5

        Welcome!  So glad you joined this forum!  It's so nice to have sewing friends from all over the world that share our love of sewing!  If you'd like, you can fill out your profile, or the part of it that you feel safe sharing online.  If you'd like to read ours, just click on our names in the "From" above. 

      2. GailAnn | | #6

        My husband and I were watching "Jepardy" on TV last night.  One of the contestants, looked perfectly "normal" to me, but my husband's comment was, "She could stand to eat a sandwich!"  A short discussion followed, I was surprized to find that to his eye she was unattractively skinny, while I accepted her as normal.

        Sometimes, I think women have been sensitized by the media to like "Skinny" more than men really do.  Gail

      3. starzoe | | #7

        I think you were interested in the dart-moving information. I sent three emails to your profile but have not heard back. If you do want the information email me through my profile. Your email will have to accept attachments so I can send the info through my scanner. Please identify yourself by your username - when I get an email through my profile I don't know who it is unless the username is mentioned!

        Edited 3/18/2008 3:45 pm ET by starzoe

        1. Ocrafty1 | | #15

          I still haven't gotten your email. I've sent 2 messages to your profile and haven't gotten a response.


          1. starzoe | | #17

            Yes, I have answered them both at the email address you gave me. I got the message back "delivery failed, server has rejected address".Is there another address I can send these pages to? Some servers do not allow attachments and this may be the problem. There hasn't been a problem sending it to the other people who asked for the information.

          2. Ocrafty1 | | #18

            I emailed you another address through your profile. Please let me know if you got it.   Deb

          3. starzoe | | #20

            Yes, I got the address, but it had three spaces in it - is it supposed to look like that? I clicked on it and asked for confirmation of it being received, but haven't heard anything yet.

          4. Ocrafty1 | | #21

            should have 3 _ (underscores)

            Looks like this.   (just the spacing part. You know the ending of the address.)  



          5. starzoe | | #23

            OK, the underscores didn't come thru. Will try it again.

          6. Ocrafty1 | | #24

            I finally got it...through my son. 4 pages, right?  So sorry about all the trouble...and if you got my latest email you know about my 'faux pax'  Sorry about that!  Stuff happens...usually to me LOL  Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all of your trouble and effort!


          7. starzoe | | #25

            You are welcome. Have fun with it, moving darts is fun and opens up a whole new designing tool, and it is so simple as long as you start out with a dart that fits.

      4. blondielou | | #8



        25 years ago, I weighed 300 lbs and was a 34I, yes, I as in "Instant".....  I am now a 32D (that is also a challenging size to buy....most stop at 34).  I lost the weight and have kept it off now ever since.  I wear a size 10-12.....


        Can this woman give you an old bra that she is about to throw out you could tear apart and make a pattern from?


        Or one you could borrow?  there are books that tell you how to make patterns from existing garments (you could get it from the library or from Amazon.com.....Amazon sells used books, some quite cheap, just put in the search engine sewing existing garments and you'll have responses).


        I have made bras in the past and found it to be a "pain in the ####" myself......  I am a ballroom dancer and made bustiers and bra tops....  I decided to just buy existing ones and decorate them; add skirts to them!  Now finally there are many tops that have underwire bras in them and I am buying as many as I can get my hands on as I figure that style will go out of business and I want to be ready for when it does!


        I do, however, make my own panties.....when I found myself wearing the same pair all the time because they fit the best without riding up when those wore out I took them apart and made a pattern and got Sewing Lingerie from Singer for instructions and style and now I make all my underwear panties.  They are a lot of work but worth it to me!


        Another thought.....you might be able to buy a cheap bra or lingerie from Ebay....used and tear that apart and use that as a pattern.....   I have gotten things from them for $5.00 even as low as .02..... 


        Good luck,



        1. Ocrafty1 | | #9

          I've never tried (or wanted to) make a bra. I have a friend who used to do belly dancing...she just quit at age 72....She also suggested buying inexpensive bras and covering/incorporating them into the garment.  I need to talk to the client and see exactly what she wants. I'm sure I can come up with something...all of the suggestions have been great....Its wonderful to be able to ask for help from so many people who know what I'm talking about and what they're doing!  I'm trying to come up with ideas for her ,of what I might be able to do, before we get together. This is one of the biggest challenges I've had in quite a while.

          I rarely do any sewing for myself; I'll do alterations for me, but not much more.  Since I lost over 60 lbs. 4 yrs. ago, I am enjoying buying RTW. I still don't have an answer to how to make a RTW swimsuit fit well.  I wear a 34 DD, but a 4-6 in slacks. Won't wear a 2 piece...too many scars from surgery and stretch marks from the kids...LOL.  I don't want to fall out of the top, but I don't want to look like I'm 25 or 75 either...such a dilema.


          1. blondielou | | #10



            I've taken several bra classes.....extensive ones.....fitting, as usual, is the bear.  I am a 32D and as I had lost over 150 lbs 25 years ago after yo-yoing for years up and down 20, 40, 60 lbs I have left breasts that are flatter on top and fuller on the bottom than the patterns are made for......


            Making a bra for an A or B cup is a piece of cake.....once you get into anything approaching a C or my size (much less yours!!!) when you are sewing something that is anything BUT flat is what becomes the difficulty.


            I also enjoy buying RTW......I buy jeans, bras, and any items that I cannot make or would be way too expensive to make (has some embellishment or other aspect that is not easily available to the home sewer).....  But the items I can make that are a cut above what one can find in the RTW market or is a color I want or to get the fit I want (I do ballroom dancing so I want breathable, stretchable fabrics in the top or bodice and then a full skirt in the bottom.....I have beautiful skin and cleavage so I wear low in the front and low in the back (even to my waist in the back).....  I will wear midriff revealing tops similar to that of the 40's (think higher waistlines covering, or almost covering the belly button) and as I am short waisted, there is probably only 3 to at most 5 inches from bra/bustier/halter top and top of skirt/pants.  I also will put fringe/lace/ruffle at the bottom of the bra/bustier/halter top for added detail/ornamentation ....  I like styles that are unusual and not always available RTW.....but I am not one of those "purists" who won't buy/wear anything unless they make it.


            To me, always think of your time, lifestyle, body, budget.....and then decide whether to buy RTW or to make something.  I also buy RTW and then add to it making it my own (changing sleeves, adding here, deleting there, addng all kinds of embellishments, etc.).....


            I always love to buy the latest sewing gadget too!





          2. MaryinColorado | | #13

            Congratulations on your weightloss and keeping it off!  That is absolutely wonderful and very inspirational!  Mary

          3. blondielou | | #33

            Stats say 95-98% who lose weight gain it back within 5 years.


            I am part of the National Weight Registry that tracks those of us who have lost more than 60 pounds and have kept it off longer than 5 years.   They send us lengthy questionnaires to fill out about exactly what we've done to do it.


            What they found is by and large those of us who have done it and kept it off found their own "diet" of foods they liked....  You can't last for long eating foods you don't like.  I have always told people to get a paperback of calories/fat grams and a highlighter and highlight foods they like and build a diet around them.....based on whether you are a woman/man, your occupation and how active it is, how much activity you get and how often you exercise (aerobics & weights) that determines how many calories you can allow yourself....   


            At first, write everything you eat down.  Eat on a small salad plate.  Drink water, coffee/tea, diet drinks taking a sip between each bite or two and chew very slowly....either talk with a companion and be engaged with your meal that way to slow yourself down or savor each bite listening to music....  Because I have done this so long, I can sew, read, watch TV while I eat....but I take 30-60 minutes to eat a meal.....  My husband is overweight and he just vacuums his meal up.....I used to do the same.....and then it is so much easier to eat more.  You have to measure and allow yourself X amount and no more so slow down and savor it.


            I personally find that eating the same foods over and over and over again keep me from gaining......my palate is not  continually stimulated to want to try more and different.


            Life is not meant for eating.  Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.....as good as wearing smaller jeans or that size you never thought you'd get into.


            Also you have to find some physical activity you really enjoy doing....for me that is ballroom dancing.....for you that could be roller skating, power walking, swimming, etc.  Anything that is enjoyable and lifelong I think in particular is most important and they now have found that ballroom dancing and table tennis in particular are very important to keep away altheimeizers (half of us over 85 will get it)......any exercise is great for it but if you do an exercise that at the same time you are also thinking like dancing you have really made a significant difference.


            Dancing also helps in motivating me to have pretty clothes and to look good in them! 


            I still struggle with it and always will....



          4. MaryinColorado | | #34

            I have 10 more pounds to lose to reach my goal!  My triglycerides were high so I know I have to give up my Pepsi addiction as it is the sugar and not enough exercise that is holding me back.  Now that the weather is warmer I will resume my daily nature walks with my dog too. 

            "Eating the same foods over and over again"...maybe that's helped me and I didn't even realize it.  I eat alot of brown rice and veggies normally.  Since dh retired, I'm eating more of the foods he likes and they aren't as healthy even in small quantitys.  I was even starting to "crave" a breakfast of eggs, potatoes, and sausage which is totally out of character for me but he eats it alot so I have fallen into the routine with him. 

            You have given me some interesting "food for thought", thank You! 

            My husband of 31 yrs. inherited his mother's eating disorder.  She got hers under control with Weight Watchers but he just won't/can't comply with a diet.  We've been to Nutritionists where they suggested that he eat the foods the kids and I eat, and many other good suggestions.  Now he is diabetic, has had a heart attack, high blood preassure, very obese.  Instead of me being a good influence on him, he has finally become a bad influence on me.  After much consideration, I realized he is so food focused he is trying to get me to "join him" in his food addiction.  He "lives to eat" and I only "eat to live".  This puts a whole new light on "retirement" living.  I now recall my mother in law having diet issues when her husband retired as he was so active and thin that he could and did "eat anything and everything".  His diet is now the same as hers except when they eat at restaurants. 

            Thanks for the suggestions, congratulations on your weight loss!  As a nurse, I appreciate how vitally important diet and exercise are.  You have accomplished so much!  Mary


          5. blondielou | | #36



            It is nice when you can do things as a couple but you can't if it is detrimental.    Anything that isn't in moderation isn't good for you.....  I also have chronic pain and I have a great deal of problems getting the pain medications I need due to the issues surrounding drug addicts faking as pain patients, going to our good pain doctors, the pain doctors then getting in trouble with the DEA and then the DEA closes down the doctors!  Instead of going after the false "pain patients" who are really drug addicts the DEA goes after the doctors....then fewer and fewer doctors prescribe what chronic pain patients need to live.  I don't live for the chronic pain meds to get "high"....because of the pain, my body assimilates the medication I get and utilizes it so I feel less pain only (I still feel some of it and all other pain)....I take the meds so I can have some amount of life .....the last two days was filled with a migraine, and every day I have a chronic headache...."chronic intractable failed neck pain syndrome (status post cervical fusion with hip bone and titanimum screws/bolts C5-C6) with chronic daily headaches complicated by a migraine disorder." is my diagnosis from Hopkins...plus hypothyroidism, myofasical pain syndrome, osteoporosis and fibromyalgia.


            I am very sorry about your husband.....almost my entire family is obese and I definitely understand that mentality.


            If you want to write me sometime and have any questions, please do

            [email protected]

            Good luck and one hour/day at a time!



  4. Gloriasews | | #11

    If your client doesn't want the bra incorporated in her nighties (she may feel it's too structured & uncomfortable), you could make a halter-style top, lined, but fairly snug-fitting with supportive darts underneath the bust (like sleep bras) or pleats or gathers, possibly out of a stretch light lycra.  You could sew a band under the bust for stability, or, as many gowns from the 1950s, you could run satin ribbon from the sides of the cup down under the bust to the middle - that would give the 'girls' more side support.  The back could have a casing with fairly firm elastic from armpit to armpit for more support.  Straps could be wider or spaghetti.  From the bust down, the 'skirt' could be lace, sheer or both, as other posters have suggested.  A sheer, filmy peignoir coat (as in the 1950s movies) could go over this, no matter how long she wants the gown to be (or short, if that's what she wants) - very feminine.  The bikini  (or high-cut regular) pants could go underneath, if she wants pants of any type.  The gown skirt could be cut down the middle, or in panels, trimmed or embellished or whatever she wants.  A silky sarong may work, too, if she wants something simple.


    P.S. I just got the SewStylish newsletter & the April issue has an article on making a sheer caftan - maybe your client would like one of those.

    Edited 3/21/2008 8:00 pm by Gloriasews

    1. Ocrafty1 | | #12

      Thanks Gloria,

      I'm just waiting for her to contact me...not exactly sure what she wants. She mentioned a sleep shirt and baby doll style, as well as 'sexy.' I'm taking down everyone's suggestions....I know they'll be very helpful.  I actually purchased an inexpensive (for me...DD cup are never cheap!)...bra today, to experiment with for myself, before I try for her.  Should be very interesting....LOL


      Edited 3/22/2008 12:20 am ET by Ocrafty1

      1. Gloriasews | | #14

        Good idea making one for yourself first - will it be sexy? You might be on to something as a new occupation :).


        1. Ocrafty1 | | #16

          LMR(ear)O!   I haven't decided exactly what I'm gonna make. I do have a pattern for a 'teddy' that I purchased a couple of yrs. ago. I bought black tricot, and LONG black fringe...(Giggle/Blush)....but I've got to figure out how to make it fit 'the girls.'  I've always been at least a C cup, (my first bra was a C cup at age 12), but went to a DD after my son was born 23 yrs ago. When I lost 60 lbs 4 yrs ago, they stayed a DD, but, lets say, gravity really took over.  Halter tops just don't look the same anymore...LOL. I've got to be careful, or it won't look sexy...it will be scarey! I also bought some bra inserts at the local Joanne...they are a D...we'll just have to see what I can come up with...should be an interesting journey to say the least...and no I won't post a picture, so don't even ask. ;^)


          1. Gloriasews | | #19

            Aw, c'mon - do post a pic when you're finished.  All we're interested in is the lingerie & how it fits.  Just put it on a dressmaker's dummy & take the pic, then you won't be embarrassed :)


          2. Ocrafty1 | | #22

            LOL! We'll see....but don't bet the farm on it!...m-a-y-b-e a pic of the garment...but you won't see me in it. LMAO!


          3. Gloriasews | | #26

            No problem - as I said, put it on a mannequin/dummy & then take the pic & post it - we just want to see the garments you made (when you finally figure it out :).


    2. blondielou | | #27

      I like Shadowline nightgowns and they are made with lace out of the bra area and a approx 4" lace band going around the midriff area thus giving breast support.  I believe this would probably be an easy nightgown to make.....suggest you go to their site at http://www.shadowline.com and look at that style. 


      Men really do appreciate women wearing nice nightwear.  My new husband (2 years)...he is husband #3 (husband #1 was age 17 to 21, husband #2 was from 1980 to 2003 who abandoned me) was married for 26 years and then in a long relationship lasting 5 years.  His ex wife had only one nice yellow nightgown (when he knew he was going to "get lucky") and the rest of the time was ugly flannel and horrid tacky robes.  The ex girlfriend dressed horribly both in and out of bed..... 


      So he really appreciates my very large nightgown collection.  I have bought my nightgowns as I have found them mostly on sale through Shadowline, HSN, JCP, Ebay pricing from $10-30 on average usually not worth the time.......factoring cost of tricot and lace, thread, pattern, etc. nightgown would often be the same or close as I am an excellent sale shopper.  I do buy OTC those items I either cannot make or those that make no sense to make or would cost too much....jeans for example..... 


      What about all of you?



      1. Gloriasews | | #28

        You're right about a nice nightgown making the difference.  It does amaze me to see the ratty old stuff that women wear around the house.  They say it's 'comfortable', so they don't want to part with that ugly old robe or nightie.  If it's that comfortable, then they can copy the pattern & make new ones.  Maybe it's their image of themselves (or their marriages have died or are in distress, their self-esteem is very low, they're depressed, etc.).  It's sad, but it is a fact of life.

        So, go ahead & make beautiful, sexy nightwear.  You'll be pleased with what you make & the person receiving it should be, as well.  And yes, the under-bust support is really important for large busts, that's why I suggested in an earlier post to have the fabric strips/ribbon running from the side bust, then under the bust to cut down on the side wobble, if that makes any sense.  That would provide more control, but do go with your bra idea - that would provide the most support.  The bodice would have to have a strip around to the back (like a bra) to keep the bra front in place & firm.


        1. blondielou | | #29

          It is true that some nightgowns that are sexy and/or beautiful/attractive are not comfortable.....they have scratchy lace or in various ways just aren't comfortable.....  But if you choose carefully (or with RTW try it on) you can get a nightgown/nightwear that is very comfortable at the same time spectacular on you. 


          I went again to http://www.shadowline.com and there are several nightgowns there that are exactly what I like in the underbust support area as well attractive in every other sense....



          1. Gloriasews | | #30

            For some reason, I can't get on to the Shadowline website (tried yesterday & just now - says page cannot be displayed) - so I'll take your word for it.  I do think you're on the right track with the bust design, as that is where the most fitting will be.   You're absolutely right, too, about scratchy lace, which may be beautiful, but it drives me nuts.  I have even sewn the edges of bra straps when they've had scratchy lace (which looked really pretty) along the edges, but left my shoulders raw where they rubbed.  I have also lined the lace part of lingerie when it itches - & it still looks like it was designed that way.  So go with whatever works for you.


          2. Ocrafty1 | | #31

            I've tried the Shadowline website, too, with the same result. Bummer.


          3. blondielou | | #32

            Try http://www.shadowline-lingerie.com


            I think I had always put in my Search engine Shadowline and had gone through that way and thought it was direct http://www.shadowline.com


            I just looked at the site again and they have lovely nightgowns.  I wear them almost every night and my husband loves them!




          4. Gloriasews | | #35

            Thanks, Laura, for the corrected website - now I can see what you mean.  Those gowns are really nice - & look comfortable.  Out of the different styles, you should be able to make some winners yourself & your client.  Keep us posted on your progress.


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