What is Wire Spring?
It has been a long 8 months since my last post. I can’t even begin to explain why I haven’t written more often, it has been a busy year. More on that on another day….
What is wire spring and why does the mention of it start a war between pattern makers, experts and sewers?
Wire spring refers to an underwire changing from its manufactured shape into an expanded, stretched shape. The natural wear of a bra springs a wire no matter how the bra was designed, this spring is caused by the pulling of the back band to make the bra fit snugly. The amount of pulling on the wire can vary vastly based on the bra itself.
Where opinions vary is whether wire spring should be built into bras or should bras be designed for the natural shape of the wire. To address both opinions, let’s start with wire spring being built into a bra pattern.
In ready to wear bras, spring is built in, but the entire band and frame are generally made in stretch fabrics. The stretch of the wire and the stretch of the band allow the cups to fit more people. (You may even find that the cups have stretch too, opening up the fitting to even more people.) Bra fitters are trained to fit you into a bra, not make a bra fit you.
Some pattern makers take this same philosophy in designing their own patterns. The more spring you have, the more likely you will be able to fit multiple people.
Now the case for no wire spring. If you are making a custom bra or having one made for you, the bra is being designed for you, not you and the next 20 people. Because you are having something custom, you can match the wire to the shape of your breast root, making for a perfect molded shape of your body.
The breast root is the mammary fold between breast tissue and the body. For some people this is more defined than others. Those people with younger, perkier breasts can find this definition fairly easily, but for those with more fleshy pancakes (like yours truly), it is a little harder.
For those of us who have very deflated breasts, whether its from breast feeding, age or weight, raising your arm will help you find a line for your wire on the side of your breast. The wire helps define the shape and places an edge to your breast.
The difference between underarm fat and breast tissue is not a lot different. Because of that, you will hear people argue that the fat under your arm and on your back is breast tissue. It is only tissue. The breast has a mammary gland with padding of tissue over it. Whether it all fits in the cup or into the band is really up to the end user’s definition of comfort and fit. If someone is insistant on training their back fat to fit in their bra cup, then the definition of where that wire sits will not be the same as someone who accepts that the fat should stay where it currently resides.
If someone wants to train their fat, let them, it doesn’t hurt you and the stupid arguments people have because of it is just unheathly to your own mental health. The idea of bra training is no different than waist training for a corset. They are forcing the skin, organs and fat to relocate to other desirable locations. For someone like myself, I accept where the fat lives, but I make a supportive bra band that holds it in place rather than pushing it out. Sometimes that means that the band needs to be taller and wider to achieve this.
Now back to the discussion of wire spring. There is a balancing act that happens in a bra, the breast fills the cup and where the wire sits is up to the bra, whether the placement is right next to the breast without spring, or sprung to fit on the side of the breast.
The arguments seem to touch on completely different subjects. One being custom fit and one being for the masses. There are different reasons to do different pattern drafting. An individual will determine their own comfort level in wearing bras. If wires slowly move down the body, it can poke and prod bones and nerves. This is the reason a lot of pattern makers will also include how to customize the pattern to fit the individual. This is where the concept of getting a wire to fit your root comes into play. That wire, as long as it fits your shape unsprung, is fine to use unsprung. But a wire that needs to spring to fit the root, will need that spring built into the pattern to teach the wire where to sit.
The most important thing with wire placement is that the wire does not sit on the mammary gland at all, no matter what, no exceptions! This can cause mastitis and can be very painful and dangerous expecially for pregnant women.
Ok, so you are now asking, do I add spring or not? The answer is to make a fitting band and make sure the wire is sitting where you want it to sit. Its too hard to determine that if you are also sewing the cups in on the first fitting. If the wire must spring open by a large amount, it can put strain on the wire causing the stress point to get annealed (soft) and eventually snap. If this is the case, try locating a different wire that has the end shape you need.
Here is a little tip as well, you can reshape a wire to a different shape about once in its lifetime. This means that you can make your wire wider permanently, as long as you do not spring that wire more than basic wear and tear of a bra. Changing the shape once isn’t enough to destroy the metal, but repeated stress on the wire will.
While I am covering all these controversial subjects, let’s touch on the argument that the wire is the cantilever of the bra. To be clear, the entire bra is a cantilever. The bra needs all parts to function equally to support the breast up in the air and balanced on the body. The cantilever is the full contraption. Just as a bridge can be a cantilever, it contains more than one metal post to hold it up, there are trusses and girters that all contribute to the function of a cantilever bridge.
The comparision of a well fitted bra versus a poorly fitting bra, is similar to a bridge that isn’t designed for its function. A rope bridge won’t hold a car and a giant steel struction is overkill for a footbridge. A bralette would not be considered a cantilever since the support of the bra is held between the band, cups and the straps. A well fitting bra acts as a cantilever, only needing the body to support it, meaning the straps are only there for a little reinforcement and do not function to hold the bra up.
A well built bra doesn’t even need a wire or could do without one. Just remember that underwires weren’t regularly used in daily wear bras until the 1960s and bras have been around since ancient Greek and Roman times. Mind you that bras back in ancient times were not supportive, but just because someone convinced the entire industry to use wires does not mean they are 100% necessary, nor is the concept of using sprung underwires for every occasion.
How to Make a Plaster Cast of your Breast Root
Slight nudity warning!
Guest Blog Post By: Anne Bertha
I’ve been making bras now for two years. Very soon in that process, people told me that the first thing you should do is search for a wire that fits you. Well, that proved to be very difficult. By now I have a whole range of different sizes and styles of wires, but none of them really seem to fit me. After noticing a post on Facebook of someone who made a plaster cast of her ribcage and seeing the transformation in bra fit, I decided to make my own plaster cast. This is the tutorial.
You will need:
- Plaster gauze. For a cast of one underbust, I used 2 rolls of 3 m by 7.5 cm (3.3 yds by 3 inches).
- Scissors, to cut the plaster gauze in pieces.
- Latex (or other) gloves. It gets real messy.
- Petroleum jelly or olive oil. You want the cast to come off your body easily. For my first try, I used petroleum jelly and for the second one, I used olive oil. I must say I liked the olive oil better. It’s just easier to wash off afterwards.
- A bucket (not the best one you have).
- Towels (not the best ones you have) or a sheet of plastic to cover your working station.
- Preferably a person to put the cast on you. It can be done by yourself, but that makes it much harder.
When doing my cast, I stood in the bathtub. There will be splashing of plaster drops, so make sure you think about that beforehand. A day after making the cast, I still find plaster spots everywhere in my bathroom.
How to do it:
1. Gather all of your materials, and put them near you. Make a working station, preferably at a convenient height. Especially when you do your cast yourself, you don’t want to move too much or else the cast in progress will also move.
2. Cut up the plaster gauze in pieces of different lengths. When doing a cast of your whole underbust, make sure you have two piles, one for each underbust. That way the cast will more likely be evenly thick around.
3. You want to wear as little clothes as possible. I advise a bikini bottom which will wash out easily. If the side of your breast crease is hard to identify like mine, mark it with a (non-permanent) marker.
4. Fill the bucket with water of the temperature indicated on the plaster gauze packaging.
5. Find a comfortable position. This can be seated or standing, try to sit or stand as naturally as possible.
6. Put on the gloves. Time to do this!
7. Apply vaseline or olive oil (I recommend olive oil after doing this a second time) to your underbust, it’s best to cover a slightly larger area to be sure it will all come off easily. It’s best to be thorough but don’t add a layer that’s too thick because otherwise the plaster won’t stick well and slide down.
8. Pick up a piece of the plaster gauze, put it in water and take it out. Run it through two fingers so the excess water comes off, and stick it to your body.
9. Repeat to cover the whole area you want a cast of. Work sequentially from one side to another, and work as fast as possible. How quickly the plaster dries depends on a lot of factors, but mine did that quite fast.
10. You’ll notice at some point that the cast will start feeling loose, that’s a sign it’s drying. I followed the instructions on the plaster gauze so I stood for about a quarter in the bathtub waiting for the cast to be dry enough to be taken off my body.
11. If you want some additional dryness, take out the hairdryer and apply some heat to both the outside and the inside (if you can reach it) of the cast.
12. Gently put the cast somewhere it can dry completely. Depending on thickness, this might take up to 48 hours. Make sure to flip it carefully once one side is dry.
13. Take a good look at your own plaster imprint! You can’t see my smile on the picture but it was quite large.
Notes: the type of plaster gauze varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. I first tried making a cast using rolls from the hobby shop for this tutorial, for my second one I used rolls from the pharmacy. Those were substantially softer before use and harder set after use.
Anne’s Alternative Tests on Getting the Right Wire Trace
Guest Author Post By: Anne Bertha
While some people find their wire shape and size easily, it can prove to be a real challenge for others. There are some other ways you can make this process easier. All the methods have one idea in common: to make a mould of your ribcage so you can decide which wires are the best fit. There’s always a compromise to be made between ease, cost and accuracy.
I will be discussing the pros and cons of three methods: using masking tape, tin foil and making a plaster cast. Finally, I’m showing you my root trace on paper.
First up: masking tape mould.
The idea behind this one is quite simple: by sticking layers of masking tape to your body and carefully peeling it off, you’re able to replicate your wire root shape on paper in 2D.
Notes: You want to make a construction in which your breasts are encased, with kind of like anchor points. Otherwise, when you peel your tape construction off, it will lose its shape.
Pros: Easy and cheap way to get a rough idea of your root shape.
Cons: Can be painful to peel off, depending on the masking tape itself. Because you mould it to your body (3D) and try sticking it to paper (2D) afterwards, it’s not that accurate. It can be quite tricky to figure out how to stick it to paper without distorting the shape.
Second: tin foil mould.
Tin foil has an interesting property: it’s malleable and will hold its shape quite well. I made this one by moulding pieces of tin foil to my body and sticking them together as well as to my body using masking tape.
Notes: Try and keep the mould quite flat. I folded some tin foil, shaped it, but in some places I got a little overexcited and the tin foil piled up. It won’t stick to the masking tape as well then.
Pros: Easy and cheap way. A bit more expensive than the tape mould, but also much more accurate.
Cons: There is a hint of a 3D shape there, but it’s still much more of a 2D shape. You don’t get a clear idea if your ribcage is particularly cylindrical and you might need to bend your wires or not.
Third: plaster cast
For a how-to, read the separate blog post. Because this shape is very 3D, it can be tricky to translate it to paper to get an idea of your wire size and shape. I suggest taking a flexible wire, moulding it to the cast and then scanning that wire.
Pros: Very accurate method to get a 3D mould of your ribcage.
Cons: You need specific materials and, preferably, a second person to make the mould on you. It takes a while to dry so for the impatient ones amongst you, you’ll have to wait at least a day to start working with it.
As you can see above, I only made a plaster cast of half of my ribcage since I didn’t have enough plaster gauze. This root trace on paper is made using the tin foil mould, which was quite easy to translate to paper. Not only does this root trace allow for an accurate way to determine wire size and shape, it also makes it possible to make a custom bridge pattern.
Which method you choose is up to you, they all have their pros and cons and will all help you towards a better wire (and thus bra) fit. If you have additional ideas, suggestions, or want to share how yours turned out, feel free to do so in the comments!
Chlorine Test for Swimwear
I recently received a batch of new swim hardware and I wanted to test it’s durability before being able to properly sell it. Here is a link to my swim hardware.
I know that the gold and silver plated hardware I have been selling is appropriate for swim and was very durable for that purpose. The new swim hardware I received isn’t as shiny, so I began to question its durability.
I do believe that the new hardware was not tumbled prior to plating, which is why the surface is not as shiny as my other hardware. I did have to get this from another factory that I had not purchased hardware from in the past, mainly because finding swim hardware is very hard to do.
I worked out the math with my husband, as as you will see from the video, I’m not 100% sure of what he did, but the gist is we converted teaspoons to gallons, since we know we have a 5 gallon bucket and we also knew that the smallest unit of measure we can gauge is about 1/8 of a teaspoon.
I just had him re-explain it to me, so he is walking me through this math in case you want to do this yourself.
The highest strength a pool should be is 3 parts per million of pool chlorine, which is 10x the concentration of household bleach.
There are 768 teaspoons in as gallon, so to convert the 3ppm, you divide 3 by (1 million teaspoons/768 teaspoons per gallon), which gives you 3 by 1302.08 gallons. We then divide that by 8 because the smallest measure is 1/8″ we can positively do. That gives us 3/8 divided by 162.76 gallons. We then divide by 3 so we have 1/8 tsp on the top, so 1/8 teaspoon per 54.25 gallons and at the 10 times concentration of household bleach, we divide the 54.25 by 10, giving us about 5 gallons.
Don’t ask me to do that again. We did a control of straight tap water, then 1/8 teaspoon diluted in the 5 gallon bucket, but then decided to double that to 1/4 teaspoon for our 3ppm, which really is closer to 5ppm and took a sample. Then we doubled that again and took another sample for our 6ppm (or really 10ppm).
In the end, my hardware was still completely fine after 9 days in the strongest strength of chlorine water. The only item that seemed to break down was the cotton elastic. I don’t know how general wear and tear will affect these items with this extended amount of chlorine exposure, but in chlorine that appear to be fine with minimal, if any, degredation of the material, for a total of 216 hours of chlorine exposure.
Digital Download Annual Sale
Enjoy a 25% discount on our digital downloads on our website at Porcelynne.
I am presently sitting at my in-laws guest house drinking coffee and watching my daughter play a game of solitaire on her 7th birthday. Seven years. I still can’t believe it. We arrived in here last night after a total of an 18 hour commute from our home in Florida. It certainly was a long day.
I have been working tirelessly on getting my Eve for Vertical Wires completed prior to leaving for this little trip so I could offer it as a soft release. I like to do soft releases so I can hash out all the bugs and glitches before I really start promoting it. I plan to do that once we get back from California.
Whenever we make this long trip to California, I like to offer a little promotion in my shop for digital downloads, to help us pay for this expensive little trip. This time is no different. I made announcements on Tuesday to my testing group and the support group for my book, but ran completely out of time to announce it officially.
So, here it is, I am officially announcing my digital download sale. All digital downloads (excluding the bundled size packages) are 25% off until we return on Tuesday the 10th. The soft launch of the Eve for Vertical is at 50% off for those of you who want to try it out at this discount (videos will come out next week after the sale).
This sale includes: Bare Essentials: Bras & Underwear, Pattern Design: Fundamentals, Fashion Unraveled and Adventures in Wholesale on the book end of things. On the pattern side, this sale includes the Christina & Laurel Sports Bras, Rachel Brief and Tank, the Tankini, Eve for Regular Wires and the kid’s Rachel patterns.
Bra Drafting Course and Third Edition Update
I have been super busy these days, between back to school, teaching workshops, making patterns and video editing my online courses, I have barely had time to share what I’ve been up to.
I started teaching 3-day workshops at my studio in Florida. They have been wonderful, but so information packed, that it is exhausting. I have two more workshops planned for the remainder of this year and I am thinking that might be all I do. While it has been fun to get back into teaching, I think I would rather utilize my energy to make content that everyone can enjoy, not just the few that can train with me on an individual basis. Next year I may offer one on one training by the day for those who want to pick my brain, but not sure if there will be any takers. Only time will tell. If you are interested in any of the spaces left for this year, my workshops are listed under the books & classes section of my website.
My online course is now live. It covers the basic draft for the band and cup, plus how to create the sloper and manipulate it. I have broken the videos into steps, so some videos are only 30 second long and some are a few minutes. I did it this way so you don’t skip a step. Watch the video, do the step, rinse and repeat. Here is the link to the online course.
I finally did a video announcing the third edition, only 2 months late.
Update on the rest of my life
Summer was a challenge this year. We did not do any camps for Emily, so she was needing our attention nearly full time. Although even when she had camps, I still felt like we were giving her our attention 24/7.
Emily started school a month ago and the direction her class was taking was not agreeable to us, so after about 2 weeks, we pulled her from school and enrolled her in a charter school. I am so glad we did. I have been feeling completely exhausted for months, possibly up to a year and I can now attribute it to Emily’s school. She was clearly unhappy and acted out at home, making us completely drained of all our energy. In the 2 weeks since she has been in this new school, everything has changed. I am no longer exhausted and feel like I can join the productivity train again. I even made it to the gym that I’ve been supporting forever but never go to.
Needless to say, my exhaustion was linked to Emily. Damn me and my empathy. I am back on the band wagon again. I finished my bra drafting online course and made it live a few days ago, but haven’t officially announced it until now.
The Spanish edition of Bare Essentials is almost done. Its just back with the translator to make sure everything looks good. My new pattern set is rounding up testing which I hope to release in about a month. I think that’s all?? But probably not.
My next big projects are to get back to my other unfinished books – one is a sloper drafting book for the Pattern Design series and one is the athletic wear book for the Bare Essentials series. Both books are already partially written, but far from finished. I’ll probably toss a coin to choose which is next, but likely it will be the Pattern Design book since that is fresher in my memory.
Now that a big portion of my projects are completed, I expect to start posting a little more regularly. I also think I have a few guest posts coming up soon. Stay tuned.
How It All Started
I consider myself a pattern maker first and a designer second. I have always been fascinated with how things work. As a teenager I started making clothes by how I thought they were made. I would lay my clothes on top of fabric and cut around the outside edges and sew them together.
I never fully understood how or why garments were put together. After several failed attempts at various garments, I decided to save up all my money and buy myself a dressform. We had a Cloth World and I would go in once a week and look at the dress form I wanted. Over the course of probably a year, I was finally able to save all my money for my first big purchase. For a teenager in the early 90s, $100 was a lot of money.
The first thing I made for myself was a dress for my friend’s birthday celebration. The dress was so tight I could not sit down at her party, but I really don’t think anyone noticed. That was the first time I ever started to understand fit. It was another 6 years before I’d take my first pattern making class. During that time, I resorted to working with knits so the fit wasn’t as important.
The first day of pattern making was the best day of my life (at that period of my life). I finally understood how all the parts went together and why. I thrived in my draping classes because I learned how to make physical changes to a pattern with visual observations.
My school only scratched the surface of the knowledge I desired. School gave me a head start, but it was my drive to understand fit that I supplemented my education with experimentation. I started collecting all the books I could on pattern making and design. I loved it all, but I really struggled to understand the industry taught directions.
I questioned the why of things, but I never received answers except the parental “because I said so.” Most of what we learn as students is just accepted as fact, but I always struggled with that. I needed to understand why something was 1/4″ or 3/4″. What was the reasoning behind these “facts.”
As someone who never fit the mold of ready to wear, drafting for myself using these industry standard methods never worked either. Why didn’t they? And why do all the books teach the same thing? Why don’t any of them answer why?
When I started teaching, I enjoyed the challenge of my students coming up with an impossible design and helping them make it a possible design. I asked colleagues why we did something a certain way and the response was usually something around the fact “because the book teaches it that way.”
This was when I made it my personal goal to help not only me, but others understand why we do things. There are reasons for everything and just trusting what was done for 100 years does not mean it is correct.
I wrote my first book on running a small design business. It was a great project as it helped me unearth the problems those other books did not teach.
I had kind of forgotten that I loved writing as much as I loved designing. Visiting teachers years later, they were all surprised I didn’t become a writer and went the route of design.
The second book I wrote was on drafting undies. I worked on this book for months, experimented with everything. There were a handful of books already out on the subject, but most taught drafting for the industry standard model. I struggled to make it relate to myself. I pulled inspiration from everything, but I wrote everything based on my own experimentation.
A year or two later I began my journey on writing about bra drafting. This was even more elusive than panty drafting. There was some information out there, but none of it relevant to my body shape or size. Everything was shrouded in secrecy. I hated that. I concluded that drafting info was only provided to show the industry standard base size. But what about those of us who aren’t millionaires and want to design for ourselves.
I looked at bra design as a pattern maker. I needed to understand every aspect of it. I developed my own methods and within a year, my methods were being copied and published as other’s work. I get it, I do. Once the information is out there, its up for interpretation. I did a second edition that included a more unique grading method, but I still felt that the book was missing most shape specific drafting data.
I decided to make it my mission to find a better and more accurate way to get drafting measurements. I wanted to create a calculator to help. I introduced drafting with this calculator in the third edition as well as a new way to manipulate the drafts more like a traditional sloper for ready-to-wear.
In the months since the book release, I have encountered “silent” issues related to fit that I was previously unaware of. While I do not plan on writing another edition, I do plan to cover the issues on my blog. I have a few pending items to take care of, but I will be covering that secondary.
There will always an exceptions to the norm, what I hope you get out of my books and articles is the understanding to know how do make things for your own unique self. Just remember that because I don’t cover it, it does not mean the issue does not exist.
Until then, enjoy drafting.
A Wire That Fits
I am happy to have the first guest post on my blog written by Jane Ramsey. Jane happily helped me test and experiment with changes for the new bra drafting book. -Jennifer
If you wear an underwired bra you may think the wire is an evil torture device. There are many reasons for this. A wire that pokes you in the armpit, or sternum, that creaks as you breathe, that digs into your ribs, that snaps in two….
All of the above are signs of an incorrectly fitting wire. Too big, too small, too long, too narrow….
Ideally you need to find a bra style that incorporates your best fitting wire. The easiest way is to make your own or have a custom made bra.
There’s a massive range of shapes and sizes of underwire. Short, regular and long. Vertical, flat vertical, regular, demi… this list is not exhaustive.
Then there’s wire size.
The numbering convention is based on the ‘right’ wire for a B cup. So a 40 wire works for a 40B and it’s sister sizes 42A, 38C, 36D, etc. This isn’t an exact science, our bodies don’t conform to these standards. Bra designers don’t always stick to the formula either. This can be a good thing, because we may need different wires even in the same size bra. If you’re making your own bras, or if you are having a custom made bra, finding the perfect wire for you is the best place to start.
For myself and my customers, I have a simple tool, a piece of heavy duty electrical wire, the type used for hard wiring a cooker or shower.
The plastic insulation stripped off, the ends looped round to prevent injury and then the wire bent into the approximate shape of an under wire.
To use, I simply place it in the breast crease, the inter mammary fold, with your arm raised, ensuring it follows the trace of the breast root, without sitting on breast tissue. This gauge of copper wire is malleable, soft enough to bend easily with your fingers, firm enough to hold the shape when you take it off the body.
An added bonus is, you can just flip the wire to check you need the same size wire for both breasts. Most of us are slightly asymmetrical, some of us have a greater degree of asymmetry. Rather than just padding out one cup of a pair of matched cups you might want to make different cups for each side… I digress, that’s a whole other blog post.
Once I have my bent wire, I compare it with printed wire charts to find the best match. There is very little difference between the sizes but the wrong size can dramatically affect your comfort and the fit of your bra. When wearing the right wire, you will barely know it’s there, unless you have other conditions affecting your sensitivity.
Wire fitting. 4 easy steps.
1. Bend the wire to the approximate shape of your breast root. (You can trace the wire in your best fitting bra as a starting point).
2. On your naked body, place the wire in your inter mammary fold, or breast crease.
3. Adjust the shape of the wire so it follows the shape of your breast root. Making sure it doesn’t sit on breast tissue.
4. Match it to your printed wire charts.
This wire trace is clearly bigger than the 40.
The 42 looks pretty close, the bend at the end of the wire was where I bent it so it didn’t poke Kathryn in the armpit.
Yes, all my mannequins have names.
The 44 is too big
Finally I checked against the vertical wires. A regular wire is much more suited to Kathryn. Some people have a wide, flat root, they would benefit from the flat vertical wires, as you can see, this chart is labeled with my best fit wire, a 42 vertical.
Just a reminder, weight fluctuations, water retention, dehydration, even our menstrual cycle can affect our breasts enough to make a wire that’s a perfect fit one day too big or too small another.
All of the wires mentioned above can be bought from www.Porcelynne.com.
Supporting you through the ages, Jane is a dressmaker with decades of experience having started sewing clothes by the time she was 10. She has a passion for historical clothing and the foundation garments that provide the right silhouette for each era and has recently expanded that passion to finding a comfortable bra that fits well.
Announcement of Classes
I taught at a bra making conference this past weekend, and while it was a little overwhelming due to class size, I have decided to start teaching again. I have set up five 3-day workshops to teach pattern drafting and manipulation of bras. The best part is that I am limiting class size to 5 individuals for each class.
I was planning to write this post later this week, but just by announcing it on Instagram and Facebook about an hour ago, I have already started booking classes and I know some of you want to know as soon as they are available.
The class days are all Thursday, Friday and Saturday. That way if you are taking off to come to Florida, you only need to take off 2 days, then enjoy an extra day in the Florida sunshine over the weekend after your class ends on Saturday.
The times are scheduled for 9am to 4pm with lunches and snacks included. We have a cute little neighborhood restaurant called Stone Soup that we like to frequent for lunch. If weather permits, we can walk, but we can easily drive over there in my hubbie’s Highlander.
If you are traveling here, I encourage you to stay at the beach to take in the relaxing atmosphere after classes, but we have hotels and AirB&B nearby too. Take an Uber to my studio and I’ll drive you back at the end of the day. I can also try to coordinate with everyone on their arrival times so one of us could come get you from the airport if you don’t want to deal with a rental. We can work out the details once you start scheduling your travel, but please check with me first before depending on us for airport pickup. I will not drive to the airport after 11pm, as I will be asleep, 10pm is probably pushing it.
Here is the link for the classes:
Feel free to ask me any questions you may have.
How to determine what size your bra was drafted for
How would you like to know what size your bra was actually drafted for?
Since there are so many different ways people measure for fitting bras, I thought I’d try to shed some light on why some people measure some ways and why some people measure other ways.
The first thing to cover is how people measure. I have encountered 4 different measuring techniques, but the one thing that is common among all of them is that you subtract your band number from your full bust measurement to determine your cup size. For each inch difference, there is a cup size.
The differences come into play based on how to come up with the band size. The most common measuring technique is to take your underbust measurement and add 4″ or 5″. Specialty shops generally take your underbust measurement and add 2″ or 3″. International measuring either take the underbust measurement as your band size or your chest (above the breast) measurement as your band size.
So, which one is correct? The short, but frustrating answer is, “All of them.” Each one of them were developed based on how a pattern was drafted, but how do you know what measurements they were drafted for?
The next short, but frustrating answer for that is, “you don’t know.” I am on a quest to find out what sizes these bras were drafted for.
I started with a paper with a line on the far left. I also did a lower horizontal line, but that was unnecessary (skip that if you are doing this yourself). I pinned the center of each bra and lined up the center front to the left line.
I first marked the position of the wire with it just sitting. I then straightened the band, which moved the wire and marked the same point on the bra with the wire sprung. That was done for a later post, but thought I’d explain what I did.
With the side of the band straightened out, I marked where the side seam was on both the top and bottom of the bra, then marked where the back ends before the hook & eye.
Each one of these is a different manufacturer, let’s determine what size these were actually drafted for. I did a video as well (link is at the bottom) but it might be a little technical and boring, except for the parts where the cat tried to get some love while I was filming.
I repeated this for 4 different bras. Notice that the angles of the side seam are very different, meaning that the body proportions these were drafted for, were very different as well.
I marked a horizontal line from the center front to the top and bottom of the side seam and indicated the measurements.
I then drew in the back lines from the side seam to the back and measured those as well.
Once all those measurements were recorded, I then tested the back for stretch. Now, the one thing I had taught in my previous books is to take into account the stretch of the back fabric, but in actuality, you need to know the stretch of the elastic, which is generally snugger than the fabric. In fact, you can really use any stretch fabric you want for the back, IF you have the right elastics to stabilize the fabric.
Ok, so to test the stretch, I tested the elastic itself. I marked in pins at 0 and 5″. I then lined it up to a vertical and horizontal line and stretched the elastic to a comfortable stretch. This stretch was not the full amount the elastic stretches it, its the amount it stretches before you hit resistance. The point beyond resistance can be very uncomfortable.
I then referred to my stretch ratio chart and reverse engineered the back lengths. I took the amount of the back (and really only the underbust measurement matters) and divided it by the stretch ratio to determine what the measurement it should fit on a person.
Ok, now I’m jumping around a bit. Lets first determine the difference from chest to underbust. Subtract the underbust from the chest amount for the front and multiply by 4. That is the difference for the entire bra between the chest and underbust measurements.
To determine the actual underbust measurement this was drafted for, add the front band, the new underbust measurement on the back plus 1″ for the hook & eye. Then multiply by 2. Voila. That is the underbust measurement this was drafted for.
Then add the chest difference to determine what chest measurement this was drafted for. Voila. Now you know.
One thing to note is that bras are designed for generally the smaller measurements in a range, so a comfortable fit would be for those two measurements plus up to 1″, maybe 1 1/2″ max.
The next question I approach is which measuring guidelines match each of these bras:
Black Bra: 38C by Maddie & Coco (cheap bra from Bealls)
Measurements drafted for: Underbust 30″, Chest 35 1/2″
Measuring technique: Chest +2/3 or Underbust +8
5 1/2″ Difference from Chest to Under Bust
White Bra: 38B Body Frosting (cheap imported brand)
Measurements drafted for: Underbust 31″, Chest 33 1/4″
Measuring technique: Chest +4/5 or Underbust +7
2″ Difference from Chest to Under Bust (approximation)
Nude Bra: 40C Wacoal
Measurements drafted for: Underbust 32 3/8″, Chest 35 3/4″
Measuring technique: Chest +4/5 or Under bust +7/8
3 1/2″ Difference from Chest to Under Bust (approximation)
Brown Bra: 42C by Pink (Victoria Secret),
Measurements drafted for: Under bust 36 5/8″, Chest 41 3/8″
Measuring technique: Chest measurement
5″ Difference from Chest to Under Bust (approximation)
Ok, I was not expecting those measurements for those sizes. Now I’m curious what the manufacturers recommends.
Just checked Wacoal. They recommend under +3/4, but no mention of the chest. As far as I can tell, this bra was possible drafted based on the fabric stretch and not the elastic stretch. The fabric stretched far more than the elastic did. Wacoal always fit me best, but the bands were often a little tight for me based on their recommendations.
I also checked Victoria Secret and at least their measurements match their recommendations. The other two brands are cheap and likely made in some factory with little to no reference of sizing.
I can see why so many people wear the wrong size bras. It isn’t really an issue with the measuring, it’s an issue with the drafting. Every part of the bra needs to be accounted for, in every aspect of the draft. (A wire discussion will be a later post.)
The elastics play an integral part to the way a bra fits and if the bra is only being drafted based on the fabric and the elastic isn’t incorporated into it, the bras can fit drastically different based on which notions are used.
Why don’t you try this yourself and share with me what you discover about your favorite brand. How does their measuring size up to the actual bras you have?
Here is the full video:
This is all part of the research I did for the third edition of my bra drafting book. Now, I know that some of you are wondering why I would write a third edition in 7 years. Not sure if you knew this but the big textbook publishers do a new edition every 2 years, so I’m not far off.
BUT, I do not plan to write another edition of this book, EVER! When I wrote my first book, I researched all the available information out there and tested and tested. I developed my own drafting techniques and they worked. I still say that they worked, even though I am writing the 3rd edition.
What changed is me. My body changed after having a child so I began to look at drafting a whole lot differently. The second edition also included instructions on how to draft in CAD. The second edition I am also proud of. I have found a few typos and wording that could have used a little more editing, but the second edition showed different ways to do the same thing.
Over the past 3 years I have gotten involved with a few bra making groups on Facebook. It has opened my eyes to even more issues that ALL bra drafting neglected to address.
I decided last year that I was going to do more scientific and mathematical research to thoroughly understand the underlying issues and how to fix them by drafting a truly custom fit. That is what I have been working on.
I created a calculation to determine the horizontal measurement for a cup draft based on the wire size, under bust, full bust and chest measurements. I then was able to create a calculation to determine the vertical measurement of the cup incorporating one additional measurement, the chest height. With these new calculations, I have been able to get to a more accurate draft on the first try.
Those are just some of the reasons for the third edition. I’ll share some more in my next post.