Anne’s adventures in bra drafting: from zero bra to hero bra
I am happy to share this guest blog post from Anne Bertha and her adventures in drafting. – Jennifer
My bra making adventure started in June last year. I am a large cup size: the last bras I bought are a European 90H but are still too small in the cup. I read that in a well-fitting bra, the wires should lie flat against your chest. Well, I haven’t had that in years. More like over a decade, actually. And I’m 33… I don’t have to tell you I didn’t know how a bra should fit at all.
I started by replicating the fit I had in store-bought bras using patterns. It was ok, but I kept searching for a way to get those damn wires against my chest. After making multiple sizes of a pattern and still not feeling happy with the fit I achieved, I almost threw the towel in the ring.
That’s the point where I heard about Jennifer’s book! Somebody on Facebook recommended her wide vertical flat wires for me, and from the moment they arrived, I became a huge fan of hers. I instantly bought the book when it came out, and started reading. The larger sized patterns weren’t ready yet, so I had two options: wait for them or draft one myself. Because I’m a slightly impatient person *ahem*, and also because I believed I could as well draft completely after my measurements since I’ve had no success with other patterns, I started the drafting chapter.
It was an early morning when I started drafting after Jennifer’s book, and by 7:30 AM I had the front and back band done. And then the cup drafting started… I made mistakes. A lot of them. Being a newbie to pattern drafting, I didn’t understand what the book was trying to tell me in some steps. That also had to do with my over-excitement and not trying to read and understand properly, I admit.
The first trial bra I made out of calico was from a draft that was wrong in a lot of places, but I kept on adjusting it until I had a reasonable fit. That process taught me a lot. It taught me different types of common adjustments, how curves affect the fit of a bra, what you can do to fix particular fit issues, … I ended up taking my fabric scissors and cutting my cups up a lot to see where I needed more room.
After sewing a bunch of trial cups, I was happy with the fit. I moved on to the sloper, but kept on needing a lot of adjustments. And then I found out I misread some of the steps in the book. Because all of the steps are kind of necessary, not doing a step right has quite an impact your draft. In my head, there was also this little voice that kept saying: “This book has a logical mathematical approach, and it doesn’t work that well for you, you must be doing something wrong!”
So I started over. And oh my god, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I tried on my first newly drafted cups in my tester frame. The fit is almost spot on, I only needed to remove some room around the apex. I pinched that out, pinned, and transferred it to the pattern. It’s like everything came together. Beneath you can see the difference between my first heavily adjusted draft, and the second draft with all errors eliminated. I made a draft for each cup since they are substantially different.
This was the best result I could get with tweaking a ready made pattern. This is, I think, the fifth size I made, and the best overall fit I was able to achieve in my first year of bra-making.
This is my first (wrong) draft after a ton of adjustments:
This is my first draft done correctly:
What stands out to me, is that in the last draft, the horizontal seam is… Well, horizontal! My next step is to work on the new sloper, and make a bra from that which will fit me almost perfectly and is a style that I like in a fabric I like.
I’d recommend anybody who wants to draft their own bra with Jennifer’s method to become a member of the Facebook group ‘Fans of Bare Essentials’. It’s a group dedicated to Jennifer’s method of drafting. If you become a member and get stuck on a step, you can ask for help. You then hopefully won’t end up making a lot of mistakes as I did.
However, if you do make mistakes, don’t beat yourself up. It’s a learning curve, and from doing wrong you learn just as much or even more than from doing everything right. Of course it’s always more fun if you get advice, explanation where needed, and encouragement. That is what the group tries to provide.
I wouldn’t change a thing about my drafting journey. It took me meters of calico, weeks of my sewing time turned into drafting time, but it feels so good to have fathomed a drafting system that works for me. I seriously feel like I’ve learned twice as much in the last month compared to the previous year.
I’ve become a true bra-liever. I didn’t think comfortable, well-fitting bras were made for me, and now I realise I can make them myself.
Anne started sewing just over four years ago, and is completely self-taught except for a few workshops here and there. She remembers her first weeks behind the sewing machine vividly because she always forgot to put the presser foot down. She started with sewing her own clothes, moved on to bags and now finally also bras. Being a physicist and loving mathematics, she found a new exciting challenge in pattern drafting.
Bare Essentials: Bras Third Edition is Now on Sale
The most recent labor of love comes to you after 4 months of testing, writing and rewriting. The third edition of Bare Essentials: Bras was certainly an undertaking.
Over the past six years, I have evolved as a mother both physically and emotionally. With the physical changes, my knowledge of breast support has also evolved. It is because of those changes that I have been able to better this edition. But that isn’t the only reason, I have listened to all of your input, both good and bad and wrote something I am very proud of. I’m so proud of the changes that I made, that I vow that this will be the final edition ever written of my bra book.
The biggest question I get is “why another edition, were the other ones wrong?” The answer in brief is no, the other books were not wrong. In fact, my general techniques still remain the same from the first book, including my grading, but over the last 7 years since the first edition, I have fine tuned everything.
This latest edition addresses the concern as to why all those bras out there just don’t fit. Most bras are drafted for a set of “average” measurements. But who dictates those measurements? Some technical designer at each company makes that call and it has not reflection on many of us.
Here is a little diagram from the book showing how all 9 of these individuals would be fit into the same bra. Each row has a varying torso shape and each column has varying a chest height. The likely average measurements that all “those” patterns are drafted for are of that individual in the middle.
The new approach to my drafting instructions address how to draft for each of these individuals.
The new drafting method isn’t so different from the original, but the measurements to get there have been modified. I created a special calculation based on the underbust, chest/overbust, full bust, wire measurements and chest height. Here is the calculator.
The math is what took most of my time to develop. I had a range of ladies assisting me which gave me a great reference for testing. I didn’t have this full of a range previously, so I was not brought aware of many issues that some of these individuals had.
I stalked the bra making groups and absorbed all the questions and made it my personal goal to address most of the issues. I believe I came up with some sound math for drafting. My favorite line from a movie was stated by Katherine Johnson in Hidden Figures says, “Math doesn’t lie.”
While drafting isn’t something that is easy to do, I have attempted to make the instructions easy to follow. It is likely you will need to draft and redraft, the more and more you begin to understand your shape and what minor changes can do to fix the shape of your bra.
I also created a fun way to manipulate patterns (if you like pattern making you might agree – but if you don’t, if probably won’t be fun). I have been teaching pattern making for years, but it never really dawned on me to approach bra drafting in the same manner. I had an idea in my head and keep reworking until it finally made sense to me. I hope it makes sense to you too, but again, it is not easy if you are not that experienced.
I hope this explanation helps answer some of your questions. I plan to begin working building my online classes for drafting once I return from vacation. If you want to learn with me but a book is not the best way for you to learn, the online class might be a good option. I have also announced a handful of in-person workshops taught by me. They are a little pricey for some of you, but I’m only going to work with 5 people at a time, so you will have my complete attention for 3 days.
For those of you who have the first or second edition of this book and don’t want to buy another, but would like to benefit from this new knowledge, I am working on a supplement that will contain only the major changes. This will include a chapter on how to modify patterns for your shape, how to do the math and draft with that math and the sloper manipulation chapters. I’m not sure of the price yet, as it depends on how big the book actually is, but it will be less than buying a 3rd edition.
I am offering the full 3rd edition spiral bound in color, as well as the black & white version, pdf, kindle and ereader versions. That way there is something for everyone’s budget. As much as I’d love to sell this book for $100 because I believe the knowledge is that valuable, I would rather share the knowledge with everyone, than the elite few.
While most of you will have success with this book, there will be some of you who just don’t get it. I understand that. Feel free to contact me for assistance or sign up for my online class when that is available.
Over the next 2 weeks, the 3rd edition is being translated into Spanish. Once I complete that, I will begin looking at translations in other languages, so put in your request now.
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.
The complexity of altering a bra sloper
I created this draft of a stylized bra design from my completed draft. It a bit complex if you have never done pattern drafting before, but know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. When manipulating a pattern you need to remember this important rule – what you take away from one piece in volume you need to make it up on another pattern piece.
This isn’t going to result in a perfect fit after each pattern alteration, so it is important to test the fit prior to moving on to good fabric. I wish you all luck in this journey. The more designs you experiment with, they more knowledgeable you will become.
Here is my challenge. Draw a bra design and submit it to me for a drafting tutorial. I am open to as many as possibly. Let me know what your starting bra is and we can work from there. Not all designs must be created from your initial draft, so if you are daring, maybe submit the new design and scan and send in your starting pattern as well. The more challenges I receive, the more education I can pass on. You can email them to me at jennifer at porcelynne. For me to post, I will need to know which pattern you are starting from (if its another design out there) with the link to the product so I can share it will everyone.
Here are your videos for today.
Splitting the Lower cup from the Bra Draft
I have done a few new videos and this is the latest. This takes the drafted bra sloper we created and splits the lower cup for fit. This will help you get a better idea of the fit. Splitting the lower cup is really just for practice as you may not want a cup with a straight seam across the cup with the split lower cup. This is a good first step to understanding the manipulations involved with changing a bra draft.
Altering your Bra Pattern for a Different Size Wire
I worked on this little video after I had a few questions regarding using a different wire size with my bra pattern. This one is specifically for changing the wire size, but not the wire type. I will work on a different video for changing the wire type.
To Error is Human
I never claim to be perfect, so please never quote me as so. I actually skipped a step when drafting the back of the band, but this video shows you how to compensate for missing the step.
Drafting has Commenced
To put a smile on everyone’s face, I have finally filmed my first set of drafting videos for creating your own bra sloper. I’ll keep this short, as I know everyone wants to begin drafting yesterday, so here it goes. Happy watching!
I goofed again
For those of you getting ready to follow my draft, I just realized I goofed on a chart in my new book! Agg! I did this last time too. I swear all this math will get the best of me yet. I posted a bra size chart in one of my videos and it was off by 2 sizes on everything! I triple checked that stupid wire chart about 10 times and changed it that many times as well before the update of the book. I know it was correct, so a little gremlin must be sabotaging me. I’m so sorry if someone bought the wrong wire based on my video. I will make it up to you I promise.
Final set of measurements for the custom draft
I had intentions of getting this video done on Monday, but my shop was a disaster and I had to work on cleaning my desk off. I finally completed clearing my desk off yesterday, so here is the promised video. Please disregard my difficulty in holding my wires for measurements. Please measure in front of a mirror and not in front of a camera.
These directions are what you will need for your custom drafted sloper. I’ll begin recording the drafting tomorrow, but they might not be available until next week.
Another reason I have been slow to post is that I’ve been working on grading a new pattern for my website and in the process, I recorded the steps with the software on how I did it. Those won’t be available until after I complete the drafting directions, so know I have some goodies coming soon.
I make a mistake in the video when I’m talking about the wire size I’m using. See if you can find it.