Monday, July 25, 2011

Sage Applique July 2011 - Bra Building

I found a chunk of the original belt made with antique black velvet still intact. It had weird mesh covered snap closures. The last piece I scavanged for parts before throwing the old belt away.

 Taking stock of all of the fringe.

Now some bra building. I have no set way in which I make my bras. It varies depending on my supplies and the finished look I want. Sometimes, I'll change my mind half way through. Other times I screw up and have to take out or add something in the middle of the whole process.

There are a few things I always try to include in my design as a matter of personal preference and comfort. First, I like my bras to be sturdy so they hold everything up nice and pretty. No stretchy bits or elastic in the sides or straps. I also choose to make my side straps one solid piece instead of the open version made from narrow strips that connect around the rib cage. While easier to adjust and replace, the open style cannot distribute the weight of my bust evenly enough and makes my back look squishier than it really is. Like tying a string tight around a marshmallow.

An example of 2 lovely bras by Ozma with "open" side straps.

I also prefer, completely as a matter of personal preference, to build the bra base, cover it, and decorate it all as one piece. Rather than covering and decorating the cups and side straps separately and then stitching them together. I did that with both the Hopes and Dreams and the Blue Glitter Dot costumes. Something about them kept bothering me until I laid them out next my pro-made costumes. My pro-made costumes have bras that are covered as one piece, not pieced together after the fact. I decided that was the weird feeling I was getting about my homemade bras. Now I completely build the bra before decorating. I still save the shoulder straps until the end. It is a little more cumbersome handle while beading but it makes my brain happy.

This bra had nice deep cups but were a little low for my costuming tastes. I added about an inch across the top with some scrap interfacing. I machine stitched this out of laziness. The extensions will get reinforced as the bra gets built. I have also repositioned the bra cups much closer together. I wish bra makers would figure out big boobs does not necessarily mean big rib cage, and vice versa. Seriously, do they think I'm gonna put a can of Coke there or what?

The cups are completely covered with a layer of black felt on the top. There is also an additional layer of felt along the extension on the inside. The cups were hand stitched.

I always reinforce my cups with at least one, if not more, layers of felt, interfacing, denim, etc. before covering them. Always. And, I almost always add these layers to the outside of the cups because of bra shrinkage. Bellydance costumers often recommend using a cup size larger when making a bra because the bra will "shrink" as more and more layers and beads are added. Don't ask me why, just know that they do. I struggle to find cups that fit period. Much less the luxury of buying cups a size bigger. So, if I am going to add bulk to the cup, I add it to the outside instead of the inside. I recommend hand stitching the cups instead of machine stitching. Hand stitching is looser and does not tighten the fabric as much as machine sewing.

View from the inside, you can see the additional layer of felt along the top of the extensions here. Seriously sloppy hand sewing inside the cups.

I used 2 layers of felt reinforced with 1 inch wide grosgrain ribbon for the side straps. Again, materials vary here depending on my current stash of supplies. I machine stitched these layers together because I don't have to worry about shrinkage here as with the cups. If the straps are too tight they can easily be extended. Crazy angled zigzag stitching helps add strength to the straps. When I cut the original side straps off the bra I left flaps on both sides to attach the new sides to. There was extra side boning in the bra that I also left attached *bonus! I machine sewed the side straps to the bra using these flaps as anchors. Much easier than trying to stitch them into the cups.

Covered. If there were ever a use for the word frumpy it would be for this bra. Luckily, it will all get camouflaged with bead work.

My first go around with this costume back in the newb-days I used fabric glue on the appliques to save time on sewing. I don't recommend this at all. It has been a real b*tch to rip the appliques out without damaging them. All the fabric with glue on it had to be thrown away and the appliques are almost impossible to stitch through with a hard layer of old glue on the back.

 Bra thus far

Belt thus far

I started decorating the belt in a fairly symmetrical layout. I'm thinking about redoing it now to be more haphazard like the bra. The mixed and matched appliques on the bra look cool. The even-steven ones on the belt look, well, like appliques.


Check the Costume Gallery link above for all posts about this and other costumes I have made.


Jhavia Nicole said...

Beautiful set!

Foxy said...

Stunning as usual Naima! You are an inspiration

Kis said...


You've reminded me that I should start putting up some pics of where I'm up to with mine.

PS - I'll have a card from NZ in the next fortnight for you :)

The Blue Faerie said...

Holy. Maguilicuty. Batman. How do you have the patience for this!? Ever care to give us a beginner lesson/sew along? :)