A Simplicity sports bra

I hate writing bad reviews. It's even worse when it's in my "specialist subject", as there's a subset of people that will think it's just sour grapes or something. But I really, really wanted to like this pattern. I get asked all the time for recommendations for a good sports bra pattern, and Simplicity 8339 looked good on paper - lined, supportive straps, wide under-bust band, and a variety of cup sizes.

I hate writing bad reviews. It’s even worse when it’s in my “specialist subject”, as there’s a subset of people that will think it’s just sour grapes or something. But I really, really wanted to like this pattern. I get asked all the time for recommendations for a good sports bra pattern, and Simplicity 8339 looked good on paper – lined, supportive straps, wide under-bust band, and a variety of cup sizes.

But oh god, this pattern is a complete train wreck. I’ll do my best to summarise, but I’m writing this almost a year after I started it.

First of all, let’s start with the cup sizes. This pattern doesn’t use standard sizes and measurements, but rather your bra size, which is fine. But the method they use to determine it never ever works for me. I don’t know what it is about my body shape, but I’ve been told I’m everything from a 40A to a 32E using this method, so I just went with my usual bra size, 34B (very consistent in RTW and Orange Lingerie’s sizing). Since it’s all based on different cup sizes, they’ve got a dozen different versions of each pattern piece, all labelled in sister sizing (but failed to explain what that actually is) AND I swear there were one or two pattern pieces where there were no pieces labelled with 34B. And believe me, I hunted all over those enormous pattern sheets.

I eventually made do with pieces from the “sister sizes” of 34B and cut out the exterior and lining versions using leftover Funkifabrics flexcite from my stash. Apart from using 5/8in seam allowances (on stretch fabrics is barely forgivable but on lingerie it’s freaking madness), the actual piecing together of the bra was straightforward.

And then I got to the finishing instructions.

Holy crap.

Rather than bind the edges in a sensible way (there are loads out there to choose from – Jalie, Seamwork, or even my own would work way better), they actually want the reader to take wide activewear fabric bands and FREAKING PRESS the tiny edges under on them. Several times.

I refuse to believe that whomever sewed the samples for this pattern actually followed these directions.

In any case, I got so pissed off about this that the half-sewn bra hung in my sewing room for a few months because I lost the will to even think about it again. But eventually I got sick of looking at it, too, and threw the instructions in the bin and just bound all the edges by serging them onto the right side, wrapping them over the edge, and topstitching from the right side.

Their under-bust elastic method was also really stupid, but I can’t recall the details and I can’t be bothered to dig out the envelope again to refer to them. But I do remember that I attached the wide elastic using the same method as for the exposed elastic waistband on my Split Shorts in my book, which worked out nicely with 100% fewer raw edges inside.

So I eventually finished it! One feature I did really like was that the straps had a few inches’ leeway built into them, so you could essentially finish 95% of the bra, then try it on and pull the straps and pin them in place at the front, which was a nice touch.

But the finished bra is in no way supportive enough for high impact activities. I wear mine for cycle commuting and the occasional Pilates class, but even with B cups I’d give myself two black eyes if I tried to run in this.

So it goes without saying that I am still on the lookout for a supportive sports bra pattern that I can recommend to people. This one may have been halfway there but the instructions really let them down. I get the impression this was drafted by someone who knew what they were doing, but as soon as it got to Simplicity HQ to turn it into a pattern they just approached it like any old woven dress pattern. Which is a real shame.


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  1. 1

    Yeah…. I often wonder if the big 4 actual test their patterns.

    Have you tried the Greenstyle Endurance Sports Bra? It’s supposed to be good. I bought the pattern earlier this year, but didn’t make it before having a pacemaker implant, and so many things are sensitive to touch on the scar that I don’t want to spend time on a bra that may not be wearable. I probably will in a few months time. It’s got very good reviews from quite busty women.

  2. 3

    I’ll second having a look at Greenstyle. I’ve made this Simplicity bra, & another of their designs & I followed their sizing instructions. I also ignored their instructions! They fit me fine but I only use for Pilates, yoga or foam rolling. I’m not a runner or cyclist

  3. 4

    While I may sew activewear, I have never considered sewing bras that need to be supportive. I already have a hard time finding RTW sports bras that are supportive enough without also squeezing the life out of me. Maybe if I just needed them for spinning or cycling I would.

  4. 5
    Kathy Sews

    This pattern is crap, I tried it a little while back. It screams potential on paper! I don’t even fully recall all my problems with it, but it boiled down to another useless sports bra pattern for me as well. I laughed because I am a B cup as well & I’d put out my eye, and the runner next to me’s eye if I wore a bad sports bra!

    I see folks recommending Greenstyle. I cannot speak to the Endurance pattern unfortunately. I would like to see a distance runner who needs high impact support say yes to that pattern. Zippers on bras as a rule of thumb are a absolute no-no for my distance running… hiking, maybe… yoga, probably. It’s cute, but not properly functional.

    I know you’ve seen Jennifer of Porcelynne’s newer sports bra. I am crossing my fingers that I’ll be attending a bra making conference in June where she is leading a few workshops, one specifically for sports bras.

    Till then, I’m still wearing my one RTW brand Moving Comfort aka Brooks for training this winter.

  5. 7

    I ran into similar issues with a McCall swimsuit pattern, instructions to press and other oddities. That pattern didn’t work out for me either, and finishing instructions left some unsightly ragged edges. Activewear bra patterns by Bramaker’s Supply look promising, but I haven’t tried one yet.

  6. 9

    The Greenstyle Endurance pattern gives an excellent result and fitted me perfectly in my usual size (32 F) BUT it definitely isn’t supportive enough for running. I think it could be if it was made in the right fabric though, with less stretch across the bust maybe?

  7. 10

    Thank you for being so brutally honest!…and hilarious. You are a technically superb sewer and if you can’t fathom it then no-one will. Why do the big four still need to stick to their ‘house style’ when writing instructions. Many of them might have been ok back in the 60’s but methods, sewing machines/overlockers etc have moved on since then. The beauty of new independent pattern makers is that they test the patterns and methods on a wide group before releasing.
    I think bra making is off my list for 2019 but judging from all the comments there is a space in the market for a cracking good sports bra pattern.

  8. 13

    Darn, I should have looked for reviews for this pattern before I bought it! I came googling when I got to the directions for the binding and was mystified.

  9. 14

    Never mind, I persevered and just ignored the directions to iron. Worked out well.I zigzagged the binding on and used a twin needle on the front. My fabric isn’t slippery which I’m sure is making this easier!

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