I have a long and rather conflicted history with bra sewing. I sewed my first bra five years ago, but despite being an accomplished seamstress and having a really standard body shape, I still haven’t managed to sew a single bra that I’m happy enough to wear on a regular basis in the time since.
I knew Orange Lingerie had a bra pattern in the works for the better part of a year, and I knew her bra construction book was awesome, and, when I met Norma on her trip to London last year, she gave me bra fitting advice in a restaurant toilet – and still when she finally released the Marlborough bra pattern I was skeptical. That’s just how burned I’ve been by bra patterns in the past.
But I eventually did break down and buy it, with the thought to throw out all my other tweaks, calculations, traced RTW pieces, and just start fresh with this pattern and see where to go from there.
Choosing a size was actually the most difficult part for me – despite being a 34B in pretty much every RTW bra brand ever, the different formulas used to calculate bra sizes online are insane. Various calculation methods have said I’m anywhere from a 40A (Orange Lingerie’s method) to a 34DD (Bra size calculator’s method), both of which are just laughable (and yes, before you tell me to go get sized in person, I’ve done that in the past, and they said I actually am a 34B). So I threw both out and just made my RTW size, a 34B, with no changes.
Before cutting into anything good, I first made a black test version – it’s unlined with unfinished edges, with various bits cut off of old RTW bras, and “plunge” underwires that were a bit too short. But it freaking fit.
I wasn’t about to get too excited (I’ve been down that road before, declaring I’d perfected bra fit, finally, only to have problems emerge over time and wear). So I wore it for a week or two. And it still fit well. So I cut into the good stuff.
Everything in this pale yellow version is from my (rather extensive) lingerie sewing stash, and I hadn’t remembered until afterwards, but this gorgeous lace was actually a gift from Norma herself, when she came to visit London! You may notice that my straps have an M&S lingerie brand on them, even. Yes, I definitely recycle when the RTW parts are nearly-new and save me some time!
I know I’ve already gone on about the fit, but just indulge me a little bit more. It fits! A bra pattern actually fits me! Yes, I’ve made about 10 beautiful bras, and gotten closer to the perfect fit with each one, but none have stood the test of time enough to be worn in regular rotation. I’ve even held off writing this review until I’d worn it for a few weeks, because I thought surely I’d find something in the fit to dull my enthusiasm (like every time before). But… no. I’ve worn this bra nearly every day since I made it, and I love it – it fits like my favourite RTW & Other Stories bras!
In all my bra sewing escapades, I’ve learned that it’s fairly easy to sew an attractive, well-sewn, pretty bra. It’s extremely freaking difficult to sew a bra that fits properly.
You’ll see below my only change to the pattern. Yes, all my bra hooks are too short for the back piece so I just scooped out the strap curve a bit more. That’s my only change, people. WHAT.
If you’ve never sewn a bra before, I heartily recommend buying the Orange Lingerie book as a companion to this bra pattern. There are illustrated instructions included in the pattern itself, but the instructions are brief, and don’t go into fitting issues at all, or how to line the cup or frame pieces, or lace placement, or anything more than the basics.
My only real gripe with the pattern is that the cup pieces could really use some more alignment marks – placing the Upper Cup to the Lower Cup is especially easy to accidentally reverse. Each time I’ve sewn this I have to squint hard at the Step 2 illustration to make sure I’ve got the right ends aligned – I’ve added my own notches to my pattern, but you really need to pay attention to this step or risk getting a weird fit!
I’ve already cut out another version, to match a pair of Lacey Thongs I made last winter that have been waiting for a mate this long.
And because I love matching sets, I do have enough of this yellow lace to make matching panties for this bra, too… Just give me a rainy day and they’re as good as made!
And if for some reason you think my review’s been swayed by my meeting the author, well, then have a look at Kathy’s reviews of the four versions she’s made (blog no longer active) already!
PS: If you don’t read my RiverRunner site, you’ve missed my big news – I’ve been selected for Team GB next year!!