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Bra Making Notions Explained

From the The Orange Lingerie Blog
Bra Making Notions Explained

My last post reviewed bra making fabrics, but as you well know, you need more than fabric to make a bra. Like most bras, the Marlborough calls for about a half dozen different notions. That may sound like a lot, but each has a clear role to play in creating this bra. Let’s review them one by one.

Underarm and Band Elastic

The purpose of the elastic in a bra is to keep the garment correctly positioned against the body so it can support the breasts.

For bras you should use lingerie elastic that has a soft plush finish on one side since it will be in direct contact with the body in the finished bra. Usually this elastic has a decorative “picot” edge on one side and a flat finish on the opposite edge. You can choose which edge you want to be visible in the finished the bra.

The Marlborough uses two different widths of lingerie elastic with a wider elastic used for the band to add more stability and support.

Strap Elastic

The role of the straps is to keep the bra in a stable position on the body. Strap elastic is used to provide some flexibility to the straps for comfort. It is typically shiny on one side and plush on the body facing side. There should be some stretch to the strap elastic but it should be a firm stretch, 50% tops.

The width of the strap elastic used for the bra varies by cup size with the larger cup sizes using wider elastic for increased stability. A wider strap also creates more visual harmony with the rest of the garment in larger cup sizes.

While the Marlborough uses strap elastic for the entire strap, if you want or need more stability in the straps, you can make the front portion of the strap from low to no movement fabric and use strap elastic for just the back portion of the strap. There are several options when it comes to straps so I will be posting about different strap variations soon.

Hook and Eye Closure

The hook and eye closure is used to securely fasten the bra around the body. The backing of the eyes should be soft, since it will be up against the body.

Larger cup sizes use a taller closure than smaller cup sizes. The increased height allows for a wider band which helps to provide more support.

Underwire Channeling or Casing

Underwires channeling or casing is used as a sturdy enclosure for the underwires. It also stabilizes the cup to frame seam and should be used regardless of whether or not you are using underwires in your bra. I prefer a plush underwire casing since it is soft against the body, as well as strong and durable.

It is possible to make your own casing out of fabric, but I will save that tutorial for a future post!


Underwires support the breasts. They do this by spreading out out the stress of breast support from the cups into the band and I recommend using them to get the best lift and support possible from your bra.

Underwires are most commonly made of metal and come in a variety of diameters and lengths. I don’t ever recommend plastic underwires since they splay too much across all cup sizes, negatively impacting their ability to provide support.

For the Marlborough, I used Bra-makers Supply regular size wires. If your wires are too short, they will not work. If your wires are too long, you can cut them the correct length. When cutting wires for a bra, be sure to allow for a minimum of 3/8″ extra room in the underwire casing for “wire play” and to enable the casing to be stitched closed. I have a fun new way of sealing off the tips of cut wires that I plan to post soon.

Rings and Sliders

Rings and sliders provide a mechanism to make bra straps adjustable. (Note, only sliders are pictured above.)

The most durable rings and sliders are made of metal and coated in nylon. Color selection has been getting better as of late but the most widely available colors are white, beige and black. If you can’t find a color match for your project, you can do what I do: use gold or silver rings and sliders or just go with a sturdy clear plastic set.

The width of the rings and sliders you will use corresponds to your strap width. If you plan to create a two-piece strap (a fabric front and elastic back) you will need to get another two rings so you have a way to connect the front strap to the back strap. Out of rings? No problem. You can substitute sliders for rings and you have a different and fully functional look.

Center Front Embellishment (optional)

The center front embellishment is used for decoration and to camouflage the stitching that seals the wire casing.

You can attach a variety of embellishments to the center front of your bra so feel free to get creative. In addition to bows, I have seen bras with ribbon flowers, custom covered buttons and even mini pom poms. When selecting an embellishment, just be aware that any bold or multi dimensional decoration may show through clothing.

Where to Buy

Because few of us can find bra making supplies in our local area, I have list of bra making materials suppliers on my resources page.

Coming up in my next post, I will tell you how to manipulate your materials to get what you want from them!