One of our goals at Orange Lingerie is to make bra making as easy as possible. Our patterns include detailed step-by-step drawings of each bra making step and our blog is full of ten years (!) of blog posts with additional bra making tutorials and information, all in the spirit of helping you make the most beautiful and professional looking lingerie possible.
As with buying bras, one perennial challenge is determining bra size. I spent some time discussing why bra sizing can be challenging in our last blog post. The short version: measurements alone do not tell you your bra size.
To make bra sizing simple I continue to recommend that you start by making your ready-to-wear ("RTW") size. While different brands can vary in how they fit for a given size, they are generally fairly close making the size you normally purchase in the shops the best size to start sewing.
So how accurate is RTW size in predicting which Orange Lingerie bra size to sew? As part of teaching bra making workshops over the last seven years, I have personally fit hundreds of students and I record their measurements, ready-to-wear size and which size Orange Lingerie bra that fit them best.
As part of determining bra sizes for students prior to class, I found that two-thirds of student RTW sizes directly matched the size Orange Lingerie bra that fit them best. For the roughly one-third who did not have a direct match of RTW to Orange Lingerie size, most went up by one cup size to get their best fit.
This means when sewing up a toile (a.k.a. “muslin”) most bra makers should not need to make more than two toiles before sewing the final bra, with the majority getting a great fit on their first try.
So what about measurements? I have tried all the measurement techniques to assess student sizing and none of them work very well. Measurements alone just do not work for bra making. This is a tough concept to embrace in the sewing universe because in that world we are used to using measurements to figure out sizing.
The measurement technique with the best predictive power is the one currently posted on our site. While this is the same method that you will see on many bra seller websites, its predictive power is so much lower than using RTW size that I don't recommend using it unless you have absolutely nothing else to go on. Luckily, most people who wear bras and want to make bras already have a RTW size to use as a starting point which means very few bra makers should be using a stand alone measurement technique at all.
I understand that people are often unhappy with their RTW size and want to sew a size that fits them better and so they use measurements to figure out what that size may be. If you feel like your usual RTW size no longer fits you well, adjust the size you select to sew with accordingly. If your bras are too big, size down. Too small, size up. If you suspect your RTW is far away good fit it will likely save you a lot of sewing time to try on RTW bras or get fitted to find out what your best RTW size is before you decide which size to start sewing.
If you find that you are still having difficulty figuring out which size bra to sew, feel free to email us. Figuring out your size should not be a barrier to you starting to make your own beautiful and great fitting bras! Remember, you just need a good starting point and you can refine the fit from there.
As always, our sizing guidance can be found on the Sizing Information Page of our site.
Happy bra making everyone!