Bra Patterns Review

Anyone remember my Bra Quest of 2013? Three years ago, I bought one each of a vintage, Big 4, indie, and knock off bra pattern in order to find my perfect bra. It turned out I had a lot to learn, and after many many muslins I finally produced a working soft-cup wired bra. Since that time, however, a lot of new bra patterns have come on the market that I've been eager to try. There are some new shapes, bras with foam cups, and a few patterns that everyone has been talking about.

Over the course of last year, I got my hands on three new patterns (and knocked off another one of my own). Below are the results of that sewing, just in time for Valentines day. Unfortunately, it wasn't all love:

The Watson Bra

I made about three Watson Bras before I finally decided that this pattern just isn't for me. I love the look and all the quick version made around the interwebs, but I can't get over the feeling that it needs wires. The combination of the wireless cups with the wide band doesn't provide much structure to the garment. When I wear it, it feels like there needs to be more support under the cups rather than have the tightest part (the elastic) at the bottom of the band.

It's true that I don't need much support, so bralettes are a perfectly good option for me. But I like having at least the elastic if not an underwire sit right under the cup to make everything feel like it's sitting where it should be. I can't imagine the Watson working well on a larger breasted woman, but perhaps it's my small cup size that makes me feel like there is no differentiation between the band and the cups.  I suppose I could retool the pattern to include underwires, but that's not really the point. Instead, I opted to try out some other soft cup patterns with a partial band, where the elastic runs right under the cup.

Apologies for the photo, the black bra doesn't quite photograph well. This is one of the three, made up this time with foam cups.

Ohhh Lulu Bras

Next up was Ohhh Lulu. I've been a blog follower for a long time, and absolutely love her pretty photo shoots and dainty lingerie sets. She sells both garments and patterns, and both feature beautiful pieces next to drool-worthy accessories. I had bought at least two of her bralette patterns over the years and decided to give them a try.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'm quite right for the Ohhh Lulu bras either. (You probably think I'm a huge grump at this point!). The problem here was the shape of the cups: I have more of an oval (wide) breast shape and these cups were much too long for me. Compounding this problem is the fact that not all of her patterns go down to a 32" bust, and the one that did still needed to be taken in. After a lot of tinkering I do have a wearable cross-over bra, but I wasn't able to replicate it a second time.

Another complaint I have with Ohhh Lulu is the instructions for finishing. In some places you are expected to have two pieces of fold over elastic overlap (meaning four layers of elastic), along with the bra fabric and lining. It is just too bulky, both in looks and for my machine! I don't know how she gets her pieces looking so nice in the shop, because after a few attempts on different bras I decided that this technique just wasn't going to work for me.

I was really disappointed these didn't work out, as I had previously considered myself a total fangurrl.

Traced RTW

As part of my bra research back in 2013, I bought a bralette from Madewell. The fit isn't perfect, but after the failed attempts above I really began to appreciate it again. The construction is elegantly simple, and I love the way it looks in the lace. Not willing to rest yet, I decided to trace it and attempt my own version. This one is made up in a simple ponte, although I do have the lace, lining and elastic to replicate it if I decide I must have another one.

This was by far my best attempt yet - the cut was more modern and suited to my tastes (although, again, it would look much better in lace), with a shorter cup and snug fit. I did have to make a few attempts to true up my pattern pieces after tracing it, but once done I am fairly happy with the result. Hooray!

For next time, I could see moving the center seam up a bit more and perhaps cutting the upper cup on the bias so it contours better. We'll see.

MakeBra DL03

My favorite bra, however, is no bralette at all. Despite having a few other "real" bra patterns in my stash that I haven't tried yet, when Tasia of Sewaholic declared this her favorite bra I ran out and bought it. I had been wary of trying new bra patterns since my epic quest in 2013, but you know what? She was right!

This bra fit almost immediately right out of the package, is beautifully constructed and has so many options for customization. The front band and cups are sewn in non-stretch fabric, so I was able to use some pretty bits from a dress for one version. This gave excellent lift and shape, although it was more constricting in the same way any bra usually is.

I liked it so much that I made up a second version, this time with a non-stretch foam in the bottom part of the cup, with the upper cup in a stretch lace without the foam. This proved very comfortable, while still providing coverage and lift. I am very eager to replicate this again, and may have rushed out to buy materials for many versions at the end of last year. As you can tell, the bras sewn here are mostly muslins, so I hope to make this one up in a nicer, all-matching material next time I get a chance.

The only thing I messed up on for this one was cutting the underwire. When even Mr. Made asked if maybe I should do something about that jagged end, I knew I should have listened. The cut wire began poking into me during normal wear, so I quickly ordered some Plasti-Dip at Amy's suggestion, and I hope that will do the trick.

The Verdict?

With each style tried, I have at least one wearable garment in my underwear drawer (with maybe the exception of the Watson). This is much more successful than my last Bra Quest, and I think shows how far I've come in my lingerie skills. I now have a wider repertoire of bras that work for me, and know which ones to avoid. I'm most enamored with the Make Bra, and hope to be sewing up some more soon.

Who else is making up bras this February? Tried any of the patterns above to better results?


  1. Argh, I have some sort of mental block towards bramaking even though I really want to. I think it's all the bits you have to buy! I toiled the Watson ages ago but it wasn't quite right for me either - the MakeBra one here looks perfect. Now to try and source the foam...

    1. There are soo many bits to buy! Honestly I cheat by not making adjustable straps, using different materials, etc. I found my "bra foam" by something that looked like it might work as my local discount store.

  2. Thanks for the great comparison review. I'm impressed by your organized approach and the amount of work you put into this.

    Here's my dumb question - would you happen to know how to convert a US size in the MakeBra? US size 38C would be what?

    1. Not a dumb question at all! Sizing is one of the most important aspects of bra sewing, and one that most people actually get wrong. Rather than think of the bra size you currently wear in store bought bras, I would retake your measurements, including your under bust and full bust, and use those measurements to pick a size just as you would sewing up other patterns. Make bra has a very detailed page to guide you through it:

      Good luck!

  3. Hi Meg!

    Your traced RTW looks really awesome!
    Im a big fan of Watson, I made a lot for friends, one for myself and I feel one is enough for me because it's loungewear, it's for chilling at home for me :)

    Actually I converted to non-foam cups since I make my own bras and you know, after years of confusion, finally I understood my body and found the perfect wires and cup sizes.

    I bought Ohhh Lulu's Josephine but it sucked for me, and after reading the Bra Makers Manual I decided to design my bras and now I make bras which are self drafted.

    This one is I love the most:

    And this one is the most professional looking I'Ve ever made. actually it is the second version of a foam cup bra design, it is also self drafted, and the reason it is foam because a friend asked me to make her foam... so I just had to do a trial version :) I'm very proud of it!

    After half a year of lingerie sewing, this year I wanna build my own handmade wardrobe and I hope the amount of time I spent with lingerie sewing will be handful for dress making as well!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Vanyolai! Your bras look great! I am super jealous of your self-drafting skills. Your skills will definitely give you a leg up in dress making :)


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