Close up front detail of purple bra with black lace and beading

New Year, New Bra!

Happy 2022, everyone! 

Click play for narrated version

After sewing up a ready-for-anything black denim flight suit to end 2021, I thought I’d do a 180 degree turn and start this year with a bra-and-underwear set. My sister gave me a gift certificate for the Tailor Made shop for Christmas, and before spending it, I thought I’d take an inventory of the various bra-making accoutrement I already had in my stash. As luck would have it, I had enough bits and bobs and fabric and lace leftovers for a couple of new boob shoes (context for that term can be found here 😉 ). This was welcome surprise given that a few of my early-made ones are starting to show just how much I’ve loved them.

Close up of white woman wearing purple bra with black lace

I’m calling this my Prince set. I’ve loved the colour purple pretty much since birth, Purple Rain came out when I was in high school and made me an instant fan, and seeing him live at the old Forum in Montreal in 1993 is a musical highlight of my life. When I put this black lace over the remnants of some lilac duoplex that I originally used to make this Easter Bunny Lace-capade bra last spring, ‘U Got The Look’ started playing in my head and was my ear worm the whole time I was sewing. I’d like to think he’s looking down at this set with his sly smile saying, “Yeah…I’d wear that”.

Close up of purple bra with black lace on mannequin
Close up side detail of purple bra with black lace on mannequin
Close up back detail of purple bra with black lace on mannequin

I’ve had the AFI Exquisite Bra pattern for quite awhile, but I kept avoiding making a muslin, mostly because I’m really happy with my Ruby and Marlborough patterns. Anyone who’s made a bra before knows how much goes into getting the fit just right, and it can feel daunting to start from scratch with a new pattern. But I’ve been really drawn to square necklines lately (see my previous post), and this balconette cup with wide-set straps is perfect for that style. 

Thanks to the miracle of water-soluble thread — easily the best addition to my sewing gear last year — I was able to make the muslin out of the duoplex, mark my adjustments, then rinse away the stitching and re-use the fabric for the final bra. The drafting of this pattern is surpassed only by the brilliantly detailed instructions. They might be the best I’ve ever encountered. I consider myself an advanced beginner when it comes to sewing lingerie, so while I often don’t need a lot of guidance with most garments, I read and re-read every step when making bras. Ana’s instructions would make even a novice sewist want to dive right in. She even has a free pattern — the Maya — on her website. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m sure it’s just as detailed and a great place to start your bra making adventure.

Pieces of purple bra with black lace with black findings on white linen
Deconstructed purple bra with black lace on white linen
Inside view of deconstructed purple bra with black lining

AFI Atelier uses BCD (Bottom Cup Depth) to determine sizing, and many people find this to be a more accurate starting point. I don’t know if I do the measuring wrong or what, but whenever I use this system, I end up with a cup that is way too small. My under bust is 34.5”, my full bust is 40”, my ready-to-wear size is 36DD or E, and I generally need to do a full bust adjustment or use the D-cup option on blouse and dress patterns. Oddly, the BCD measuring puts me in a C cup, which would only work if I was auditioning for the Baywatch reboot. So I split the difference and started with the D cup pieces. The fit was pretty good right off the page, but I did end up shaving off a tiny bit from the inner and middle cup pieces and adding some to the outer one to better distribute some volume. The vertical seams make the cups really easy to alter. The band was perfect in terms of comfort; I just had to add 1/4” of height to the side seam to accommodate my underwire size. I also made the curve at the bottom of the bridge a little shallower.

Purple and black lace bra and underwear set on mannequin

I adore everything about this bra…the fit, the shape, all of it. I wanted to cut out another one immediately after putting it on. I decided the bridge deserved something special, so I rummaged through my supply of beads and found some smoky, purple-y pewter ones for some subtle bling. The fact that I was able to cobble together something this lovely out of a bunch of random stuff from my messy stash makes it all the more satisfying!

Three pair of black and purple underwear with lace accents

Obviously, I had to make some coordinating bottoms, which kind of makes me laugh because I was never a matchy-matchy underwear gal until I started making my own. Younger me would not have put this on my mid-life bingo card, but I’m enjoying it!

My go-to patterns of late are the Iris Knickers, a collaboration between Tilly and the Buttons & Evie La Luve, and the Chloe Thong, also by Evie. Both are quick and easy makes, and I had fun Tetris-ing the scraps of lace and jersey from past projects to make these beauties. I didn’t have any black or purple fold-over elastic, so I made some jersey and ribbing bands to finish the waists and legs. They may wear out a little faster, but they are so very comfy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a playlist of His Royal Badness that demands dancing to, and I now have just the outfit…