Pattern Review is current running a 2-week contest which challenges you to sew up some lingerie. I wanted to do something really different so I did some snoop shopping on Agent Provocateur’s website and knew instantly I wanted to do a knock-off of the $220 Electra Bra:
It is a very impractical bra but I thought it would be fun and challenging to knock it off!
I studied the photos and description for a while, and here was the bra feature list I came up with:
- foam cups
- full band
- lace overlay on the cups
- side boning
- leotard-style back
- mesh band combined with strap detail at the center back
- decorative cup channeling (meaning it faces the outside, not the inside)
- foldover elastic for sides and bottom band, as well as a thinner foldover elastic finish for the upper cup edge
I went through my pattern stash and decided that Merckwaerdigh BHST2, view A, would be my best starting point. I would convert the front to look like the Agent Provocateur bra but leave the back alone. I preferred the pattern lace detail to the strappy Agent Provocateur back:
My materials list is below. Everything is from Sew Sassy unless otherwise noted.
- Foam for the cups. To hold its shape this style needs a cut and sewn foam cup.
- strapping elastic: 1/4″ for front crossover detail, 3/8″ for straps and back band strapping detail
- foldover elastic: 1/2″ for binding the upper cup edge, 5/8″ for finishing the armhole and upper band, 1.25″ for the bottom band
- channeling (used as a casing for the boning as well as underwires)
- underwires (Merckwaerdigh)
- stretch lace (from the sadly departed Elingeria)
- sheer cup lining, used for stabilizing/underlining the center and side bridge (frame) pieces (Bramaker’s Supply)
- back hook and eye closure (Elingeria)
- sliders and rings (Fabric Depot and Sew Sassy)
- power mesh, for the back (Fashion Fabrics Club)
- cotton/lycra jersey, for the cup cover (Fabric.com)
- RIT (to dye my white notions black)
- plastic boning for the sides (Joann’s)
I dyed the underband fold over elastic, the power mesh used for the back, and the 1/4″ strapping elastic used for the front strapping detail. This was the first time I dyed something using the black RIT dye and I am not happy with the result. It ended up being a deep gray with heavy blue undertones instead of black. I pre washed in strathapol, doubled the dye amount, and stirred it on the stove for at least 15 minutes so I’m not sure why it turned out this way. Should have ordered the good stuff from Dharma. Luckily I think it works with the gray lace.
I got to work first tracing the cup from BHST2. This bra is surprisingly easy to knock off. I started with a 32/70B and cut the traced cups out of thin foam, butted the edges together, and sewed them with a 3-step zig-zag stitch. I then held it up to me, took a pen, and redrew where I wanted the new cup edge to be. I ended up taking off 1″ from the inner cup at the center front edge. I also raised the armhole edge 1/2″ and the center front 1/4″ to allow for a full coverage underwire. When I last made up this pattern I found the side coverage rather scanty so I extended the underwire line 1/2″.
I then started working on the pattern for the cup covering. I took my new foam cup pieces and retraced, adding seam allowances. These pieces were for the black cotton/lycra jersey – seam allowances needed to be added to the center seam because unlike the foam, the edges are sewn and topstitched rather than butted together. Once sewn together it would be stretched over the cup to cover it. When I stretched it over the cup I zig-zagged the it to the edge of the foam cups using a small, narrow zig-zag and then finished the upper cup edge with the 1/2″ fold over elastic.
The next step was making the pattern for the lace overlay. I took the cotton/lycra jersey pattern pieces, arranged them so they met together at the upper part of the center front seam, and then traced the resulting shape. (I was essentially converting a princess seam to a dart.) I then measured my lace – it had about a 1/2″ difference between the upper and lower lace “points” – and drew a straight line on my pattern piece connecting the armhole edge of the upper cup to the center front edge. I then drew another line 1/2″ down from that and lined up my lower lace points with that line. The result would be lace points that extended up to the upper cup edge but not past it. I sewed the dart together and then stretched it over the cup, and zig-zagged along the lace edge using a small, narrow zig-zag.
I then constructed the bra per the pattern instructions, only instead of flipping the channeling to the inside I sewed it to the outside. If you are sensitive to the feel of an underwire this helps cushion it a bit more than the more normal look of having it flip to the inside.
When it came time to add that 1/4″ elastic strapping detail to the front I tacked it with my machine to the center of the cup, and then tried it on and went by look and feel as to where to place the elastic and how much to stretch it.