Orange Lingerie Marlborough Bra

The short version: this bra pattern was a big fat fail for me.

I first read about the Marlborough on Fehr Trade. Melissa raved about the fit. Kathy also mentioned in her writeup about it that it seemed less pointy than the Pin-up Girls Shelley bra. Like many smaller busted women my natural shape is a bit more conical rather than perfectly rounded, so one of the major things I look for with a bra/bra pattern is a rounded silhouette. I do better with bras that have vertical rather than diagonal or horizontal seams. So despite my reservations about the diagonally seamed Marlborough I decided to try it out anyway. Drafting varies from company to company and you never know if the drafting formulas someone uses for their pattern is your personal jackpot.

I know that British bra sizing is different from American and European bra sizing, so I carefully measured myself before choosing a size. My measurements – 33″ upper chest, 35″ full bust, and 28.75″ underbust – indicated I should try a 34B. My normal size in patterns and RTW is usually a 32C or 70C. Depending on the stretch of the band and elastic I sometimes go up to a 34B or 75B. (I don’t have a lot of padding on my ribcage, so I don’t like very firm bands.)

This pattern is made for very low-to-no stretch fabrics. I made it up using Duoplex for the power bar, bridge, lower cup, and side front. I used a stretch lace underlined with sheer cup lining for the upper cup, and the “fancy” floral powernet from FabricDepotCo.com for the back band. My elastics and findings were from Sew Sassy and the Etsy seller Porcelynne. I used underwires from BraEssentials.com.

Since I had no idea what to expect I worked quickly and didn’t spend too much time worrying about things like perfect topstitching. I got as far as stitching the elastics/cups/underwire casing in place and then I inserted the underwires, pinned the back closure in place, and tried it on. The result was BAD. The band felt like a good size, but the cups were too small. I had  massive quad-boob going on and the diagonal seam was at least 1/4″ too low for me. I had a flat spot at the bottom of the cup. Also, my size 34 underwires suddenly seemed too small. It was very similar to my experience with Pin-up Girls patterns. Ugh.

So I decided to try again. This time I traced a 34C, a size I have never worn in my life. (Luckily I had some 36 underwires in my stash.) I put it together and this time finished the entire bra. I put it on. The cups seemed to fit better but I still had a few issues – the diagonal seam continued to be a little too low, and while it wasn’t nearly as bad as the 34B I still had a flat spot below the bust.) And everything, especially the band, still felt like it was tighter than it should have been. To make things worse I had that 1940s silhouette going on – not pointy like a 1950s bullet bra, but not as rounded as modern bras. It is very unattractive under clothing. Way more unattractive than my braless shape. Since it was a snow day and I was off from work I decided to put on a bra back extender and wear it anyway. If the fit turned out to be comfortable after a few hours I would just try to keep modifying the shape of the cup. Despite using the extender it still felt tight. I wore it for about five or six hours before taking it off, salvaging what hardware I could, and throwing it in the trash! Then I took the bra pattern pieces and put them in the pile of papers that will go into the wood stove. My test for bra comfort is being about to wear it at least nine hours without noticing it too much. The Marlborough failed miserably.

My conclusions about this pattern:

  • I totally agree with many people (like Caroline Amanda from Sewaholic and Ms. McCall from Brown Paper Patterns) that this pattern runs small. If you make this you’ll probably go up at least one band size and possibly one cup size from your normal RTW bra size.
  • It is not as pointy as the Pin-up Girls Classic bra, but it is still pretty darn pointy. (Look up 1940s bras and you’ll see what I mean.) I think part of this is the style and part of it is the use of Duoplex, which has zero stretch. My most successful diagonally seamed cup bra is Merckwaerdigh BHS10, View D, which I lined with a lightweight mesh. I think the stretch and give of the fabric helps smooth things out. If you are larger busted you may prefer the definition of the Marlborough when made in a non-stretch fabric, but when you’re smaller like me it makes everything look even smaller.
  • I am pretty sure the bridge and the way the the cups angled after they are set into the frame was my biggest issue.
  • I thought it was really odd that the lower cup piece didn’t have any alignment markings. It is very easy to not only mix up the diagonal vs underwire seam lines, but right vs left.
  • Would I recommend this pattern? It is hard to say. I had a bad experience with it, but many people seem to love it. I personally prefer the more rounded silhouette of Make Bra patterns. All of my clothes look and fit better when I stick to bras that give a more rounded look because it fills everything out more evenly.

So for the sake of comparison I posted a couple of photos onto Instagram comparing the Marlborough bridge and band to my two most comfortable bra patterns: Make Bra DL01 and Make Bra 3226. (For the sake of comparing apples to apples I used the 34B Marlborough and 75B Make Bra pattern pieces.)

Here is a comparison of the DL01 vs Marlborough bridges. I matched them up at their respective center front folds. You can see how they start out the same width (about 3/4″ at the top of the bridge) but the Marlborough bridge turns out to be much shallower at the center front.

And this is the 3226 bridge/band compared to the Marlborough. There’s a couple of things going on here I should explain first:

  • Make Bra drafts a band meant to be entirely out of stretch fabric, preferably a 4-way stretch fabric like nylon Supplex. You can stabilize the bridge, but the entire band should be out of lycra. The Marlborough is meant to have a front frame out of non-stretch fabric, with a powernet back band. That’s why the Make Bra band is shorter at the side – you stretch the fabric to fit the cup. (If you are using a fabric which does not have 4-way stretch then you extended the curve of the upper edge about 5/8″ or 1.5cm. With the Marlborough neither cup nor front band stretch, so the curves need match exactly.
  • Since the Marlborough uses a mix of stretch/non-stretch fabrics the band is a little longer in length as well as width.

You can see how the Make Bra pattern is cut deeper at the lowest point of the cup, and how the frame is rounded and somewhat even. Meanwhile Marlborough is tilted, shallower, and asymmetrical. I used to think that I had a shallow, splayed bust because it is impossible for me to get that “kissing” cleavage (even with a push-up bra). But after trying the “fixes” for a splayed shape I now think it is mostly due to my smaller volume and shape. (I am also taller than average, with a medium bone structure. So more surface area for the volume to be spread across than for someone that’s a fine-boned 5’2″.)

I could probably keep trying to fix the Marlborough bra and get it to eventually fit, but it just doesn’t seem worth it when there’s other patterns that do work for me.

31 thoughts on “Orange Lingerie Marlborough Bra

  1. The bra is so pretty. That must have been very disappointing for it not to fit. Hearing it fits small, I’m doubting it will work for me. I’m not familiar with Make Bra patterns. How are they for smaller band/larger cup sizes?

    Like

    1. I can’t answer as to how well they work for that – since I don’t fall into the small band/large cup category – but out of all the bra patterns I have tried they seem the best for shallower figures. 3226 is particularly good for shallow busts. It is similar to the Betsey Johnson Retro Glamour or eyelet 3-section cup bras.

      Like

  2. Thank you for this explanation. This is the only bra I’ve made so I don’t have lots of experience, but I also had the feeling that it made everything smaller that it already is. Also, the seams on the inside are quite annoying if you are not used to. I may try MakeBra since their designs look more like the bras I normally wear.

    Like

  3. Great cup comparison; it’s interesting to see the difference!

    The Marlborough fit great on me, but I have a very small frame and chest. I used this pattern at my workshop, but I didn’t follow the instructions and students used a 4-way stretch lace lined in power net for all pieces. It made fitting a lot easier. My goal was for the women to be comfortable making a bra and I didn’t want to overwhelm them with fit issues.

    “I am pretty sure the bridge and the way the the cups angled after they are set into the frame was my #1 issue. It would explain why my 34 underwires suddenly felt too small.” – can you explain this more? I remember reading in one of your previous posts about how you “shifted” the cup pattern to get a better shape. For your shape, how do you angle your cups.

    Like

    1. I used a non-stretch fabric because that’s what was listed for fabric recommendations. I use the stretch lace and mesh for Merckwaerdigh BHS10 View D but the fabric recommendations for that one are stretch lace. It works for me, but for someone that needs a lot of support stretch lace and the mesh isn’t going to cut it. I think Sigrid usually lines that bra with non-stretch cup lining fabric.

      The photo I showed on Instagram of Make Bra 3226 vs the Marlborough shows the tilt I need. I often have to take a tuck at the center front at the bottom of the band or else the wire digs in and rubs at the top. I am not sure why, but for some reason every bra I’ve worn that has a band shaped like the Marlborough makes the underwire feel too small. My guess is that it has something to do with the band not curving below the breast enough.

      Like

  4. It really sucks when bras don’t work out, even though they are small, they’re still a fair amount of work and fiddly-ness to assemble and the supplies can be tricky to find and/or expensive. So you think the MakeBra works better for shallower busts or deeper ones? Sorry, I got confused. I’d been eyeing the MakeBra with hopes of modifying it to a strapless, but I tend to need a deeper cut with narrower wires.

    Like

    1. Make Bra seems to draft bras that have a shorter cross cup seam and are more open at the top. The other bra patterns offer lift, but seem to push it out instead of up.

      Like

  5. I’ve made several Marlborough bras, though not for myself as I fall into a small band/very large cup size category that isn’t remotely within the pattern’s size range. But this pattern fits my niece perfectly, and she has declared it her best fitting/most comfy bra ever. However, the sizing is not consistent with any other pattern I’ve used — regardless of pattern brand 32C is nearly always her size, but she measured to a 36B in the Marlborough. So I’ll add my vote to the “this pattern runs small” observations. I personally don’t find the cup to be pointy at all, and in fact it seems quite rounded when I sew it up (quite a bit more so than any of the many other bra patterns I’ve sewn), which makes me wonder if maybe I’ve inadvertently flipped that lower cup piece. The lack of alignment markings on the lower cup does irk me tremendously! The band/bridge/cup angles do seem off from what I’m used to, and when the underwires are in place the bra seems splayed wide across the front (does that make sense?) and won’t fit on my mannequin without the wires poking east-west beyond it’s torso. Since the pattern fits my niece so well, I hadn’t tried to analyze why — thanks for the band and bridge comparison photos Anne, very illuminating! I love reading your bra-making posts, you’re a superstar lingerie maker :D!

    Like

      1. Same here, Make Bra is the best for me, followed by Merckwaerdigh (especially MIX30). The Cloth Habit Watson is good too, though that obviously falls into its own category. Pin-up Girl patterns and the Marlborough are the least satisfactory. I feel like they are both too big and too small at the same time.

        Like

    1. That’s why I can’t in good faith say “this is a horrible pattern!” It obviously fits many people very well once they figure out the sizing. I am not part of that crowd though.

      I really like the look of diagonal seams on unlined bras as they offer so many possibilities for stretch lace, but I just can’t seem to make them work on my figure if they use a non-stretch fabric. On me I find the diagonal seam – if it has enough depth to reach the apex – pushes everything out instead of up, so I end up with a pointy look. The effect is minimized if I use a flexible stretch lace rather than a rigid fabric like Duoplex, or at least an unlined stretch lace for the upper cup (which is why Merckwaerdigh BHS10 is actually ok on me.) But that’s not what this pattern called for.

      I think the splaying you are talking about is why I found the upper cup so tight.

      Like

  6. When I made up the marlborough bra, I found the height of the bridge at CF to be too low. I also found that the band was about 1″ shorter than my self-drafted pattern, which is designed for a mix of stretch and non-stretch fabrics. I flattened the curve at the bottom of the cup to get rid of the flat spot at the bottom of the cup…from memory, I think I flattened it out about 1/4″. So, it sounds as though my experiences were very similar to yours. You can see mine here. http://sewblooms.blogspot.com.au/search/label/lingerie I can wear the one I made in very stretchy lingerie lycra, though I don’t think it will be long before the wires poke out at the bridge. I can’t wear my pretty white version as it is way too small.

    Like

  7. We must have completely different shaped breasts because the Marlborough bra is the first bra I have found that I absolutely love. I have tried the Pin Up Girls (after three iterations with this pattern, I was never really happy with the fit and it never lifted me) and Watson bra (the long line was okay, but the vertical triangle cups don’t do much for my full on bottom breasts). I am a busty woman with a small frame (30DD) and the Marlborough both minimizes and lifts me in a way no other bra ever has, including RTW. I do agree that the sizing is strange – the directions put me into a 34A (hahahahhaha), so I went with my usual 30DD and I had to add an extra inch to the back band, but the cups are nearly perfect on me. The joys of sewing – everyone fits into patterns differently.

    Like

    1. See how this woman looks in the white bra (Cleo Lucy)and the black strapless bra? That’s similar to how the Marlborough looked on me, only the lower cup was less curved. The Marlborough does have a lot of lift but it puts it in the wrong spot for me. I completely agree that it minimizes, which is why I thought I looked better with my natural braless shape than when wearing the Marlborough. I am pear shaped and not a petite, fine-boned person (no dainty ankles or slender knees here!) so the main thing I look for with a bra is that it enhances rather than minimizes what I have.

      Like

  8. Glad to hear another opinion of this bra. I’ve just finished a Pin-up Girls Linda bra (the partial band classic they offer) and it’s a good fit for me, comfy, but so, SO pointy. I was slightly horrified at my shape wearing it. So I’ve been debating on the next pattern I’m going to try (other than the Watson, which as you said it’s in a different category). I think I’ll go on with a MakeBra pattern now. The sizing on their site leaves me confused though. In the Pin-up girls bra the 34F is a great fit, but I calculated out to an 85B I think in MakeBra. My first thought was “I haven’t seen a B cup since I was 14! You’re kidding me!” Ordering a smaller range of sizes in a pattern is a bit nerve wrecking.

    Like

    1. This one is slightly less pointy than I remember the Pin-up Girls being, but not by much. I 100% understand how you felt when you saw your shape while wearing it…

      If a 34 works for you then you probably take a 75 band in Make Bra. Possibly even a 70, depending on the stretch of the elastics and powernet you plan on using and your preference for band firmness. I have both 70 and 75 band patterns from Make Bra and just shorten/lengthen the band as necessary. According to the Make Bra size chart I could be either a 75A or 75B, and I usually take either a 75B or 70C. My normal RTW size is a 32C (70C). I would try the 75F pattern. Size charts with bra making are just a starting point…as Annele notes on the Make Bra website those with a “blue lady” shape will take a larger cup size than a “green lady” despite having the same measurements.

      Like

      1. Thanks for the advice! I have become slightly obsessed with bra sizing since my first baby was born. Trying to find a nursing bra was torturous until someone pointed me to a speciality shop. 30I. The first time in my life I had a bra that fit. I wish i had thought to start sewing bras at that point, but never too late.

        Like

  9. It’s fascinating how so wrong a bra can be for one person and worked well for someone else. This is why I have a very difficult time buying proper fitting RTW bras. My first two tries at the Orange Lingerie bra were not good at all… actually bra #2 was THE worst fitting bra ever put onto my body, it truly was that bad… and it had a very pointy quality, quadraboobies and everything. I’ve read several folks having perfect luck with this pattern “out of the envelope”, but I had to alter the cup and bridge. I have a bust that is smaller in comparison to my more broad frame and structure.

    I’ve yet to work with Make Bra patterns and really would like to give them a try soon. Whenever I wear my few Pin Up Girls Classic Band bras, I always feel so pointy… I feel like I’ve not heard anyone else comment on how they shape of that pattern doesn’t have that more contemporary round shape.

    Like

    1. Oh I feel your pain. I stuck to t-shirt bras for a really long time because I had so much trouble finding a cut-and-sew bra that fitted well AND was flattering. (The best is the Cosabella Prettie.) I could probably alter this to work, but it would require a lot of work and I just don’t see a reason to go through all that trouble when I already have options. I have bought vertically seamed bras that used a non-stretch cup fabric and they looked great. (Not quite as “soft” as stretch lace ones, but an attractive shape nonetheless.) Then I would try a diagonally seamed bra from the same brand, in the same size, in some cases even same fabric. Not nearly as good. I do best with bras that stand away rather than close in at the upper edge. Most diagonally seamed bras are just too closed in at the top.

      I noticed that busty women, especially busty women that have an otherwise small frame, look slimmer when they wear a bra that gives a more projected vs rounded bust. So maybe that’s why no one seems to care about the pointy shape of the Pin-up Girls patterns.

      Like

  10. I always enjoy your honest and thorough reviews. With pattern comparison pics too! You are lucky in that you have the skills to be able to discern which patterns work for you and which don’t. Like you said, why bother with an ill-fitting pattern when you have ones which do the job?

    Now I’m a bit apprehensive about choosing a bra to sew! As a newbie to lingerie sewing, I was looking at the Marlborough as my first ‘real’ bra (I’m part-way through a Watson right now) as it is exactly the same style as my fave RTW bra, right down to the diagonal seams and non-stretch cup and band. The fit keeps my low & saggy boobs in place while providing plenty of uplift without foam padding. But as I don’t have that much experience in bra sewing, I wouldn’t really know enough to discern whether any problem in the final product is with me or the pattern, or how to fix any fit issues that arise. Hmmmm.

    Like

    1. Honestly I found out which ones work and which don’t through trial and error (and my trusty measuring tape). I’m probably more tolerant of potential failure than other people. I don’t expect to have something fit out of the envelope – ever.

      I would compare the pattern pieces to your RTW one. It could very well be the perfect fit for you – many other people seemed to like it.

      Like

  11. Hmmm, this is interesting to me — thanks for the honest review! I have the Marlborough bra and supplies for my first foray into sewing a “real” bra (after I tackle the Watson), and I will definitely keep all this in mind. I think I’m similar in shape to Carol — petite but somewhat busty with full-on-bottom breasts after nursing 3 kids. My RTW bra size is 32D, but I measure into a 32C in both the Marlborough and Watson patterns. I think I’ll stick with the D cups when I have my first go at Marlborough.

    Like

  12. I have to admit I just cut mine out and that underwire line makes me nervous. It just doesn’t look right to me. Very much like Victoria Secret bras with the U shape.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s