Copying RTW: Panache Andorra 5675 Bra and Maidenform 40760 Boyshort

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Once again I find myself preferring to make patterns from existing RTW and add a couple of tweaks rather than try to work with an existing pattern. RTW often has more interesting design lines and a better fit. (Example: I’ve never had the crotch of RTW panties be too wide, but this is a very common problem with home sewing patterns. There’s a Kwik Sew panty pattern that was notorious for this – I think every person that reviewed it had to shave off at least 1″ in width!)

I used to dread the thought of taking apart expensive RTW lingerie, but when I think about how much I’ve wasted in materials (and time) trying to get the fit of a lot of patterns correct it suddenly seems like a good deal. Instead of cutting it apart I very carefully pick everything apart at the seams. Lingerie tends to have very subtle curves and shaping, and I’ve found that I don’t get the same accuracy when I cut it apart at the seams and then add seam allowances back in.

Bra

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I really hesitated taking apart my RTW bra, but the 30DD I bought was just too small in the band. (I have since bought a 32D and it is much more comfortable.) The method of “pin tracing” where you place it on a piece of cardboard and pin around the seams, then connect the holes created by the pins, can sometimes lead to a little distortion if you are working with a stretch fabric. I wanted to make sure I got the pieces perfectly copied so I carefully picked them apart, pressed the pieces, then used my lightbox to trace them onto card stock. I posted what the pieces looked like on Instagram. (Note: the little lace strap attachment piece was accidentally flipped the wrong way in the photo.)

I only copied the cup pieces. The band was pretty close to a 75C Make Bra DL01 band so I just used that pattern piece instead. The Make Bra band is wider, but I prefer wider bands. The one issue I had was that I forgot to add seam allowances to the upper edge, and as a result I had to resort to a Bra Essentials demi instead of classic length underwire.

The components of this bra are:

  • Stretch lace upper cup (with an upper edge that wasn’t stabilized)
  • rigid lower cup
  • internal side sling, which consisted of a piece of non-stretch cup lining folded in half and sewn at the sides. The folded edge was left free.
  • the upper strap lace was pieced to the upper cup lace, and secured to the internal side sling

You can see how the internal side sling looks and functions:

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I wanted to get this test run finished as quickly (and cheaply) as possible, so instead of fussing with a Merckwaerdigh kit or dyeing I used plain white Duoplex for the lower cup pieces as well as the front band. The lace and back closure are from Elingeria. (Recognize the lace? So sad Elingeria went out of business. She used to have the best stuff.) I used nude non-stretch cup lining from Bramaker’s Supply for the powerbar and that little lace strap attachment. I stabilized the back band with some white heavyweight powernet from Spandex World. I cut the back band as a 75 rather than a 70 for extra fit insurance. It is easy to cut down a back band to make it smaller, but not nearly as easy or graceful to make a too-small band bigger. I always err on the side of too-large when it comes to cutting out bands because there’s so much variation in the stretch of the materials I use. I ended up removing a total of 3/4″ width from the center back, and reshaped the back strap placement to fit. The elastics and findings are from Fabric Depot.

The bra fits very slightly smaller than the RTW one, but it actually works because the 32D was very slightly large in the upper cup. I love the shaping it gives – very centered, shapely, and lifted. There’s projection, but it isn’t too pointy. Here is how the profile looks under my silk jersey wrap dress:

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Boyshort

Half an hour after I finished the bra I had these done:

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The Maidenform Hip Fit boyshorts have excellent reviews. I first started wearing them about six months ago, and I really like them. They give good coverage, are very comfortable, and the 1″ stretch lace is very smooth and doesn’t bind around my legs. They are low-to-mid rise, but the stretch lace waistband prevents them from making a bulge like elastic does. Under tight pants they are almost as invisible as a thong. The fabric is very thin, with 50-60% stretch. Surprisingly, the stretch of the fabric is not placed perpendicular to the center front and center back seams.

Even though I really liked them they had issues. The center back dipped down too low, and the front leg openings tended to roll during the course of the day. (Both of these are really common issues for me.) I was also not a fan of the crotch – it was the type where the lining is left loose at the front rather than being enclosed in a seam, and I find that the front edge tends to roll after they’re washed for the first time.

The nice thing about making my own from a rub-off is that I could correct these issues, save some money, and have them look however I want.

Here’s the changes I made:

  • Added a 2″ (!) wedge to the center back. Normally I would make something closer to a 1″ wedge. I can’t believe I had to add so much to get it horizontal…
  • Curved the front leg openings upward 1/2″
  • Changed the crotch from being loose in the front to being completely enclosed. In the process of doing this I adjusted the front and back pieces, ending the center front and center back seaming directly above the crotch rather than joining together in the middle of the crotch lining. So the crotch lining is like a gusset now instead of just sitting on top of two intersecting seams. Doing this also saved fabric.
  • Removed a little wedge – maybe 1/4″ – at the upper center front edge.

Here’s what the pattern pieces looked like when I was done:

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I used the lightweight Supplex from Spandex World as my fashion fabric, and the cotton/lycra jersey from Dharma Trading for the crotch lining. I finished the edges with a white scalloped stretch lace I had in my stash from Sew Sassy. I kept the lace edges even with the fabric edge and trimmed away the fabric after I attached the lace.

The fabric is a little more firm and the lace slightly less stretchy than than the materials used by Maidenform so the fit is a little smaller. It is possible they will ride up if not worn with tights, but it will be a few more months before it is warm enough to find out!

23 thoughts on “Copying RTW: Panache Andorra 5675 Bra and Maidenform 40760 Boyshort

  1. I’m really enjoying your posts on lingerie. I recently took a class from Anne StClair of Needle Nook fabrics. I’ve made 3 bras – all fit perfectly. I wanted to wear these a bit before I made more. She has a pant and camisole pattern. I made a pair of pants to check the fit but didn’t attach the elastic – I may take a pair of my unders that I like so well and cut them apart. Good suggestion. Thanks for all the info
    Marciae from SG

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    1. RTW manufacturers spend at least two years from concept to market for a bra. It takes even longer for it to hit the stores. For large cup/plus sizes I heard it can be three or four years. I notice a lot of people love to say “I’ll just self draft!” and think by doing that they’ll save a lot of time and get a perfect result, but I really think that they are underestimating all the subtle curves and measurements that go into making the perfect bra (for them). That’s why I will always recommend copying RTW over self drafting, if your focus is fit and a modern shape. The curves and seamlines are already figured out for you.

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  2. Have you tried making a rub-off using the “cover it with tape” method? It seems like that would be ideal for copying a bra. Either cover each piece of the bra with painter’s masking tape, matching seam lines, or use clear tape and trace the seam lines; then remove the tape and stick it on paper. I’ve given up on cutting apart garments to make patterns from them, even if I no longer want the garment – after the pieces are cut apart, they stretch out differently and the seam lengths no longer match, so I have to spend a lot of time truing up the pattern.

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    1. I wouldn’t have picked it apart without a good reason to do so! That method doesn’t always work with something as precise as bra cup pieces, especially when you’re dealing with elastics and stretch lace. With this bra the cross cup seam of the stretch lace upper cup is actually slightly longer than the cross seam of the lower cup, and the excess is eased into the lower cup during the sewing process. This way the upper cup edge stretches to fit and doesn’t require a stabilizer elastic along the upper edge to prevent gaping, yet the lower edge of it still allows for good curve and projection. This makes it really smooth under clothing, and gives a more natural/less pointy look than the sewing patterns which all seem to have the cross cup seams the same length. The tape/Press-n-seal method completely misses this subtle shaping. It also didn’t quite capture the little vertical curved dart of the lower cup pieces. Before I picked it apart I did take a fine tipped permanent marker and mark key intersection points – where the internal sling/powerbar attaches to the bottom of the cup, where the vertical lower cup seam meets the upper cup, etc.

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  3. Your experience with sewing bras has encouraged and instructed me more than anything else! This latest set looks like Bridal wear! Beautiful! My bra sewing experience so far has been one bra that was so ill-fitting that it was tossed and I almost gave up. My second attempt turned out much better and I wear it regularly. Too busy right now to sew more, but I will later on. I bought four bras yesterday and none of them feel as good as the one I made! I have a difficult time finding my size, 34DD. So I “settle” for whatever is available on the day I shop. Besides time to sew, the biggest problem has been tracking down materials and findings. The source I find easiest to order from is in Canada, because they have all the needed elements in one place, so there is the extra expense of shipping. I appreciate that you always list your sources, and describe the stretch, etc. of each fabric you use, and this will help me when I am ready to order more supplies. I also like that you try out different combinations of fabrics and trims, which encourages me to want to try pretty designs, also. Now all I really need is TIME!

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    1. I prefer nude and color over white bras, but when you’re more concerned about testing out the fit all white does make everything easier! Colorful/printed lingerie may not work as well in the warmer climates, but it does make dressing in the morning a little more interesting when you’re layering for at least six months out of the year.

      I used to order from Bramaker’s Supply, but then after hearing about how unethical the owner can be in her business interactions – and after having had a bad experience with her myself – I now do everything I can to avoid ordering from there.

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      1. Your lingerie reports, especially this posting, have inspired me to try making my own. I agree with your logic: avoid patterns for sewing and hours of trying on bras to find one that fits (then paying$$$). You make it sound possible. Can I do this on a 1090 Bernina?

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      2. Hi Anne,
        I was looking how to send you an email because I wasn’t sure if you wanted to share the specifics in this format. Feel free to email me to share it privately if you are amenable to sharing. I am Canadian and actually live only 50 minutes from BMS. I struggled a great deal with the gorgeousness of Elingeria and Merckwaerdigh in the past wanting to support local business because I didn’t want this resource to fold. BMS is the ONLY place in Canada to get any kind of quality and really the only place to get bra supplies. Still, I made a conscious choice to support BMS even though the variety wasn’t as good as the European sources BUT not knowing of an unethical practices. I make consumer based choices based on ethics in all aspects of my life and would hate for this area to be out of line. How has the owner been unethical and, if you don’t mind, what kind of bad experience did you have with her? If you don’t want to answer, I completely understand, it’s just I have never heard anyone say these things about her before and I always wanted to be an informed consumer. Thanks for the consideration!

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      3. My interaction with her was poor customer relations. It was about two years ago. There was pricing error on the website that happened to work in my favor. When she called me up to straighten it out she was hostile, agitated, and proceeded to berate and blame me for HER website’s malfunction. I understand she was frustrated, but the way she went about it was NOT COOL. When I got off the phone with her I felt actually felt upset, so I decided I would do everything I could to avoid doing business with someone that seemed so…unstable. It also made me wonder how she treats her employees, if she thought it was ok to talk to a customer that way. So that experience, combined with the premium prices and handling fee charged on top of the already-high shipping costs, really turned me off of ordering from there again. Too bad, because I think she’s a good teacher and knows her stuff, and it was very convenient to have one-stop shopping.

        Her unethical/dishonest behavior has been toward other industry professionals. I cannot reveal the details but basically she has done stuff on two separate occasions, to two separate people, that I cannot possibly imagine her being ok with had it been done to her.

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  4. Well, you know I’ll only copy RTW bras at this point – there’s no point in reinventing fit (when bra fit is such a complicated construct). Thing is, and I know I’m a broken record here, when you’re making your own bras – if you have sizable breasts that are not self supporting, you need the industrial materials that are not available to home sewists. At least I’ve not yet found a way to source those materials…

    I love your work, Anne – and you are so fortunate to be able to make lingerie in such a way that it fits and supports you. I so wish I could do the same. Till then, I’m going to spend a fortune and buy what lifts and supports optimally. Can’t say I made it, but I know it’s better than what I could produce – and not for lack of interest or effort. I’ll console myself by making other things – including all my skin care products. Look at all the money I can save by doing that 🙂

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    1. The nonstretch sheer cup lining from BMS and Make Bra is the same as the stuff used in the Panache Andorra, and the heavyweight powernet from Spandex World is very close. Elastics are difficult. I have noticed that RTW tends to have thinner elastics that are also very strong with a lot of recovery. With home sewing they tend to either be strong but thick or thin but weak. RTW also has much better channeling. I think it is better to buy seamless bras because they can cover a molded cup way better than I can, and they can do things like laser cut edges and heat sealed rather than sewn in elastics.

      It would be way easier to just buy a bunch of Andorras but I love the creative process that comes from making my own…and the Merckwaerdigh kits are so much fun, even though I usually have to supplement them with materials from my stash. I have gotten so much braver with color and prints ever since making my own. I fully admit though that part of my success is having a smaller bust, so I completely understand why you buy rather than make.

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  5. Beautiful as always!

    I agree that RTW patterns has an edge over home sewing patterns. When I was a tech designer for woven jackets, manufacturers sent a graded nested pattern before proceeding to production. When I switched to intimates, manufacturers wouldn’t release the pattern. That’s how closely they guarded their patterns (they were afraid we would take the pattern to another manufacturer)! This also meant that bras hit stores without us even seeing the pattern!! What if he grading from our standard size was super funky?! We’d never know!

    I rubbed off a bra pattern from a RTW design and the resulting pattern was just okay. I felt like that handling during sewing distorted the pattern shapes. I had to make major adjustments/samples.

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    1. Doesn’t surprise me – if they spend 2-4 years developing a bra before it even goes to market, they’re going to want to guard it! Lots of time and money invested in something that could make or break a business, depending on how well it sells. I wonder what sort of controls they had at the factory. When my brother lived and worked in China for a while managing a factory that specialized in small motors he said they had issues with some of the higher level employees stealing the technology, knocking it off, then manufacturing it themselves. That was one of the reasons why they always had a company exec in China “babysitting” the factory.

      The copying method with pins and cardboard worked to get a general sense of how it is drafted, but when I actually took it apart I could see how it missed all sorts of subtle curves. That’s why I recommend buying the same bra on eBay in an ugly color and taking it apart instead. It is more time-consuming than doing a rub-off but I feel like it is more accurate.

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      1. If I worked on something for 2 years, I’d guard it heavily too!

        We had company execs visit our manufacturing facilities, but it was mostly for quality control and labor practice reasons. Interesting that your brother lived and worked in China!

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  6. Awesome job! One more major step on the way to an (lingerie-)expert. Altogether a lovely set with the matching boyshorts. “They are almost as invisible as a thong”? This calls for some photographic evidence! 🙂

    Julie

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    1. Stretch lace trim instead of elastic is the secret. The fuller cut of boy shorts helps too. I also find that the upper edge of bra cups is much smoother when finished with stretch lace instead of elastic. I think that is part of the reason why I am such a fan of the Panache Andorra.

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  7. Congratulations on getting such good results! And you’re so brave to actually cut things apart, although I can totally see you’d be right to do it in order to get all the subtle curves correctly.
    But please try not to perpetuate those sewing urban myths like the Kwik-Sew too- wide crotch. This was a pattern that was for boy shorts, like the ones you’re wearing now, so obviously the ‘wide’ part was supposed to come down the leg a short bit. People who had never worn this style and who were rather beginning sewers decided the pattern was wrong and hacked away till they had the briefs they were familiar with. That doesn’t make the -pattern- wrong ;-). It’s time to stop badmouthing KS because they weren’t really online at the time to snuff that problem before it got so over-amplified.
    In fact I find all Jalie undies to be perfect right out of the envelope, don’t neglect thoseas a potential source ;-).

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    1. It isn’t an urban myth – look at reviews on PR for Kwik Sew 2908. Definitely a bikini style and not boyshorts. I remember having to shave off about 1″ from the width in order to get them to match similar RTW styles.

      I am familiar with just about all the lingerie patterns out there. Some work out, but more often than not I find RTW gives me more of what I am looking for.

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  8. You make such beautiful bras!! I have just not had the courage to try sewing my own bras yet, but I have so enjoyed seeing how beautiful yours have turned out! One day I think I might just try it!

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