DIY – From bra to dress

As I said in my previous post, it is really hot here at the moment. So hot, in fact, that I have contemplated making something I can wear without a bra. For me, that means something that has wires and cups that can accommodate my chest. In this case, a bra to dress conversion.

A bit of background about my bras:

To be perfectly frank, my bra-size is 34GG (sometimes 32H). Unfortunately, when I say that out loud, lots of people think that my boobs must be the size of watermelons, which is simply not true. Yes, they are bigger than average, which makes it difficult to buy clothes off the rack, but they are by no means “pornstar-big”.

For reference, here is a collection of women in 34GG bras.

It took me ages to find the right bra-size and I am so happy I finally have some idea of what I need to wear. I wore 38Ds for the longest time before I stumbled upon a certain subreddit and measured myself. The result was 36 F at first and the bras I bought in that size made me rather happy for a while. It was definitely more accommodating than a 38D, but while the cups certainly fit me better, I realised that the band was not giving me the support I wanted and that I was heavily relying on the straps to hold my boobs up. This made my shoulders hurt and the bra ride up in the back. I have some ridiculous dents on my back and shoulders from wearing the wrong bra for over 10 years! So I measured again and got to my current size. (It is not uncommon, by the way, to go up a bit in cup-sizes once you’re in a better size for your chest.)

Shopping for this “outlandish” size?

It is super hard to find bras in my size in a normal store in Germany, so Amazon is my friend. I am sure there are lots of small specialty shops, but there is nothing I hate more than being “helped” by an assistant. I hate it so much, I refrain from going to small shops where you have to ask shop attendants to get you things altogether, so when it comes to something as personal as a bra, there is no way I am going to chat to a shop assistant about my size or any fit issues.

When my husband and I recently went to the UK, I was shocked at how many sizes Debenham’s had to offer. They even had their own brand which was offered in my size! For the first time since knowing my actual bra-size, I went into a changing room with 10 bras! (I ended up buying only one, but that one bra is absolutely perfect.)

The other thing I do now is buying cheap 40F bras in Primark (F is the highest cupsize they have) and drastically taking in the band. They never last long, as they are so cheap, so I do literally just cut a bit out and then overlock it back together. I also only wear them at home. I recently had a plunge bra from there and i’m glad I didn’t go to more trouble, as the cups are currently falling apart.

Salvaging old or new bras

These cheaply bought bras, as well as old bras that I am not wearing anymore, are so useful for a bra to dress conversion. Which brings me back to my current project.

I took one of those Primark bras and started taking it apart. Not only could I use the wires, I also ripped out all of the seams on the cups and made a pattern from the pieces. It isn’t 100% correct, as the bra was made of a slightly stretchy material, so for the cotton dress I wanted to make, I had to take into account that there wouldn’t be any give in the fabric.

The cups are a littly bit (read: very) pointy at the moment, so I am still working on that, but apart from that, it fits me really well. I am so proud, as this is the first time I ever made anything remotely like a bra. I am definitely going to use this pattern again

Things I learned when doing this:

  • bra cup pattern pieces have weird shapes that I would have never thought would form something conical
  • when sewing wires into a dress, make sure they are stretched to fit around your boobs. Bras are stretchy, so they naturally widen the underwires when you put them on. The stiff cotton isn’t, so after a bit of wires poking into the sides of my boobs, I bent them into a wider shape.
  • taking a bra apart is a lot of work. There are a lot of stitches, especially around the underwire, that are very tight (and for good reason, you don’t want your bras to fall apart) and hard to take out.

These are the cups with the bottom pieces sewn together and the top still separate:

cups partially sewn

And once they’re sewn on, it looks like this:

cups fully sewn

And here is the bodice, with the gaps for the cups:

bodice part with space for cups

 

Here are some pictures of the dress in progress. Most of it is done, but I need to sew the zip into the skirt and sort out those torpedo boob cups before finishing up the lining. It isn’t hemmed yet either. I’m sorry I am showing you something half done, but I am just so proud of this.

 

bra dress from the front

Please ignore the brown bra fabric on the mannequin. Unlike me, there is no way it would fit into this dress without wearing a stuffed bra underneath. 😉

Here you can see the unfinished zip from the back (I’m only really showing you, so you can see how low it is cut in the back):

 

bra dress back

 

One of the best things about this dress is that not only can I wear it without a bra, but the back is so low, it’s the kind of dress where a bra would normally definitely show!

Another Butterick B5209 – this time for the office

It being summer and rather ridiculously hot, I felt the need to make a few dresses that had the following criteria: be very light and very flowy.

Often, I make dresses that I want to wear within a day or two. Not that I can make them within that timeframe. I have a couple of projects on my mind for autumn, but it’s so hot at the moment, nothing seems further from me than making something heavier for colder weather.

So, in an impulse to make something wearable for this weather, I went to the local Stoff und Stil shop, as I had seen this nice Viscose print on their website. Normally, I like to buy my fabrics slightly cheaper (and online) than the 10,95 € a metre I paid there. This comes out of practicality rather than looking for a bargain, as I still don’t see myself as a competent seamstress. I just don’t want to ruin expensive fabric. I really loved that print though. On top of that, I just love being able to go to a shop and look at the quality of the fabric.

I decided to make another Butterick B5209, as the long version I made earlier in the year turned out so flattering. I went for a straight A-Line skirt rather than the suggested gathered skirt and cut the back a bit longer than the front. What I didn’t take into account was that this fabric in combination with that pattern would look, shall we say, a little matronly?

I asked my husband what he thought about it and he said it looked smart. His approximate words were “Don’t wear it to a rave, but I can see you in it at the office.”

I don’t normally do smart. I guess I do smart-ish, but I like having a bit of an edge to my clothes. Then again, I am rather proud of this dress and it is somewhat elegant-looking.

Oh, and for the first time ever, I did a properly hidden zip. It is so hidden, you can’t see anything but the tag. I know that’s how it’s supposed to go, and it’s dead easy when using the hidden zip foot, that is, as long as you know you’ve got one… I did not realise for ages that I was in possession of one. I have this box of assorted sewing machine feet and I’m still learning what all of them are used for. So for some stupid reason, I am well happy with that zip.

The hidden zip I am stupidly proud of:

 

B5209 invisible zip

The fabric is pretty good at hiding my sewing flaws, so apart from a couple of seams not perfectly lining up around the zip, there is also a seam more or less on top of the bust. For some reason, this didn’t happen with the version I made before. The chiffon I used for the long version of the dress probably stretches a bit more. However, it is not unflattering and makes my boobs look smaller (which is a plus for me).

So here is my elegant take on the Butterick B5209:

 

Butterick B5209 floral front

 

Butterick B5209 side

 

Butterick B5209 back