I'm certainly no expert on bra-making, since I am just beginning to explore this avenue. But, I will answer some questions based on my limited knowledge and experience. Cidell asked about tricot and the percent of stretch. The two bras that I made both used tricot and I think the beige may have had a little more stretch than the white. I have read some articles that say you want NO stretch or very LIMITED stretch in the cups. However, I also have some RTW bras that have all stretch cups. I have also seen bras with NO stretch in the cups. I think a little stretch is good for forming around the breast, but too much stretch would probably weaken any support. I think a lot of it is just a matter of trial and error. Also, a lot would depend on the pattern and cup construction. If you start studying bra patterns, you will see that some have vertical cup seams, some have horizontal, and most have some kind of diagonal. There are also 3 piece cups divided in all different places. Many of my RTW bras have seamless cups, but I think the fabric must be molded somehow in order to have this.
JoAnne asked about powernet. Powernet is a very strong fabric that also comes in varying "strengths" I don't know anything about it, but just buy what is available. I think you need at least a medium weight for the sides. Most bra patterns use powernet for the sides. Think of a lightweight girdle fabric - that is powernet. A very strong girdle (think your grandmother's) would be like a heavyweight powernet. It usually only comes in white, black and beige. I have seen it in other colors on mostly european sites - they seem to have the lead in availability of lingerie fabrics and laces over the states. Some women like to line the cups of the bra with powernet, and in my last bra I did underline the lower cup with the powernet just to try it out. It does give a little more support and limits the breast from filling out on the side of the cup. I know that some women use interfacing or fusible fleece in the lower cup, so I will probably try one of these options next.
I would suggest closely examining some of your RTW bras and looking at the following things before you begin
- What kind of fabrics are used in different parts of the bra
- How are the straps constructed? Where are the rings and slides, front or back? Are they made of fabric or elastic?
- Is there visible elastic anywhere such as where the straps attach to the bra itself?
- Look at the side/ back strap. What fabric is it made of? Is it more than one layer? How many hooks are there?
- Cup construction - how many seams are there? Are the cups made of more than one fabric? Are they lined or padded? Is there a band under the cups or a partial band?
- Look at the bridge (the little piece of fabric between the cups) what is the shape of it and how far apart are the wires at the top and the bottom? How far up (vertical measurement) does it go?
- Overall construction and appearance - do you like a lacy bra, solid color, or print? Wide or narrow straps? Wide or narrow back band? Smooth or textured fabric? Full cup or demi? Underwire or not?
Cidell mentioned that Fabricmart has a bra strap bundle right now and that might be fun to have IF you like to have your bra straps showing with your garments. You could put something like a bathingsuit fastener or the kind of fasteners for bras with removeable straps and change the color of your straps to match your tops. I like the idea of making my straps because I can make them whatever width I want and can match the fabric of my bra. They're really easy to make and its nice to have the same color as the bra.
And here's some information I wrote about support on PR:
A word (or two) about support: You may be wondering about the support on a hand-made bra. First of all, the majority of the support in a bra should come from the band. Many women are wearing the wrong size bra! If you have ever been fitted by a professional, chances are that your size changed to be a size or two smaller in the band and a size or two larger in the cup! Here's an interesting site (although in Polish) that shows the difference the right fitting bra can make.
That being said, I have found this bra to be as supportive as any other bra I own, and I pay a lot of money for good bras. One thing that really makes this bra supportive is the fact that it uses powernet for the sidebands and back. Because of this, even the first bra I made, which has the cups made out of tricot only, is pretty supportive. The rest of the support comes from the wires and cups (It should not come from the straps.) Using the wrong size wires can totally change the shape of the breast. When you buy wires, you can buy by length and width. Fortunately, wires are cheap (about $1.00/pair) so you can try a few different sizes if you're not sure. They usually are sold by the bra size (34D for example) The important thing to remember when making your bra is to make the size according to the sizing information with your pattern - NOT your regular RTW size. Kwik Sew bras can be ordered from PR and their sizing information is at Sew Sassy
size finder for Kwik Sew
I am learing a lot from the Bra Sew Along that Sigrid started a while back, and some things I have read that people do to increase support include the following
-Make the cups and sides from lycra (lcyra can cover the powernet as I did with the lace, or be used alone, although it is not as "strong" as the powernet)
-Interface the lower cups
-Make the cups from a non-stretch or very low-stretch fabric
-line the lower cup (as I did on this one) with powernet.
I have many RTW bras that have a small piece of boning placed vertically on the side just behind the cup. This adds support and I thought I would do that with this pattern if it needed it, but I haven't found that to be necessary. I have worn the first bra 4 or 5 times now and am very happy with it.