achievement unlocked: blue & pink Shelley bra

Yeah! I am getting back into bra-making! I don’t know what took me so long. Bra-making is seriously the best. You’re working with really pretty materials, & you have to stitch so carefully & precisely, but it’s a small project so it really doesn’t take that long, & when you’re done, you have hopefully created something that you will use all the time. & as an added bonus, people’s minds are fucking blown when you tell them you sew your own bras. Some moms started talking to me about it when Ramona & I went on our preschool tour a week or two ago, & people were freaking out. Even though the reality is that anyone can sew their own bra if they have the right materials, can reliably follow a seam allowance, & can sew elastic.

Let’s go to the tape!


This is the Shelley bra from Pin-Up Girls. It’s a full-band bra with a split lower cup & a power bar. The upper cup is lace–stretch lace in this case, but the pattern is designed to work with stretch or rigid lace. I used Duoplex for the cups & band, & powernet for the back. The fabric is a mix of two different kits from Bramakers Supply: all turquoise & all pink. I bought them when I was still too anxious to buy fabrics & findings piecemeal, for fear of buying too much or too little or just not the right thing. I didn’t love either kit on its own, so I intentionally bought both with the intent to mix & match.


Here’s the back. & I just realized the left side of the photo is a little blurry, which is a bummer. Anyway, I was inspired by Beverly Johnson’s Craftsy classes on bra-making to get a little creative with the lace, so I added it to the seam where the band is sewn to the back, & along the strap curve. This is technically just a tester bra, since it’s my first Shelley (& only my third bra ever), but I didn’t see the point in NOT using the materials I had on hand. I figured, even if it wound up not fitting, it’s worth practicing the techniques & trying things out to see what I like for next time.


I used turquoise Duoplex for the powerbar & middle lower cup, & pink for the frame, front lower cup, & straps. Pink powernet for the back, pink 3×3 hook & eye, & pink strap elastic. I used turquoise band elastic, underarm elastic, sliders & rings, & bow. I made an effort when topstitching to match the thread to whatever was being stitched. For example, when sewing the bottom band, I sewed the first pass (turquoise elastic on top of pink Duoplex) with turquoise thread in the needle & pink in the bobbin. The second pass (pink Duoplex on top & turquoise elastic on the bottom) was sewn with pink thread in the needle & turquoise in the bobbin. Obviously this wasn’t possible everywhere, but that’s okay! I combined the colors because I like the contrast, so I don’t mind that pink topstitching on the turquoise middle cup.

I made a real effort to mirror the lace, on the cups & on the back. & I pretty much nailed it. My only concern is that there is a spot of widely-spaced lace detail on the upper cups just under where they attach to the middle frame. That’s an area that is under a certain degree of strain on this bra, & it makes it look like it’s holding on by a literal thread.


You can see it here, if you follow the trail of the lace stem along underneath the bow. We’ll see if this ends up being an actual structural concern as time goes on. This photo also makes clear that I really need a vertical wire instead of a regular one, but never fear, they have already been ordered, & I will replace the wires in this bra when they arrive.

My main issue with this bra is that I pulled the band elastic a little too tightly under the cups, so the entire band is a little bit tight, & that is distorting the top of the cup just a tiny bit. See how it looks a little small along the upper cup? When I put in a bra extender (which I’m not using in this photo), the problem resolves. I plan to sew another with a little more stretch in the band, & also to raise the bridge just a hair. Hopefully these changes combined with vertical wires will give a slightly better fit, though this one is definitely completely wearable.


Detail of the lace on the back.


Inside the cup. I used channeling from two different findings kits that were supposedly both pink, but one really looked beige. I don’t know if it was from a different dye lot or if Bramakers Supply just goofed & sent me beige instead of pink. It doesn’t matter because it’s just in one cup.

You can also see here that I stabilized the lace upper cup with stay tape. & I totally regret it. I’ve stabilized seams in various knit garments with stay tape, & I always hate it because I find it really itchy. Like, wool sweater itchy. (Wool gives me hives, literally.) The stay tape in this bra is definitely irritating my skin. I have a little stripe of hive-like bumps when I take it off right where the stay tape is. Next time I will definitely use sheer cup lining or silk organza or something. & I will be ripping out the stay tape in this bra & replacing it at the first opportunity. Does anyone else have this reaction to stay tape? I feel like everyone uses it & I’ve never seen anyone complain about it. I’ve tried a bunch of different brands & they all have this effect on me.


Interior back band.


& let’s just take a minute to pause & admire that gorgeous topstitching, especially along the wire channel. Well done, Ciara!

The underwires I had on hand were too long, so I had to trim them down & re-cap them. Which means wire cutters & a heat gun. It’s funny to think that I had to go to a hardware store to pick up a few crucial bra-making supplies. I almost don’t want to replace the wires in this bra because my bar tacks came out so damn perfect, but…I will.

So yeah! I totally have bramaking fever again. This is my first Pin-Up Girls pattern. I sewed a 40D. It needs a few small tweaks to be a perfect fit, but I think I have the right baseline. The fit on this thing is SO much better than the Elan 645, which is what I tried last year. I don’t know if it’s because of the actual drafting, or a quirk of what works best for my anatomy, or the materials I’m using, or an improvement in my construction skills. I watched all three of Beverly’s Craftsy classes on bramaking last week when Jared was out of town, & I implemented a lot of her tips here (no pins!) & have come away with so much inspiration for future bras. I placed an order for more supplies last night, & I think it’s best that we never discuss how much I spent.


Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

8 thoughts on “achievement unlocked: blue & pink Shelley bra

  1. This is so great! I have no desire to sew my own bras but I live reading about it. I love the way you combined two kits – it would have been fine but boring in one colour but the two combined is just wonderful!

    1. Thanks! I am actually not really into either one of these colors. The turquoise is too bright & the pink is too blah. But putting them both together is fun. This was kind of my tester for this pattern, so I went with fabrics I wouldn’t really mind wasting if it didn’t work out. & I have plenty from both kits to make another, which I cut out last night & will hopefully get started on later today while Ramona is napping.

      I really like sewing bras, but I understand why some people want no part of it. Just sourcing the supplies is such a pain in the butt.

  2. I love how you mixed and matched the turquoise and pink! Very inspiring – I hope you get a lot of wear out of it! Why don’t you post the photo of this to my blog or our Facebook page? Our readers would love to see it!

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