Raise your hand if you have to do an FBA almost every time you sew a top for yourself? Yeah, my hand is in the air. If yours is too, today’s post about bralettes to larger cup sizes is for you. I have a couple easy and inexpensive tricks to get a better fit in these small, medium, large, etc garments that aren’t sized for cups. I should also warn you that since today’s post is about clothing “the girls”, it’s an indelicate one. So you may want to skip it if frank talk about breasts is not your thing.
If you live in a hot climate like I do, summer presents a problem, and that problem is boob sweat. Structured bras (like the ones I wear in cooler months) become underwire suction cups for collecting sweat, not to mention the extra layers contributing to the hot problem. And that’s before having to wash them after every single wear because you sweated through them. I’ll be honest – when it’s cooler weather, I’ll wear a bra a few times before washing it, because it cuts down on my laundry and also on the number of (expensive) bras I have to buy since my size isn’t one that’s super easy to find in stores. But in the summer I can’t stand to put on a bra that’s already been sweated through – yuck!
So I’ve been thrilled over the last couple years that bralettes have become a thing. Not only are they fewer layers on the chest, there’s typically no underwire, and they’re relatively inexpensive and easy to wash, so I can wear a new one every day. There’s just one problem – since many bralettes don’t come in cup sizes, finding one that fits is tricky.
And before you wonder why I don’t just buy the materials to make them (after all, isn’t that why I sew?) – bras aren’t something I enjoy sewing. And when I buy these bralettes at Aerie (affiliate link) on sale, they cost less than buying the materials to make from scratch, plus the strap elastic, etc, is already dyed to match. And the alteration takes me less than 15 minutes per bralette.
But if you check their size chart, you see the confusion. How can XS, S and M all accommodate a 32 band size? (The answer- they don’t really. Order that medium if you’re a 32 and you’re likely to get boobs escaping out the bottom of the bra. Go with the XS and I hope you like boobs hanging out on all sides of the cup fabric.) And what about if your cup size isn’t even on the chart? If it isn’t (and possibly even if it is) I can also say that the 1/4″ elastic that comes on most of these isn’t going to offer much in the way of band support. But guess what? You can order one size up from your general size (to have enough fabric for your larger bust) and then make the band size smaller and get a pretty decent fit, which is what I now do.
The other thing I hate about bralettes is pulling them on over my head. Now I realize that might be my age showing, or maybe just my bra size, but I don’t wear pull over sports bras anymore either. So in this post I’m going to show you how to add hooks to bralettes as well, though of course that is optional.
So in addition to my most recent bralette purchase, I also ordered 5 yards of 3/4″ wide plush elastic and some hook and eye bra closures from this store on Etsy. All told, the extra supplies were $16 including shipping, but added to the sale price bralettes and I was still coming out ahead. If you don’t want to get the hook and eye closures, you can also usually find plush elastic packaged at big box sewing stores for a few dollars, so if you just want to get one bralette and try this first (which is what I did the first time) that’s an inexpensive option.
Finally, when you’re shopping for bralettes, look at the back. This technique to add hooks doesn’t work well with racerback or halter style bras. But you can still ad the elastic.
So, if you’re adding a hook, cut open the center back of the bralette.
Measure out some plush elastic – you want it to be about 80-85% of your band size. Before you cut it, it’s a good idea to pull it around yourself and see if it feels stretched firmly enough. Also keep in mind that if you’re adding a hook, you’ll be adding an inch or two to the band size, so measure your eye piece and subtract that amount from your elastic piece.
Then lay the elastic plush side up on top of the puny elastic that came in the bralette. Match the top (non picot) edge of the plush elastic with the top edge of the sewn in elastic. Using a zig-zag stitch on your machine, sew the plush elastic over the old elastic, stretching your plush elastic until it lays flat against the bra.
As you can see below, this will pull in the band size, and the wider elastic is more supportive. Note that if you don’t want to cut open and add hooks, you can sew your plush elastic around the loop of the uncut bralette, stretching so that it lays flat and that the two plush elastic ends butt up against each other in the center back.
Bra hook closures have flaps on the ends that you and open to insert the bra in between. Stick your new bra band in between the flaps of the eye piece on the left side of the bra with the eyes and bra right side facing up. Use a zig-zag stitch to stitch the eye piece to your bra, zig-zagging right over the edge. Repeat this process with the right side of your bra and the hook piece, with the bra right side up and the hooks facing down.
And voila! You now have a bralette with enough fabric to accommodate your bust, but a smaller and more supportive band so that your boobs don’t attempt to escape out the bottom. And you don’t have to contort yourself to pull that bralette over your head, because now you have a hook. Now that I have several of these, summer bra wearing is just a little less painful.Get access to my free pattern gallery - sign up for my newsletter!