Have you seen the Marlborough Bra pattern from Norma of Orange Lingerie? It’s so exciting to see new bra patterns popping up, I love that more and more sewists are getting interested in sewing lingerie!
As soon as I saw the Marlborough, I knew I wanted to make it. It’s a similar look to the Pin-up Girls Shelley Bra, my version of the Shelley is here. The main difference is that the lower cup is one piece instead of two pieces in the Shelley, and the straps have more of a ready to wear look (all elastic), instead of the partial fabric straps of the Shelley.
I was also super excited to try out Norma’s first pattern because she is so knowledgeable about lingerie. She’s written a book, I love her blog, and she runs a custom bra making business! Sure enough, I was not disappointed. Her instructions are thorough and wonderfully illustrated, with lots of tips and notes to make the construction process smooth and simple.
I’ve made three versions of the Marlborough so far, and I’m trying my hardest to get the right fit!
I spent my last bra Saturday at Sewaholic HQ making up version number one. I was so disappointed when at the end of the day, it didn’t fit! It’s my own fault really, I just assumed my usual size (36E) would translate to the 36DD in the Marlborough. Whoops! Didn’t compare it to my favorite fitting pattern (Pin-up Girls Classic Bra), and I didn’t make a muslin. There’s no way around the issues here: the cups are too small and the band is way too small!
I love the way it looks, I’m so sad that I can’t wear it myself. (Is anyone here a straight size 36DD/42 wire in the Marlborough pattern?). I chose a super soft cream stretch lace. The lower cups, power bars, and bridge are underlined with white duoplex, and lined with sheer cup lining. By lining the cups, I can enclose the cup seams, and it creates a really nice finish on the inside. The frame is simply underlined with white duoplex. I didn’t want any of these areas to stretch, so I needed to add a layer of rigidity to my stretch lace. The back band is the stretch lace underlined with power mesh.
After the cream version I decided to go back to the drawing board. I measured myself, compared that size to my TNT bra pattern, and ended up deciding on the Marlborough size 38DD. That’s one size up in the band, and one size up in the cup. The resulting bra fits (woohoo!) but it’s not perfect. There is a flat area below my bust in the cup, and the power bar seems to flatten out the side of my bust too much. There is also excess fabric along the seamline between the lower cup and the lace. Finally, the band is still a touch on the tight side.
I sewed this up quickly, so it’s not the prettiest bra. The polka dot is a stretch cotton shirting from my fabric shop – a bit light and not the best for a bra, but it served its purpose for the muslin.
Since I just used one layer of fabric in the cups, the raw edges of the seams are exposed. Not as nice as the cream version, but it’s the inside, so no one sees it except for me. All in all it’s wearable, but I really wanted to work out the fit issues in the cup.
On to version three! So for my third version, I altered the cup pattern pieces. First I smoothed out the curve along the top edge of the lower cup. I also smoothed out the curve on the inside of the power bar. As for the flat area along the bottom of the cup, I curved out the seams in that area.
I used a nude stretch lace, with mauve elastics and lavender straps. I adore these colors together – so pretty! No enclosed seams in these cups either. I simply underlined the lace with sheer cup lining, instead of underlining with duoplex and lining with the sheer cup lining. The bridge and frame are underlined with duoplex.
I wish I could say this bra story has a happy ending, but alas, not yet! I was confident the fit would be right, and it’s still not there. The cups are much better, but not perfect. I think the lace I used was not stretchy enough for the back band, so the result is a bit constricting, despite the fact that I added about 2cm to the band pattern piece. The lace is scratchy and stiff, and just plain uncomfortable to wear (even though it’s a stretch lace – I’ve realized not all stretch laces are created equally!).
I’m determined not to get discouraged. For my next version I think I’ll go really basic with the fabrics, instead of getting fussy with lace and underlining. I’m still learning how different fabrics affect the fit of bras. I don’t want my experimentation with fabric to affect the fit. For my next version I’m going to stick with duoplex, lace upper cups, and simple power mesh for the back band.
I also think I need to play around with different underwires, as I remember Anne from Clothing Engineer mentioning in one of her lingerie posts how much an underwire can affect the fit – you can read her post here. I have only tried the ones from Bra-Makers Supply so far. Could a different wire fix my cup fit issues? I’m going to order some wires from Bra Essentials and Merckwaerdigh in my size and see how that changes the fit.
Next on my list is the Watson Bra. I’ve been dying to see what Amy would come up with for her first pattern! Amy’s Ladyshorts (free pattern!) are the comfiest undies I’ve made so far. When I first saw the Watson, I was skeptical about a bra without underwires… but I’ve heard that the longline version is quite supportive. To be determined if this will be a lounge bra or an “outside” bra for me, but I can’t wait to find out!