Marlborough Bra: Version 1, 2, and 3!

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!

Marlborough Bra Pattern

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!

Marlborough V1 - 1

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!

Marlborough V1 - 2I 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.

Marlborough V1 - 3Here’s a closeup, isn’t it pretty? I used cream elastics, hook and eye, and underwire casing, and silver rings and sliders. The result is quite lovely and delicate.

Marlborough V2 - 1

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.

Marlborough V2 - 2

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.

Marlborough V2 - 3Since 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.

Marlborough V3 - 1On 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.

Marlborough V3 - 3I 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.

Marlborough V3 - 2

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!

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17 Responses to Marlborough Bra: Version 1, 2, and 3!

  1. Chris Griffin December 3, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    Actually, I am a 36DD, or 36E… I’m really interested in making my own bras, and its good to know that I should double check the sizing. Since bras are based on inches, I would have assumed that 36DD/E is the same in all patterns! Clearly that’s not true :(
    Hopefully you’re almost there!!

    • Caroline Amanda December 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

      I assumed that too, but I’ve realized that it’s always essential to double check the size based on that designer’s size chart. Lesson learned!

  2. Gwen Gyldenege December 3, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    I totally understand where you’re at. I’ve made 2 bras, neither of which fit properly, yet. But I will not give up. I’m about to dive into a 3rd. I would like to try Amy or Norma’s patterns, but I shy away from them as I am off both of their size charts, fuller in cup and rib cage. I do have Norma’s & the Fairy Bra Mother’s book, though. Love them both. I’ve only made Bravo Bella 2 (BB2) bra pattern. However, I recently compared & photographed my favorite RTW bra to the Me Made BB2. I wish I had done so sooner. I’m pulling together the findings for a post.

    Don’t give up. As my mom has reminded me, it sometimes takes a lot of mistakes, waste, and failed experiments before you learn enough to get the “good fit” or “final piece of art”. That’s been such a hard lesson because I dislike wasting anything, but if I’ve learned, then I suppose it isn’t a waste.

    Regarding your underwire – you’re confident it’s the right size & fit? If so, I can see how differing wires (materials, construction, manufacturing) would produce underwires that would wear differently. I’ve only used the underwires from Bravo Bella. She said that the wires she buys curve and mold to you as you wear them. She pulled one out and showed us how oddly shaped it was after she wore it, but it supported her well and held up. She is very busty. As an engineer, I appreciated seeing how something that is supposed to support, like an underwire, could still do so when it molded and reshaped instead of holding it’s original shape.

    Looking forward to seeing your next bra!

    • Caroline Amanda December 4, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

      Oh the BB2 bra looks like a good one for us full busted women. I might have to give it a try! It must be comfortable, I haven’t seen many underwired bras designed for tricot knit fabric.
      I also dislike wasting. It’s really tough to spend hours working on something you love and then realize it’s not wearable. BUT, you’re right, it’s all moving towards the goal of getting the good fit, so in the end it’s worth it.
      I’m pretty confident that my underwire is the right size, since I was fitted during my bra-making class last year! It wouldn’t hurt to experiment with one size up to see if that helps.
      Thanks for mentioning the wires from Bravo Bella, I’m going to try them out! I love the idea of a wire molding to your body as you wear, and still retaining it’s support.

  3. Bette Nordberg December 3, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    All of this angst makes me surprisingly happy to be a plain ol’ 34B. The world’s most common size, always fits, always on sale! Whew!

    • Caroline Amanda December 4, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

      Lucky you, hehe! :)

  4. Michelle December 3, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Caroline, I truly understand the frustration of thinking you’ve made all the right corrections only to finish the bra and… you didn’t get it perfect. They look beautiful, and you’re learning with each one. I hope your next one is perfect!!

    • Caroline Amanda December 4, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

      Thanks so much for the encouragement Michelle!

  5. Rina N. December 3, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    I have read this blog for a while now but I haven’t sent any comments yet.
    Have you asked for help from Norma about which size would be the best for you? After I purchased the pattern I was pretty confused about the sizing because I had sewn only Merckwaerdigh bras. She answered very quickly and gave me two different sizes (34C and 36C) and told me to try these ones. After trying those I ended up with 34D as the size I liked best.

    • Caroline Amanda December 4, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

      I haven’t asked Norma, that’s a good point. It’s great to hear that she’s quick to reply and help out. If I don’t get it right with my next version and new wires, I’ll definitely shoot her an e-mail :)

  6. Ryann December 3, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    Would love to hear about your trial of the Watson bra – love the look but don’t feel like I should take the plunge w/out knowing whether there is enough support for it to be more than just a “lounging” bra!

    • Caroline Amanda December 4, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      Oh yes I finished it and I love it! I made the longline version. For me, it is more of a lounging bra. I am going to try a version out of double knit to see if it gives me a bit more support. But I do know Tasia loves it as an everyday bra, her bust is much smaller than mine. The bikini is wonderful too!

  7. Ms McCall December 3, 2014 at 11:18 pm #

    I’ve had very similar trials and tribulations with this pattern. I did end up a 36DD in a 42 wire, at least in a fabric with a little bit of stretch, I think I’ll need some adjustments to get a non-stretch version to work. Those are such pretty bras, such a shame that none of them fit the way you want. I will say two things though – 1)Yes I do think that a different underwire can dramatically change the fit, you should try others and see if they suit you, but 2) I have found that if I just wear the non-perfect bra for the day, sometimes they end up feeling more ill-fitting but sometimes I stop noticing what ever was bothering me before.

    Bonus no. 3 – Is there anyway that any of the bras that don’t fit you now might fit at some other time of the month?

    • Caroline Amanda December 4, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

      Actually, funny you mention it. Number 2 and 3 aren’t perfect but they are wearable. I have been wearing my second one, and I don’t really notice the parts that were bothering me. It’s certainly not perfect, but it IS wearable and I like the way it looks under clothing. I’m holding out hope that a different underwire will work.

  8. joelle December 4, 2014 at 12:39 am #

    isn’t it frustrating to make something so pretty and not being able to use it?! i totally get your disapointment. and when making bras, there is no way to test the fit during construction. i find making bras really addicting though!
    i’ve also made 3 versions of the marlborough, and i’m still not happy with the fit. i seem to have similar issues to you. flat underbust and flat sides from the power bar pushing in too much. apart from that it fits nicely when i put it on, but after a bit of wear my breasts “escape” towards the center, i’m thinkin maybe because i am using stretch lace instead of a rigid one? anyways. i wanted to ask about the pattern changes you made, as i think they could help me too. when you say smooth out, do you mean flatten the line, as in making it less curvy? and what area do you mean refering to where you curved out to adress the flat underside?

    • Caroline Amanda December 4, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

      Hi Joelle! Yes she does recommend a rigid lace which I did not use, my lace has a bit of stretch, so that might affect the fit in the upper cup lace portion. On the next go I will use a rigid lace and hope it’s better!
      Yes so for the pattern adjustments, when I say smooth out I do mean make the line less curved. So what I did:
      – Power bar – made that line less curved
      – In the lower cup piece, the bottom corner where it meets the power bar, I curved out that seam a little bit. It’s subtle so I’m not sure it made a huge difference. I actually forgot to try splitting the lower cup into two pieces and curving out the new seam, which was something suggested on instagram. I might try that next time!

  9. Melinda P December 6, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

    I’m currently working on my second iteration of the Marlborough. I sewed my usual 36C the first time and it was so tight I could barely get it on, everything was just too small, and the straps were falling off. I’m taking the bra making class on Craftsy right now, and Beverly J suggested longer band, next cup size, moving the straps, and maybe splitting the lower cup. I printed off the pattern for the D, then realized than my printer was scaling it to fit.. I felt so dumb, I’d cut the whole thing for the first version using 7/8″:1″! So I’m doing the 36C again, but with a lengthened band, strap adjustment in back, and split lower cup, as I know that 1/8″ isn’t going to solve all these problems. We’ll see where the second version ends up soon… But it’s interesting to see others having similar problems even if they were smarter about the printing!