If you’re like me, and you read a lot of sewing blogs, you might have noticed that it seemed like everyone and her sister has been sewing bras in the past year or so. We’ve seen a number of popular new bra patterns released by various indie designers during this time, and it also feels like my Instagram feed has been flooded with pretty bra and panty sets. Like me, you may have been tempted by these pretty underthings, clicked a link in someone’s blog post to find out more about the pattern…and been sorely disappointed that the sizing for the pattern only goes up to a DD cup.
So, for those of us whose cup sizes run closer to the middle of the alphabet, what options are out there if we want to jump on the bra-making bandwagon? In the rest of this post, we’ll take a near-comprehensive view of the sewing patterns available in large-ish band and large cup sizes. I arbitrarily chose to list patterns that are available in at least a size 40G (US sizing), since around that size, bra pattern sizing pretty much falls off a cliff (similar to how few sewing patterns were available above a 43″ (109cm) bust a few years ago).
Underwire bra patterns
The most common type of bra pattern (and also most common type of RTW bra) is where underwires help provide some of the support for your bust. An underwire bra may have a “full band”, where you’ll have a thin strip of fabric and elastic that runs under the cups, or a “partial band”, where the cups rest directly against your ribcage. Some “full band” patterns claim that the underwires themselves are optional for those who want more support, but in most bra pattern reviews that I’ve read, most women do choose to include the underwires. Because the underwires themselves are more vital to support in partial band bras, most partial band bras require underwires. Interestingly, most of my RTW bras (all purchased from a specialty lingerie store where I was professionally fitted) are partial band bras; however, most bra sewing patterns available for larger cup sizes tend to be full band bras.
The Pin-up Girls Classic Full Band Bra pattern is the pattern demo’ed in Beverly Johnson’s bra-making class on Craftsy. It’s a fairly basic bra pattern and features seamed cups and plush elastic straps and sliders for strap adjustment. I have seem some complaints online that the cup shape can make some large breasts more pointy than the wearer would prefer. One of the nice things about this pattern (beyond being able to follow along via the Craftsy class, which nearly always seems to be on sale) is that you can also purchase kits specifically for this bra–a nice option for newbie bra makers. The classic full band bra is available in sizes up to 48H.
You can order Beverly’s bra patterns either through her own website in Canada (http://www.bramakerssupply.com/), her US distributor (http://sweetcupsbrasupply.com/) or her Etsy store (https://www.etsy.com/shop/BraMakingSupplies).
The Shelley bra is also from Beverly’s Pin-up Girls line. This is the bra pattern that I’ve seen consistently garner the most positive reviews from large-busted women. The cups have additional seaming and design options above the “classic bra”, and based on wearer comments, they seem to shape full breasts a little more nicely than the classic. The Shelley bra is available in sizes up to 48H.
The Pin-up Girls Linda bra was the only partial band bra that I was able to find that’s available in large sizes. I have not seen many reviews of this pattern online; however, the cup shape and seaming appear to be similar to the Pin-up Girls “classic” full-band bra. The Linda bra is available in sizes up to 48H.
Anne St. Clair, owner of Needle Nook Fabrics in Kansas, has been traveling the US for years offering bra-fitting and bra construction workshops. I took one of Anne’s workshops years ago and came away with a very well-fit bra. The pattern that she uses for these workshops is her Queen Bra Elite pattern, which is also available for purchase from her and her daughter’s (Monica Bravo) online shops.
I found that the pattern gave me fairly perky (for their size), slightly pointy breasts. The final bra was definitely supportive. I know that Anne will also support via email if you purchase/use her patterns.
One thing that I didn’t care for is that Anne has you construct your own straps with interfaced fabric. While I know that most of your support is supposed to come from your bra band, the reality is that you might not get your strap length perfect on the first pass, so it’s nice to at least have the option of having adjustable strap sliders. With some bra-making experience, I suspect that it would be easy to switch the strap type.
The Queen Bra Elite is available in sizes up to 48H.
When I took Anne’s workshop, her daughter Monica helped out with fitting and pattern adjustments. Monica herself has a small band/large cup size and definitely understood the issues that us large-busted women face. She has since struck out on her own with her own lingerie pattern line, Bravo Bella, which includes a multi-seamed bra pattern. I haven’t tried her pattern yet, but I do like the looks of it quite a bit (more seams are usually a good thing). I do believe that this pattern also includes instructions for interfaced straps rather than adjustable straps. The Bravo Bra #2 is available in sizes up to 48I.
The Maya bra is a free(!) bra pattern available from a Romanian designer. You can download the pattern from her site and can choose from English or Romanian instructions. The reviews I’ve read on this one seem to be fairly mixed–it works better for some women than others. The great/unique thing about the Maya is that it’s the only bra pattern available in large sizes that I’m aware of that has an option for cut-and-sew foam, which is a nice option for those of us who work in overly air conditioned office buildings. The Maya bra is available in sizes up to 44J.
Soft bra/”bralette” patterns
One of the most popular bra patterns of the past year has been the Cloth Habit Watson bra, which is a soft bra with no underwires. Not designed to provide a significant amount of bust support, the Watson is available only in sizes up to 40D, although the smaller band sizes do have some larger cup size options. Granted, most of us with larger cup sizes prefer more support than the Watson provides, but I know that there are definitely times when wearing a light support bra around the house would be nice. I did manage to find two soft bra patterns that are available in large size ranges.
Well-regarded indie patternmaker Jalie has a soft bra pattern available in sizes up to a 50″ (127cm) bust. Their pattern even has a nursing option. I know that when I was nursing, a bra like this would have been a great option for bedtime. If I were going to try a soft bra, I’d probably choose the Jalie for testing the waters.
Another soft bra option available in larger sizes is the Florence bra, released as part of one of Colette’s Seamwork magazine issues last year. With no closures, the Florence hasn’t been getting great reviews from larger busted women who have made it, but perhaps you could make some modifications to make it work?, if you really wanted to try it? The Florence is available in sizes up to a 54″ (137cm) bust.
Specialty bra patterns
Not surprisingly, there aren’t a ton of options out there if you’re looking to make a specialty bra for a large bust, but I did find a few.
Now, I would never attempt to make a nursing bra, given that my breast size was like a moving target back in my nursing days. However, if your breast volume isn’t fluctuating wildly while nursing, perhaps you’d like to attempt to sew your own nursing bras? Pin-Up Girls Nursing bra goes up to a size 40I or 48F.
Speaking from personal experience, finding large-sized sports bras that are even reasonably supportive is a difficult and expensive task. Even with the wave of activewear patterns released in the past year, I could only find two sports bra patterns that go up to reasonably large sizes. Both are from Pin-up Girls, and neither had any reviews that I could find online. The first option is the “Kerri” bra, which has a view option of being a workout top and promises “no bounce”. The Kerri is available up to a 50″ (127cm) bust.
The other bra is the Alison, which looks similar to my enell compression sports bras, with the exception being that the Alison closes with a zipper and not a set of hook-and-eye clasps. The Alison is available up to a 48″ (122cm) bust.
Have you tried any of these patterns? Which one(s) are your favorites? Are there any bra patterns for large busts that I missed in my roundup? If so, please share them in the comments.