Since Sophie was released, there’s been a million and one amazing makes of this swimsuit. The consensus: it is well drafted, stylish, and achievable.
But I can’t be the only one thinking looks great, but will it fit my mega-boobs? Let’s be real, that’s what I’m thinking about every swimsuit pattern ever, while giving it the side eye and debating if I’m going to put in the time only to be left swaying in the breeze. Because when I’m at the beach or pool, I just want the baggage to stay in place, so I can get on with swimming, jumping about, being awesome, etc. And sometimes that very simple wish seems like a tall order.
Here’s what I wanted in a swimsuit pattern:
- Actually a swimsuit pattern.
- Available in my cup size.
- Underwires for support.
- Simple, classic styling.
This basically didn’t exist, to my knowledge, when I was looking back in early 2016. When it came out, I bought Sophie on sight. It hit 3 of 4 criteria and I figured I could blend between sizes. I did and it was a journey. I got there in the end, though:
Yeah, it’s awesome, right? When I see this picture, I want to put it on and go back to that forest, STAT. I mean, I love it. I am totally proud of the end result. But before we think this just happened by magic, let’s talk about what this process actually looked like.
The Pattern: The bikini top is a 3 piece cup balconette with optional underwires and optional foam lining. If you want to read about the bikini bottom CSC editor, Paige, wrote a great review.
Size Range: 0 to 20 (27-42” under bust). Each size has 5 different cup piece options (1”-5” difference between full and under bust, or roughly A-DD). Thanks to sister sizing, it is possible to put larger cups on to smaller bands.
My Measurements: Full bust: 41.5″ Underbust: 31″ RTW: 32H
Size Made: Ultimately, it ended up being a size 6 band and heavily modified cup pieces based on a Size 20 Cup 5.
The Adjustments: Oh boy. I had no bra or swim sewing experience whatsoever. I figured CC would have me covered (and they did), and I jumped in.
I made it 3 times over 8 months. Each version was hugely time consuming. Nearly every pattern piece was altered each time; some several times over. It took lots of trial and error, but I got way better by the end.
Version 1 (white polka dot spandex):
I merged the largest cup pieces in the entire pattern (Size 20 Cup 5) onto a size 8 band. I cut everything out, put together 1 foam cup, and pinned it onto a well-fitting soft-cup bra to test. It needed way more volume.
I embarked on a totally unofficial grading up process and when through several rounds of fitting foam cups, progressively adding more volume. As drafted, the cup volume is weighted towards the center bottom of the cup. I raised that volume by changing the curve of the center cup seam. In all the changes, the grainlines got a bit wonky and I think it caused some wrinkling with the polylaminate foam that I could never fully fix.
When I got the cups decent, I put the whole thing together. My construction was messy, but I did it. The back band was huge and it wasn’t super fixable. Plus the bottom elastic kept flipping up and under the cups, so I tried turning it up again and stitching it in place, and it was weird and bulky. The cups had enough volume but somehow things were looking kind of wide and deflated. The halter was too much pressure on my neck. Nope!
Version 2 (more white polka dot spandex):
I played around more with the cup shaping. I took about 6” width out of the back band and then had to draw a much steeper angle to taper from the cup height at the sides to the narrow center back. This looked terrible and was awkward to sew.
I shortened the bottom of the band by 1/2” all the way around to eliminate the elastic flipping. I narrowed the bridge some more. I went with spaghetti straps and used 4 instead of 2. My construction was better, but I installed the underwire casing incorrectly and had to pick it out and reapply. This was a huge pain.
I also mixed up the left and right cups, sewing the wrong cup into the wrong side of the suit. Fortunately, this was a happy accident because the bust shaping was way nicer. My theory is this: as drafted, the inner cup is wider than the outer cup. I need a narrower inner cup and a wider outer cup. Thus, it worked and actually looked pretty nice. Learn from my mistake, and label the heck out of those cup pieces.
The way I had altered the back band looked weird and wasn’t great, I still wasn’t super happy with the cup shape. Plus one of my underwires poked out, so this one was mostly unwearable.
Version 3 (red airplanes spandex):
Total do-over. I printed out a size 6 and graded the band to fit the larger custom cup pieces I made for version 2. I took out 1/2” length all around the bottom edge again to prevent flipping elastic. It made stitching the elastic and underwire casing a little dicey, but there is no flipping.
Based on version 2, I used the inner cup as the outer cup and vice versa. I reshaped the cups again, adding width to the inner and outer cup pieces and reshaping their tops for a smoother curve. The most important cup change was removing length from the top cup piece to fix gaping at the neckline as per the fitting tutorial on CC (link below). Suddenly, the things were looking cute and round instead of weird and squashed. I used the same guide to customize the bridge shape. I couldn’t get the bridge completely flat to my chest, but it doesn’t really matter.
I used 2 underwires in each casing for extra support. I made 4 straps again. I made the same casing installation mistake again. Face palm. But my construction skills were much better this time around.
Fabrics: Spandex from my stash. Polylaminate foam, swim elastic, and channeling from Sew Sassy. Underwires, mesh, and more channeling from Arte Crafts. I had a positive experience with all the materials and both vendors. I bought enough to make several suits; all the specialty gear was pricey.
Instructions: Closet Case is known for their great instructions, and this was no exception. They were very detailed, held my hand, and guided me through. The instructions are dense and jump between steps for all the different views. On a couple occasions, I missed a step while I was fast-forwarding. Oops!
Construction: I sewed the whole thing on a regular sewing machine. The hardest part was the underwire casing, and the instructions are right: go slow and don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Practicing really helped, too.
I could not for the life of me get the elastic straps done as instructed. You’re supposed to stitch the elastic to the strap whilst making the tube and then flip the whole thing to be right side out. Attempting to flip this did me in. I eventually gave up, made the tube, and threaded the elastic through. The straps have less stretch this way but it’s fine.
The other change I made was sewing the straps directly to the cups and back. The pattern calls for using hooks, so the straps can be removable. I didn’t want to fuss with that. I also did not want those straps coming unhooked, like ever, but especially while swimming.
While the overall style and silhouette of Sophie is completely lovely, the reality is that it is not drafted for anything larger a DD cup. That being said, it translated pretty well. There’s a couple details that didn’t work as well, which I’ll point out and discuss workarounds.
The instructions call for attaching the straps at the outer edge of the cup. The outer edge of the cup was well into my armpit and so that strap placement was completely unfeasible. I’m assuming it’s due to mixing and matching between the Size 6 band and Size 20+ cups. I just sewed them down where it was comfortable and called it a day. Part of what I love about the design is that gorgeous, rounded cup shaping. I didn’t quite get that shaping at the neckline because of where I installed the straps. They pull the cup upward and create more of a v-shape. Oh well!
I also doubled the straps. The 2 elastic straps are definitely not supportive enough on their own for this much bust, so I made 4 straps, and used 2 to do a cross back, which was the key to this being so supportive. Alternatively, you could use the halter or create wider straps.
The bikini top fastens with a 1” hook in back. Before I got the straps on, I was concerned that this might be uncomfortable. 1” is a narrow closure and it can channel a significant amount of bust weight into a very small point on your back. Fortunately, all the straps I added mitigated this. It was totally fine for goofing around in the pool (and aided by buoyant force).
I also find it challenging to actually use the hook. The folded over elastic and fabric is so thick, it can be a little tricky to latch. Because of the way I did the cross-back straps, I can’t hook in the front, turn it around to the back, and slide on the straps; I have to hook it with the straps in place.
Final Fit: Adjusting this pattern took a lot of time, energy, and work. This is less of a criticism of the pattern, and more of the reality that my adjustments were pushing the envelope of how it was designed and that I was learning as I went. If anything, the fact that I made such significant alterations and it all still worked is a testament to the fact that it is a good, solid pattern.
That being said, it would have been most ideal to start from an underwired swim pattern that was drafted for a 32H from the get go, which at the time did not exist to my knowledge. I’m not sure it even does now. Pattern makers, there’s a hole in the market there!!
But for the first time ever, I wish I had more occasion to wear a swimsuit, which I have literally never wished before. I like it THAT much. I look forward to wearing it.
I wore it a bunch over the summer. I actually swam in it. Everything stays were it belongs, nothing has came undone, and it is fantastically comfortable and supportive. It looks great. I love the red and the airplanes. I’m proud that I did it. I feel confident that I can sew swimwear, and by extension, bras. Let’s call this a hard-earned win.
Size Range: 2 An impressive array of size / cup combos, but I do wish the sizing was more inclusive of plus sizes and larger cup sizes.
Instructions: 4 Jam-packed instructions and great online resources.
Construction Process: 4 Great, except for my arch-nemesis, strap turning.
Final Fit: 4.5 A couple of little details didn’t translate as well, but overall I’m pleased.
Overall (average): 3.5
Thanks for sticking with me. Has anyone else in the CSC community tried or thought about Sophie?