As part of my video series about making and reviewing 10 free bralette sewing patterns, I also spend some time going over some general information about materials you’ll need to make a bralette, plus some advice on what you can do if you need to swap out materials based on availability, or your needs for support and/or comfort. In case reading is more to your preference, I figured I’d write it out here as well!
Generally, you’ll need at least one type of fabric, and this is your main or self fabric. Typically, the pattern will call for something with stretch (I don’t think I see many bralette patterns that use non-stretch fabrics, but please correct me!). This could include knit fabrics, stretch lace (either an allover lace fabric, or a narrower galloon lace), scuba, stretch mesh, stretch tulle, power net, etc.
I have noticed that there’s not really a set standard on what a fabric is referred to and the amount of stretch/support/recovery it has, but generally something like a “power net” or “power mesh” will probably have a more stable, supportive stretch than something like a stretch mesh. In my own shop, I carry stretch tulle, which I consider between a stretch mesh and power net, as well as a few limited edition stretch meshes (in amazing prints and colors).
Some patterns call for an optional lining, some require a lining. It might be used for modesty (especially if you are otherwise using very sheer or lacy materials for your main fabric), for providing additional support (if your main fabric is too stretchy), or for enclosing any raw seams. In some cases, you can use your main fabric also as lining, or anything soft and appropriately stretchy (or not, according to the pattern) will work, like stretch mesh, stretch tulle, power net, knit fabric, etc.
Something with a plush side will guarantee that it feels comfortable against your skin, and typically these will come with a decorative edge, like a picot or a scallop. Generally, although it’s not a hard-and-fast rule, you’ll use a narrower-sized elastic for under your arms, sometimes around the cups, around the top of the back band (again, depending on the pattern itself) and a more wide elastic around the band. Since you are depending on the band for support, this would be a good place to use a wider elastic if you would like more support, so perhaps a 15mm or 19mm picot elastic instead of 13mm. (If you do this and stray from the pattern suggestions, make sure you alter the paper pattern with those extra millimeters to get the fit as intended!) (Or, walk on the wild side and do whatever you want!)
For finishing the cups/underarms, I’ve seen some patterns call for using clear, narrow elastic, especially if it’s a lace edge. Or you could consider using foldover elastic. If using FOE and the pattern didn’t call for it, you may want to consider chopping off the seam allowance in that spot, since you’ll no longer be folding that away.
Typically, you should not use picot elastic for your bra straps. They’re meant to be somewhat stable to provide some support (but not all! your straps aren’t ever supposed to supporting the breasts completely). Think, if your straps are too stretchy (and picot is generally stretchier than strap elastic), then the breasts will just make the straps sag and dig into your shoulders. Not comfy!
Okay, so yes, we’re using strap elastic for the straps. Again, wider-sized elastic will generally offer more support and comfort if you require it, but you can also think about the style of your bralette. Maybe a wide, 18mm strap will look really nice, even if you don’t need the extra support. Maybe delicate 5mm straps, doubled up and criss-crossing all over the place, will look lovely. Again, always check the pattern’s recommendations first, but I think you have some freedom to choose your own adventure with the strap elastic.
If you’re making adjustable straps, your sliders need to match your strap elastic (within 1-2mm larger, maybe!) or else they won’t function properly. The rings, you can change it up a bit more, especially depending on the design. Do you plan to join several straps together in the same ring? Size up! It’s not a great idea to go smaller than your elastic size, because then it won’t fit too well (duh), but you don’t have to be as exact with the size of the rings.
And honestly, you don’t have to use rings and sliders! If you sew straps that are exactly the size that you need, or make them adjustable in other ways (ties! hooks! get crazy!), then you can leave them off completely.
A lot of bralette patterns out there are meant to be pull-on style, so you might not even need closures. Or, if it’s all made of stretchy fabric, you might just want to skip sewing a closure on, it’s up to you! If you do use a closure, like a hook and eye, you’ll just want to make sure that you’re either 1) buying the size that the pattern calls for, or 2) adjusting the pattern before you cut out your fabric to make sure that everything will line up nicely when you’re sewing. Hook and eyes are usually one of the last pieces that you put on the bralette, after you’ve constructed the whole bra, after you’ve sewn on the elastic, and it is crushing to get to the end and realize that your hook and eye is going to look wonky because it’s way bigger or way smaller than the finished band. Taking five minutes to check before you cut out your fabric could save your project, and don’t forget seam allowances from applying elastic!
Of course, there are tons of bralette patterns out there, and plenty more to come, so it’s totally possible that there will be other materials you might end up using when making a bralette, but this list probably covers a good majority of what you would need! Now go forth and make some beautiful bralettes, and if you need any materials, you know where to find them.