A British Outfit: Designing and drafting the bra

Hello all! I have something a bit different for you today. In the final year of uni I have to do an independent research project, and luckily for me I had the option to choose a practical topic. Very much inspired by Nicki's One Year One Outfit project I aim to find out how feasible it is to create an outfit of clothing that has been made exclusively from British materials. I then want to see how well each garment bears up to every day use and to see how much it would actually cost to sell these garments to the public. Included in this outfit is a bra, pants (or knickers to those under the pond), shirt, trousers, jumper and shoes. I thought it would be fun to blog about the process as I go, so let me tell you all how I got to this bra muslin that you can see below.
If you take a look at modern underwear almost every component is unsuitable for this challenge. Stretch fabrics contain elastane (or lycra) which is a synthetic (or unnatural) fibre. Elastic itself is used to hold the fabric snug against the body. Metal or plastic rings hold the straps in place and metal hook and eyes fasten the bra at the back. I decided to look back in time, right up to the beginning of the evolution of the bra in the 1920s and 30s. The unfortunate thing is that by the 30s elastic had been invented and so was still instrumental in keeping the bra snug against the body, as illustrated by this bra here. However the earliest bras made in the 20s were not made to fit close to the body, but instead just to cover the chest area. This one I found fastens with hook and eyes at the back. I also found contemporary bras made by Cara Marie Piazza of Calyx intimates which are made from naturally dyed silk. This bra from her collection and this 1930s bra were my main inspiration for the designs below, but if you want to see the myriad of vintage bras and sewing patterns I looked at they can all be seen on my pinterest board dedicated to the topic here.
I drafted a bra using the basic bra pattern given in Michael Rohr's Pattern Drafting and Grading which was published in 1961. The lines were simple, it was drafted for non-stretch fabrics and it would be easy to adapt into the design that I wanted. First I had to draft a bodice block to fit my measurements before then using that to draft the bra pattern. I used the bodice block that came with the book, but then had to take a whopping 8 inches out of the bust so it would fit my body. I then decided that it would be a good idea to muslin the bodice up quickly, get it to fit like a glove, and then draft the bra onto it.
Because I'd adjusted the bust to co-ordinate with my own measurements the bodice fit pretty well. The darts were perhaps a little high, but it was decided to leave them as is and see what would happen in the bra fitting.
This meant that I was then good to go with the bra drafting. I stopped at step number three before elastic was added in at step number four. I made the cup a princess seam by cutting down the dotted line between A and C on the pattern pieces and left the back intact.


Michael Rohr's Pattern Drafting and Grading, published in 1961
 The next step was then to trace off the pattern pieces, cut them out in calico and sew them up, ready for a fitting. You may note that the design of the bra below is completely different from my original designs, but it was nice to have a very fluid process and important not to set everything in stone. In the next instalment of this series, I'll share the fitting process. I hope you enjoyed this slightly different content from me. I'm certainly enjoying the challenge that this project brings.
Thanks for reading!
Lauren xx