Are you an aspiring fashion designer? A solopreneur launching an intimates brand? A DIY gal who's attempting to design her own undergarments? Or maybe you're just generally interested in bra-making...
Either way, you've come to the right place!
I've been designing bras and foundation garments for over a decade for brands like Adore Me, Victoria's Secret, and Lane Bryant. I love creating a beautifully designed & constructed bra from start to finish. There's something so special about crafting a garment that can make women feel comfortable and empowered in!
Although bra-making can seem overwhelming, the basic anatomy of most well-designed bras is very similar. At least they have a lot of the same components!!
We'll break it down together... So without further ado, let's get familiar with some bra anatomy!
Most undergarments include at least 10-14 different components.
The first component is called the Gore. This is the bridge that sits between the cups, which anchors the bra to your body to offer foundational support. It can be minimal and tiny or tall and supportive. It can also be one with the cradle itself. An ideal fit would mean the gore sits flat against the sternum flush with the skin. If your gore sits away, it might mean your band is too big, or the cups are too small — sometimes, it's both.
Make sense so far?
The second component is called the Cradle. Also referred to as a "full-frame" or a "full-band," this front panel piece is attached along the bottom of the cups. A bra cradle connects the gore to the side wing with more structure than a bra with a separate gore & wing. It may just one piece or have seams, most commonly is a vertical seam under the center of each cup. See the diagram above for an example!
The Wings are usually made of stretchy fabric, most commonly microfiber or mesh. The wings are small panels that connect to the side of the cup or the cradle and wrap around the sides and back body. Most commonly, the two wings hook together at the center back. Most of the bra support should be coming from the closed band to have less strain on the neck and shoulders.
Band Size is one of the most informative parts of the bra, as it's one-half of the most common bra sizing system. The band size is critical to how well a bra fits - or doesn't fit! Band size relates to the length of your underbust measurement. In a bra that is a 34B, 34 would be the band size, and B would be the cup size. The actual band itself is the entire bottom length of the garment, from one side of the hook to the other.
The Strap is a bit more self-explanatory. The strap is connected to the front of the cup to go over the shoulder. The straps should offer no more than 20% of the total support. They also shouldn't dig in too much or leave lingering red marks.
Similarly, the Strap Platform is the connection point where the strap meets the cup. You might also use it to refer to where the strap meets at the back. The reason it's called a platform is that there is often a point where the cup and straps meet, creating a small platform at the connection.
What kind of elastic goes up against the body when it comes to giving you comfortable support and hold? That's Facing Elastic! This is a specific type of elastic used in lingerie and undergarments with a brushed, soft hand feel so that it's comfortable sitting directly against the skin. It's also responsible for most of the grip that your bra has, as fabric alone couldn't do the job. Make sure you use elastics with good recovery. Recovery is how quickly and how well the elastic comes back to its original state before stretching. It's important because it affects how quickly a garment will stretch out with regular wear.
The Apex is the fullest point of the cup, it usually aligns with where the nipples would sit on a human body. The apex's location is ultra important because if they are too far apart, your cups will feel very east-west. Most women want to feel together and straightforward, so an east-west look is not typically a good thing!
As you can probably guess, the Cup can be made of fabric alone but is often more structured with some type of foam, the cup is what actually holds the breast tissue. In this visual, the cup is made of a galloon lace overlay on top of mesh. Mesh is a netted structure fabric that often gives a sheer or transparent effect. It can vary from being very wide and open like a fishnet to a dense, more opaque look. In our visual, we used a mostly lingerie-specific lace called a Galloon. Galloon Laces have scallops on both edges, can be rigid or stretchy, and most commonly vary in width by anywhere from 2" to 20", but can be even wider.
With that, the Cup Size tells you the volume of your cup as it correlates with the band size. Both are relative to each other and are based on volume. For instance, a 34D bra contains the same amount of volume as a 36C, 38B, 40A as well as 32DD, 30DDD, and 28G.
Although not a part of the anatomy of every bra, the Underwire is definitely a critical component in many American bras. This is a curved piece of metal with rubber caps on the ends to avoid poking through. It is sewn into the wire channeling that sits along the curve of the cup. It supports the cup and maintains its shape instead of flattening and spreading out over the area.
Hanging in there, okay? Only a few more to go! You're doing great so far :)
Wire Channeling is a soft, often brushed casing that the wire is sewn into. It's sewn to the inside of the bra along the bottom curve of the cup.
Stabilizer Tricot is a rigid fabric used in areas where you want to reduce stretch. Often referred to as 'stabilizer tricot' in lingerie, this is a fine denier mesh-like fabric with minimal stretch. It is what lines the gore of your bra to prevent the center from stretching out. It can also be used in other areas where you want to minimize stretching, like the cradle or the cups.
Our final bra term to discuss is Sister Sizing. This refers to a way of identifying similar sizes that could potentially work for you. It's part of the dynamic of bra fit which is why we're explaining it here. Sister sizes are sizes that have similar measurements, but with the distribution in a slightly different way. The sizer sizes of a 36D are 34DD and 38C, for example. Going down a band means you go up a cup size. Going up in band size means going down in cup size.
Going to your sister size in the next size up might mean your bra has a comfier fit. Going down might mean more support, but it could also be too supportive if it causes discomfort. Often going up or down will result in a slight change of comfort and support, so it's essential to know how they relate.