Hello again! I wasn’t planning on splitting my leggings and sports bra into two posts, but there’s actually a fair amount to say about the bra, so it seemed logical in the end. I’m just going to dive right in and start by saying that my bra size is normally a 36DD or 38D in ready to wear, so I have a decently-sized pair of boobs (in case you hadn’t noticed) and I find it rather difficult to find a good sports bra! Sound familiar?
I’ve tried all different sorts of brands and shapes – some are pretty good and some are totally useless. But the pretty good ones are also pretty expensive! Like a lot expensive. Expensive enough for me to know that this is potentially the one…the ONE… area I might save money by making something rather than buying it. We all know we don’t sew to save money, no sirree.
Another thing I should mention is that I need a high impact bra, as I tend to favour exercise that involves running or jumping, rather than the stuff where you lie on mats and roll around slowly. Kidding – I love yoga too. The final thing I should say about my boobs is that they’re round and bouncy. Not as round and bouncy as they were 20 years ago – not by a long shot. A lonnnngggg shot. But they tend to a more “apple” shape than a pear or banana. I don’t know if that makes any difference or if I’m even making any sense, comparing my mammary glands to fruit – but I thought I’d mention it in case it does help you in some tiny way.
Power Sports Bra
So, now you know more about my boob sizing than my husband (as I found out at Christmas) let’s talk about the Power Sports Bra. I actually intended making the Endurance Sports Bra by the same designer as one of those “okay” RTW bras I own is also of the zip-front variety and I quite like it. But then the Power Bra came out and loads of those sneaky photos started popping up on Instagram. You know, the ones that whisper “Get me instead. Get meee. Look how cool and fresh and new I look”. Then, by total fluke, I happened upon a RTW sports bra that I really DID like (by Shock Absorber if you’re wondering) and it is the same shape as the Power Sports Bra, so I went for it.
What I wanted to know before I made a sports bra were three things: 1) Is it hard and fiddly to make? 2) Does it take forever? 3) Does it work?
Answers to the first two are NO and NO. Seriously. Answer to the 3rd question – see later. I started cutting the fabric for this bra on a Thursday evening and had it finished on Friday. That was with other life getting in the way, not on a dedicated sewing day. The instructions are good, but the whole thing is really vastly simplified because of the fantastic tutorial videos from Sewing with Sarah. There are so many options with this bra it can be a bit mind-blowing to begin, particularly if it’s your first time making a sports bra.
The sewalong is excellent and Sarah worked with Greenstyle officially to produce it. She divides the process up into a number of different videos starting with fabric tips and the basics of the bra construction before splitting off into the videos for each variation. Super cool and very clear.
The Power Sports Bra comes in a large variety of sizes: bands 28-46 and cups A to H. Not only that, there are, as I mentioned, a really impressive range of options. There’s a racerback front and back, and a strappy front and back. The racerback has the option for a pocket and the strappy back can be made in a crossed configuration or in a U-shape. The front straps can be made as adjustable straps and also nursing straps, and there are instructions for adding both permanent and removable cups! Finally, there is extra boob allowance for sideboob and a couple of different neckline depths. Greenstyle are really covering a lot of bases with their offering.
I love the look of the strappy back, but thought I would go for the most supportive-looking (although that may not be factual) version to give myself the best chance of support and made the full racerback version, with no little extras this time round, apart from a set of cups. Greenstyle urge you not to go by your RTW size and indeed I was slightly larger on their chart at 38E.
One of the crucial considerations for making a sports bra is which fabric/materials to use. Greenstyle suggests “75% stretch knit similar to spandex/lycra, supplex, circular knit, swim knit, etc.” On the website, they also mention 4-way stretch as a requirement. The fabric I had to use was some lovely heavyweight poly/spandex from La Mercerie. Now, it has 70% stretch one way and 50% stretch the other way, which is not quite up to the requirements and it’s not really one of the recommended combos. Nevertheless, it’s not too far off, so I thought I would try it as it worked beautifully for my leggings. I used the fabric for both the outer layer and lining, and added another layer of power mesh between the two. With cups added as well, it’s a fairly solid combination.
The construction is really pretty straightforward. It does require some techniques, such as sewing on clear elastic (which is highly recommended for added support and stability). But there really aren’t too many parts to the pattern and it goes together very neatly.
You basically, as with most bras of any type, create an outer layer by sewing the front pieces together and then the whole front to the back piece – and do exactly the same with the lining layer. You sandwich any extras between these layers (mesh, net, cups, etc), join them and attach the straps. Finally, you attach the whole thing to the band. Any little additions you wish to make (adjustable straps, pockets) are dealt with en route and none of them are too complex.
I used a combination of my serger and sewing machine for making the bra and used both the stretch stitch and regular zigzag for various functions, such as sewing on the elastic. I had a tiny bit of an issue sewing the band on, because I was trying to catch the bottom of the cups to hold them secure, but I think that was a bad idea. It made the stitching wobble and the cups are actually fairly rigid, so I don’t think it would have been an issue. I was thinking about those annoying thin cups that crumple and fold really easily in bras/swimsuits. They’re so frustrating!
So how is the bra? I know, I know, you’re desperate to find out. Well, let me start by saying this is a very comfortable bra. I would and will happily wear it for any manner of things: yoga, cycling, normal everyday wear, where it works. It is not rigid enough for running or high-impact sport though. I’d probably call it light- to medium-impact. For a first go it’s pretty great and better than probably 50% of sports bras I’ve purchased.
You can see quite clearly from the pictures I’ve posted that I need to add some structure in the side boob and upper breast area. I also have a problem with the band rolling under my boobs, which is certainly not specific to sports bras. But I suspect the main change I need to make is the fabric content.
I got out my current favourite sports bra and made a comparison. They’re actually very similar in size (the cups give my bra a slightly false impression of size – the circumference of cup is very similar to the RTW) and the neckline depth is similar. However, the RTW bra is much taller and slimmer – more of a squarish shape – confirming I definitely need to build the sides up.
But the overwhelming difference is the fabric content and stretch factor. My RTW bra doesn’t appear to have many layers and no cups, but it is RIGID. It’s made up of wicking-type athletic fabric and stiff binding and it has very little stretch at all. It makes sense of course, as that’s basically what I need to stop my boobs bouncing. The RTW bra also uses an elastic band rather than a fabric-covered elastic, but that is actually an option with the Power Sports Bra and I don’t think it’s an issue really. The bounce is happening mostly in the straps and upper chest and I have a sneaking suspicion that firmer straps alone would help a lot. I know I didn’t use the exact recommended fabric, but the recommended fabrics have a lot of stretch, so I don’t know if I even should use them. Hmm.
I think this bra pattern has a lot of potential and what I’m going to do now is go and research all those tester bras and the fabrics they used on the Greenstyle website. The testers listed all of the stores where they purchased their fabrics at the bottom of this blog post – very useful! I like to read and read, but sometimes it doesn’t mean much to me until I actually make a sample of a pattern. Now that I have, I think I have a good basis to build on, so I’m going to see where I can get with it. If you have any recommendations or tips for which fabric helped your big ol’ bust stay put, I’m all ears!
Onwards and upwards (hopefully)!