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Tips & Techniques > adding a shelf bra

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Posted by: Dale C
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Member since: 8/24/02
Reviews: 169 (tips: 12)
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Posted on: 11/24/02 2:11 AM
Last Updated: 4/13/03 11:19 PM
Review Rating: Helpful by 9 people   Very Helpful by 19 people   
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Boobless as I am, I like having something between me and my shirt to keep things from showing through. So, whenever I make a pattern that would show bra straps, I add a shelf bra. Here's how I do it...

1) Using the front and back pieces of the original pattern (Kwik Sew 2741 was used here), I traced the neckline and side seams and center front down about 2 to 3.5 inches. This measurement depends upon the size of your bust. Mine is small, so I use about 2".

2) For the front piece, I measured from the top of my breast (where the top of the camisole would be) over the breast and down to where the bra band would run. I transferred this measurement from the top point of the camisole pattern straight down. This is where I marked the deepest part of the curve.

3) For the back piece, I matched the side seam from the front bra pattern and drew a line straight across.

4) On both the front and back pieces, I subtracted 1/4" at the bottom of the side seams tapering back up to the original line at the top. The pattern is ready.

Sewing the bra in:

1) Sew side seams for both camisole, and bra.
2) Baste the top edges together.
3) Measure elastic and make and match 1/4 marks.
4) Sew directly on around the bottom. I used my cover stitch machine, but a zigzag would work.
5) Finish top.
6) Try on and pin bra cups in. Zig zag these into the shelf bra.

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Dale C said... (4/15/03 11:24 PM) Reply
Pam, I normally use the same fabric that I use for the camisole. Any knit would work though. You could even cut up an old t-shirt to use if you have to.
Pam Z said... (4/15/03 6:17 PM) Reply
What type of fabric do you recommend for the shelf bra? I like your cami & your tank. They both look great on you! I can't wait to try a project with a shelf bra :) Thanks for your review Dale.
Diane E said... (12/7/02 1:05 PM) Reply
Dale, I finally had a chance to come back to read the rest of the comments and find all the wisdom here. These are such great techniques and will save me a ton of money on undies (so I can spend it on everything else! LOL!) Thanks again for all the instructions and sources.
Maria Hatfield said... (11/24/02 6:31 PM) Reply
Dale ! this is very interesting. i know at one time it was "ok" to have your bra straps showing or sliding down your arms. but thats not me, it bugs me and i would love to be able to do this kind of technique. im boobless too !! lol... but i still would like to keep everything under cover.. thanks for the tip/technique on this.
Dale C said... (11/24/02 6:07 PM) Reply
You have it correct Nan. I'm not sure it will work out well for someone with B or C cups. The bigger your measurements, you will have a deeper curve, thus more to ease into the elastic. I'm small on top and this works out fine for me. Also, it does angle in on the sides just slightly. I like it to be snug for support and less bulk. Don't forget to add the 1/4" for seam allowances at the bottom of the bra.
Nan said... (11/24/02 4:57 PM) Reply
Dale, This is a great tip! I want to be sure I understand your steps. In step 2, it sounds like you are getting a linear measure for the curvature of the breast, right, ie., from top of your camisole, straight down over the nipple (sorry to be blunt), then to wear you hit the ribcage. Is this right? Also, I'm not sure I understand step 4. It sounds like maybe the side seams are slightly angled from the CF of the bra piece. Is this right? Thanks Dale, btw, I like your camisole a lot Nan
Dale C said... (11/24/02 3:00 PM) Reply
Deepika, most of those places that sell swimwear/undergarment sewing notions have them. I got mine through the internet at . I wrote a review about it in the website section. They also have them at the SewSassy website. Diane, you don't need to put the bra cups in. In fact, the ones in RTW don't have the cups. I like them because it keeps things from poking through... I'm sure you know what I mean. Hope that helps. :)
Diane E said... (11/24/02 1:31 PM) Reply
Dale, this is great! These little cami/shelf bra combos are very expensive in the RTW catalogs, and would be a wonderful addition to ones wardrobe or undie drawer. One question - if one is really "boobless" - that is, a scant B cup (A+?), do you think you could make the shelf without the extra bra cups? Hmmm perhaps some experimentation is in order....
said... (11/24/02 10:19 AM) Reply
Dale, this is a very helpful tip! I have been wondering how to do this. Where did you get the bra cups? I know joanns sells some but I am not sure if they are the best.
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