This was supposed to be a strapless bra. For reasons I have not quite determined at this moment, it is not.
I have been wanting to make a strapless bra for about four months, but the number of outfits in my possession that required such a bra numbered exactly zero until very recently. Faced with a new requirement, I decided to finally put my engineering skills to the test.
As far as my experience goes, there are two main issues with strapless bras - one is universal, one a bit more specific to my body. First, their tendency to migrate south. Second, my requirement for plunge underwires. My sternum comes together as a convex lump in the center of my chest, and it doesn't play well with underwires. The problem with this, from a strapless perspective, is that cups get a lot of their support from the wire. Since my wire can't come up very far in the middle, there's a pretty distinct lack of upper cup support present.
I used my self drafted pattern (the one that's been working perfectly for about four bras now) for this bustier, and the only modifications I made were to curve out the strap connection points on the cups and on the back band. I didn't think this was anything major, but apparently the plan did not work.
So - what actually happened - and I don't have a picture because it's just a bit more than I'm willing to show off on the world wide web, is as follows: the fit of the band is perfect, there's no slippage or anything, and the lower cup also sits well. The wire is flush against my body from tip to tip, but the whole upper cup stands away from my body, to the point that I could probably fit a whole extra boob in each cup. Generally in the bra fitting world that's a sign that the cups are too big, but that makes less sense to me considering it's a pattern I've made again and again. When I added the straps (and it's not like I tightened them incredibly or anything) the bra suddenly stands correctly against my chest, problem solved.
One thing I notice when I look at the photos of me wearing this bra is that the strap does pull the upper cup up a little, but I cut it to have an evenly sloping curve across the top. That has me thinking about the amount of stretch and give in my cup fabrics. The lower cup is two layers of cut and sew foam, covered in stable silk. The upper cup is one layer of cut and sew foam, covered in stretch lace. I would definitely qualify the cut and sew foam as a stable fabric, although it definitely has a fair amount of give, especially along the width and the bias. I did specifically try to have the direction of least stretch running across the cup (to prevent sagging) but maybe that wasn't enough? Maybe I should have included cup lining or duoplex to keep it in shape? It's possible that without the straps to provide extra support, if there's even a small amount of stretch in the cups it could lead to distortion. Even with the straps there's still some extra space in the upper cup (like, the kind you notice if you're looking for it specifically) - but it's nothing so major as to suggest the level of droop that happened pre - strap installation.
I've used a Liberty Silk from The Fabric Store for the cradle, lower cups, and for the seam tape on the inner cups, but other than that all the findings, elastics, wires, and bra fabrics came from Elle Joan's.
I dyed all of the aqua findings - elastic, channelling, powernet, closure, and sheer lining with Dharma Acid Dyes - bright aqua and black- the speckles you can see on some of the photos are from a tiny bit of black I added to dull the color just a little, but I was in a rush and didn't let it dissolve completely.
I was fairly limited in my strap connection possibilities because their presence wasn't intentional, and was therefore left to the end after I realized that no amount of poking was going to make those upper cups stand against my body. I ended up creating a pair of convertible/removable straps so that at least this bra would function well with a good variety of outfits. The straps end in G hooks at the front and back, and the bra has four tabs made from folded bits of twill tape which the hooks connect to. From the outside, the connection points are hidden and just look like bar tacks.
Even though this bra was technically a failed attempt, I'm not too sad about it because it's very wearable (plus, much the same way my other bustier does, it does some pretty amazing things as far as lift is concerned). It also means I finally have a bra made out of this fabric - I was pretty sad when I tried the Harriet Bra with this same color scheme - not all patterns fit all bodies, though. I'm definitely not done with the idea of a strapless bra, though. I just need to work on which factor (or combination of factors) led to the floppage, and figure out a way to stabilize the upper cup without raising the center underwires. I also probably at some point need to make that nude bra I keep talking about, but. Well. Here we are.