Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vintage Style Underwear ~ Part 1

After making my 1920's dress, I began to wonder what women in the 20's wore *under* their dresses. What did they wear by way of underwear? I began looking into it and by some chance or reason came across an old etsy listing for a 1930s era pattern for undergarments. 

The pattern was sold, but I was inspired by the pictures of the pattern envelope. Women made homemade underwear in the 30's! I have made corsets, but never a bra, so felt like I could use an interesting challenge. My hope is that this set will work for any 30's, 40's, or 50's styles I might make. It doesn't seem like underwear has changed all that much since the advent of the bra.
Lacking pattern pieces, I did what I normally do and wrapped a strip of fabric around my body and pinned and cut and pulled and tucked until I had something that fit and that resembled a bra. I carefully cut it apart and made my first pattern from that. I went through another mock up, and refined the fit a bit more and then ended up with my final pattern pieces here:
I did go with a two piece cup instead of a one piece cup fitted with a dart. I simply could not get a one piece cup with a dart to fit my shape very well and the two piece works much better. I felt safe choosing this style since this original 30's bra from etsy shows what looks like a horizontal seam across each cup.
I cut my pieces from medium weight white linen. I know the material isn't fancy or pretty, but I have a horror of working with slinky, silky, flimsy fabrics and I'm going for plain and practical. No one will ever see what I wear beneath my dresses except for my husband and any interested, likewise obsessed-with-foundation-garments costumers out there, who read this post and who find this kind of thing intriguing. ; ) Here you can see the cups being sewn together. One is pinned and has been sewn, and the other has been sewn, pressed, and topstitched.
Here are both cups finished and sewn together in the center. I finished all the seams by zig zagging the raw edges of the seam allowance and pressing them open. I topstitched them down for the smoothest line on the outside.
Another view of the cups. You can see how pointy the cups are. It is a soft point instead of a hard one (this is definitely not a "bullet bra"!) but it gives a nice, uplifted, perky shape that has not been part of my life since I gave birth to and nursed three babies. The bottom of the cups kind of act like a corset in that the bottom cup is responsible for the uplift and support. The top of the cup makes sure the girls stay where they are supposed to and don't bounce out and away!  
Then I added the back pieces, sewn to the sides.
Here the back is pinned shut.
Next I need to finish the back and add the hook and eyes. After that I will need to bind the edges and add the straps and decide if I want to pretty these up in someway, with the addition of lace or ribbon or other such feminine dainties.


  1. It'll be very interesting to see how this comes out! I've been playing with the idea of making a bra, but haven't worked up the courage yet...

  2. That is really, really neat. I'm so impressed that you actually made a bra that fits and works! I don't expect to see photos of it on a live model :P,but I would love to see what you end up with when you finish it all.

    I think you're being too hard on your figure. You look great in your medieval gown. I was jealously wishing that I'd look that firm and round on top if I wore something like that. I'm all flop now. :( I don't regret nursing and hope there is lots of it left in my future, but I wish there was some way to do it and still keep attractive cleavage.

  3. I like how you described the purpose of each part of the cup. :) Sounds like I need to find me a nice 30's pattern and make myself one. You'll have to at least let us know if it's comfy.

  4. I'll be sure to let you know how it comes out. I want to make a full set of undergarments for this period, maybe even a girdle, so it will be an ongoing process.

    Emily, thanks, but, as I tell people who tell me that I "don't need to loose weight" or "you look great!" you wouldn't want to see me nekkid. ;)

    Oh well, stretch marks and saggy body parts all worth the joys (and, alas, tribulations!) of having kiddos! If this bra comes out good I'm going to see if I can modify the style for nursing when, hopefully, I will need that handy feature again.

  5. Very cool! Looks nice. Tasha over at "by gum, by golly!" *just* posted about 40's bras - not sure if you read her blog, so thought I'd mention it, in case it's useful. :)

    and a post on making some pretty 30's knickers.

  6. I also awarded you the Duchie Award for Excellence in Historical Costuming. Thanks for all the inspiration!

  7. Hello! I've just discovered your blog through my friend Beth. So blessed to find another sister in Christ with similar interests!
    Wonderful job on that 1930s bra :)


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!