The right foundation undergarments can make or break an outfit. Well fitting bras are especially critical; however, girdles, corsets, waist cinchers and bodysuits can all make the difference between a poor fit and a beautiful one. Finding good quality and well fitting foundation garments is a challenge, especially if your figure or your fashion preferences pose special requirements.
Choose a pattern. You can purchase patterns for bras and other foundation undergarments or you can sacrifice a well-fitting undergarment. The latter option is more likely to result in a good overall fit and successful end result. If you are creating your own pattern, cut apart the old garment along each seam. Carefully pin down and trace onto tracing paper, adding seam allowances as needed.
Select and order your fabrics. You will not be able to purchase foundation garment fabrics in your local fabric or craft store. Specialty retailers cater to bra sewing and lingerie making, offering the fabric and notions you will need (see Resources). Be sure to order straps, closures, and wires while shopping. Some stores even offer kits for beginners, making it easy to make sure you have everything you need to tackle sewing your own foundation garments.
Take accurate measurements. It is critical to have accurate measurements to help you choose the right size and make foundation garments that will fit and help your clothes fit well. If you are unsure of your bra size, you may find it helpful to visit a skilled fitter before you start sewing bras. Bras require an underbust, full bust and overbust measurement. If you are making a control panty, be sure that you have waist and hip measurements.
Cut out a fitting garment, or muslin, using a fabric with a similar amount of stretch. This is especially important if you are making a bra or a one piece foundation garment with a built in bra. Check the fit of the bust, both in the band and cup. Adjust the fullness and spacing of the cups if necessary.
Cut your foundation undergarment out of your planned fabrics. Line your undergarments for comfort to prevent seams from rubbing. Some undergarments, like girdles, may work best if sewn with a larger seam allowance. The seam allowance can then be pressed open and stitched down to prevent bulk. Panty girdles or similar control garments should have a cotton crotch panel for hygiene and comfort. Seams may also be satin stitched flat for a neat finish; however, this does require a slow and careful hand and cooperative sewing machine. Bras can be sewn with a traditional 1/4 inch seam allowance. Use a three step zigzag for stretch fabrics.
With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.