Lingerie can be more frustrating than it is beautiful. Broken underwires are a common example. It might be a favorite bra, an expensive swimsuit or a much-needed piece of shape wear. If a wire breaks, the garment can't provide the support you need. Since underwire repair shops aren't on every street corner, you'll need to find your sewing box and a little time to craft a solution. Note that fixing an underwire isn't something to try on a morning before you are due at work. Instead, gather your supplies, and sit down with the project when you won't be interrupted. If all goes well, you'll be done within an hour.
Finding New Underwires
Crucial to the success of the repair is a new underwire to replace the old one. You can find them at sewing shops, craft stores and online vendors who specialize in lingerie and underwear. It's a good idea to measure the companion to the broken underwire, so you can get a good match. To do this, lie the garment on a flat surface. Measure the width of the wire between each top tip and the space from the top middle to the bottom curve. When ready to make your purchase, buy two of the same, so that you can replace them both if you want to. Another alternative is to remove an underwire from an unwanted bra, but make sure it will fit into the garment you are repairing.
Inserting and Removing Underwires
It's best to remove and insert underwires through a top point of the casing. If your casing split open on its own, just slide the old underwire out, and put the new one in. In situations where the wire broke but the casing remained closed, you will have to cut the casing. Use sharp scissors, preferably smaller ones, to make the incision. Work from the armpit side, holding the casing between your thumb and forefinger. Cut the hole at the top of the corner point, taking care to make a clean, even cut. Guide the broken wire pieces through the channel to remove them.
Closing a Ripped Casing
Closing the casing that keeps the underwire in place is the most challenging part of the repair. How you work will depend on the condition of the rip or cut. If the casing ripped on its own, it might be irregular and jagged, maybe even impossible to sew up. Some people have solved this problem with adhesive-backed moleskin, available in drugstores in the footcare section. You can cut a section, wrap the tip of the exposed wire with it and tuck the wire back in place. Use another piece to seal the rip. Give the moleskin a few hours to settle before you wear the garment. For best results, hand wash it from that point onward.
Darning a Casing
If you opened the casing with scissors or have a non-ragged opening, you can darn it yourself. Thread a long thin sewing needle with strong thread that matches the fabric, and knot the end. Make small stitches all the way around the hole without closing it, so it looks like a buttonhole. After working all the way around, sew a zig-zag stitch on top to close the hole. If needed, add another round of stitches or another zig-zag in the opposite direction. When you are satisfied that the underwire is secured, slide the needle into the casing, moving toward the bottom of the cup. Pull it out about a half-inch from its entry point, and cut it. This will keep the loose thread inside.
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Amy Stanbrough is a writer of fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in "Bust," "Woman's World," "Southern Exposure" and many other publications. Stanbrough holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from George Mason University.
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