It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, but I haven’t been idle. Hopefully I can get pictures of some of the fun projects here soon, but in the meantime, I decided to try to copy my black Lady Marlene strapless bra. I recently received a white 1950s Lady Marlene bra, which unfortunately doesn’t fit, but now I can compare it to my black Lady Marlene bra. I’m guessing the black bra to be from around the 70s, but the construction and materials are very similar between the two.

To get started, I googled how to copy existing clothing and foound a whole variety of methods. I didn’t really follow any, I just used a few tips from this one and some from that one. I laid down a cardboard box on my work area, then spread swedish tracing paper over the top. I used a ruler to mark a vertical line for the center seam, and a horizontal line for the lower edge. 

Swedish tracing paper is a patterning paper that is sewable, sort of similar to interfacing in consistency. It’s great for sewing a pattern to test fit or construction. I ordered mine from Amazon by searching for Swedish tracing paper. The brand I purchased is sold out at this time, but here’s a link anyway.

I aligned the center front seam of the bra along the vertical line and used straight pins to tack the seam into the line, stabbing into the cardboard box. From there, I smoothed (not stretched) out the bra along the horizontal line, pinning the lower edge up against the line. I smoothed the upper half of the bra until the side seam of the lace was perpendicular to the lower edge and pinned a few spots to secure it in place. I worked from the center outwards, but only took detailed photos of the side lace panel. At this point, I stabbed pins through the exact edge of the panel, right at the seam lines, all the way around the side panel.

I determined that the side seam needed to be perpendicular to the lower edge by examining the grain of the lining fabric. In addition, this seam is straight up and down when worn and appears perpendicular to the lower edge.

After that, I removed the pins, bra, and pattern paper. I connected the lines using a ruler and pen, smoothing any bumps. Then I cut out the pattern piece and laid all of the pieces out side by side. I made markings to match the pieces in order. Next I added 5/8″ seam allowance to each piece and cut it out again.

I used 5/8″ initially, but trimmed each piece down to 1/4″ after constructing my mockup.

I could have added seam allowance before cutting the piece out the first time, but I didn’t think about it until later. I laid my pieces out again with SA and marked the order again.

I carefully looked over the existing bras to determine the most likely order of construction. I began by sewing the lower bust pieces together, then the upper bust to the assembled lower bust. Next, I sewed the center front to the bust pieces, followed by the other side of the bust. I sewed the side panel to the assembled pieces and lastly, the back panel.

At this point, I checked for any weirdness and adjusted the lower bust panel pieces to the correct length. (I think I used the wrong side of the bust seam when I pin-traced this area.) Then, I had a final pattern to make a mockup.

Have you tried to copy an existing garment before, especially bras? Do you use a different method? Do you have any hints for construction?