There is something about lingerie.
All the frothy lace and ribbons, the unexpected slits, strategic holes, and delicate materials weave an aura of sensuality and flirtatiousness too tempting to resist. It’s so intensely feminine. It emphasizes, conceals, reveals and beautifies. Lingerie is the embodiment of the feminine mystique and a potent weapon in the arsenal of the seductress. It’s also the everyday intimate companion, a secret confidence booster, and a little something just for yourself, seen by no one outside. Your choices in undies are an expression of who you are: pristine white, strictly functional beige, sensual and lacy or wildly colorful. Or maybe all of the above, depending on your mood.
I have been experimenting with sewing lingerie off and on for about two years. It grew out of my insatiable curiosity about sewing and general dismay with how expensive ready to wear lingerie is. My goodness, how can such a small thing cost so much? Of course, there are a surprising number of parts to even a simple bra, plenty of stitching and special, sometimes expensive materials are used. I won’t lie to you- lingerie pieces are not always the easiest projects, but still, I figure that you can make a bra, panties or nightie for about half what it costs in a department store, and you have the enjoyment of crafting something lovely for yourself.
Some of my experiments were utter failures. My first foray into lingerie was with a lovely grey jersey remnant piece. I made some panties and a camisole with layers of ruffles on the bodice. It was really cute. Pleased, I slept in it that night, only to find the next morning that the outfit no longer fit me. Yes, that’s right, the jersey had no recovery from stretching! Upon waking, my panties had stretched and fallen to my knees while the camisole sagged down, creating a rather unflattering look, if I may say so. Tragic! But a valuable experience.
Checking your fabric’s ability to stretch is a really, really good idea, and not just for sewing lingerie! Consider it a way to prevent wasting your time and money…someday I will recreate this project with better materials! I would also suggest a medium weight knit over anything too thin. Thin knits wear out faster and accumulate holes. Lessons learned.
My second attempt was much better. I made a pretty aqua slip and panty set from a very nice tricotine knit, this time with enough stretch recovery to actually be useful! I used Butterick’s Patterns by Gertie #B6031. I’m pleased to say this attempt has worked perfectly and is still completely wearable after two summer seasons of sleeping in it. I particularly like the cut out behind the lace around the underbust. This is a really great pattern, and I love the panties and the nightie’s straps in particular.
Last spring, I finished a slip from a 1950s pattern from Grandma’s stash, Simplicity #4470. I like the princess seams and the gathers under the bust on this one.
I used a polyester floral knit with a little stretch that she had cut into blouse pieces but never finished before she died. Lucky for me, it was just big enough to create a shortened version of the slip, now worn as a nightie. I had some lace left from the Gertie nightie, so I used it up on the neckline and the hem. It is proving to be a pretty and comfy nightie. I particularly like the floral pattern. I don’t think it’s something I would buy if I saw it on the bolt, but I love the feminine pastels and of course, the flowers. I’m all about flowers.
Then, I made my first racerback bra! I got my pattern as a downloadable PDF from Ohhh Lulu Sews. Ohhh Lulu is an awesome etsy shop that sells lingerie, and Ohh Lulu Sews is a sister shop where you can purchase digital patterns to create bras, panties, camisoles and swimwear. I bought the Josephine bra pattern and made mine from some lovely imported French stretch lace. It was my first project utilizing foldover elastic. I couldn’t find my elastics in the colors I needed, so I bought several types and dyed them on the stove, with mixed results. I did use them all anyway, and I think they harmonized pretty well with the colors in the lace, even though they didn’t all turn quite the same pink, and& one actually just turned beige. The beige one was the band elastic, so it didn’t matter as much, because all the pinks were visible elastics. It’s very comfortable, but not padded because triangular pads are tough to find around here. However, I did line it, so it has some extra softness where it counts.
I used some rose pink scraps from my jersey dress (see the Jersey Girl post) to line the bra to make some matching panties. Making panties is a great use of that scrap knit fabric taking up space in your sewing room! A girl can never have too many panties. I like this french fabric so much, I plan on doing another pair and maybe a camisole later.
Feeling sufficiently experienced, I decided to make a padded bralette and matching panties this week. I chose a lovely teal crosshatch patterned knit in a cotton blend, a remnant from a shirt I made. I’m always looking for ways to use up my monster scrap stash, and this seems like a good jumping off point. Using Colette Patterns’ Nutmeg Bralette as a guide, I made a pattern hack.
First, I cut two sets of tops, bottoms, and back band pieces, stitched them together, and then stitched them to the cups.
Once I stitched all the tops and bottoms together, I pinned my lining to the cups first and stitched all the way around the edges. My fabric sort of wanted to spring up at the center seam, so I stitched in the ditch and got it to stay down.
The outer fabric was a bit challenging with placing the cups in the right spot, and pinning them in place. I used a ready-to-wear bra as a guide for that. I had some trouble figuring out how to attach the back to the front and have it be neat and flat. I ended up folding the edges down and then folding them back and stitching both times.
Next, I was figuring out how to roll the edges under and make for a neat finish along the edges of the cups, especially across the top. It had to be very tightly stretched over the cups so it looked right, and it took lots of pinning, adjusting, repinning, and examining. I ended up doing some hand sewing to get that neat finish so I wouldn’t have a lot of stitching showing.
Then I applied some ruffled elastic across the front and used a zigzag for that, and then did the same thing along the bottom using a soft lingerie elastic with a picot edge. For my first attempt, I decided not to get too crazy with it-I left off the traditional hook and eye at the back, opting instead for elastic all the way around. Sometimes simple is best! I do plan on making a more traditional bra in the future, with the hook and eye closure, but I want to have a bit more experience before I give that a try.
I tried it on, and it felt good, so I went ahead and made the straps and attached them. I think this one is going to be very comfortable and a fast favorite.
The panties are also a pattern hack, using Gertie’s #B6031 again, but all I did differently was cut them longer and shallower at the legs to create a more boy shorts kind of look. Then I constructed as usual and finished with ruffled elastic.
The finished set looks pretty, if I do say so myself. I adore that ruffled elastic, and I love how it looks with the crosshatch knit. Not too fussy, comfortable, and most importantly, everything is covered where it needs to be
I do think I will be making more lingerie in the future because I enjoyed these projects so much. I’d like to experiment with different styles and color combinations. I think the best part about sewing lingerie is the fact you can use up those scraps from your other projects without needing to keep them forever or feel guilty about throwing them out. You’ve gotta love a project that’s cute, practical and reduces your fabric scrap clutter.The incredible amount of customization you can indulge in is a major perk, too. While this set is simple, I think I might move on to much more lacy varieties, or things with cutouts and ribbons or mesh. Goodness knows, I have enough scraps to keep me in lingerie for quite a while.