Thoughts on the De Montfort University Lingerie Short Course: Bra Pattern Cutting, Grading, and Sewing

My first (and only) bra!

My first (and only) bra!

In December I spent 5 days at De Montfort University in Leicester taking the short course called “Bra Pattern Cutting, Sewing and Grading.” The decision to do this was sudden in some ways and a long time coming in others– it was really all started by my post “Do I Want to Try to Be a Lingerie Designer?

All in all, the week was exhausting and exhilarating. I really had a completely wonderful time and Leiceister was nicer than I thought it would be. I learned so much in those 5 days, I need to make sure to apply it as soo as possible and not let it slip from my mind. I feel so much more empowered to draft my own patterns and sew my own bras, as well as evaluating construction and fit.

Pattern for the Balconette style

Pattern for the Balconette style

So what did we actually do in the class? From the title, you can tell that we covered three basic areas: bra pattern cutting, sewing and grading. (For those of us in America, “pattern cutting” means “pattern drafting,” so it wasn’t just a class on using scissors properly). This class was for core sizes (usually 32A-38D) and there is a separate one that deals only with the challenges of drafting plus sizes (DD+). The primary focus throughout the week was on the drafting portion, so we ended up with about 7 different patterns that we drafted ourselves (with some more variations thrown in there). My plan is to make up a sample in each of the types of pattern so I can see what the differences are and adjust my patterns where there are issues.

A closer look at my bra

A closer look at my bra

On day 4 we actually constructed on of the bras we had made the pattern for and discussed fit and how to tell whether there were pattern or construction issues. My construction was mediocre at best and plain dreadful at worst (the elastic was my downfall), but I will excuse it by saying I was extremely exhausted by the time I got to the elastic bits. The tutor said I did things she had never seen before when it came to the zigzag stitching (and not in the good way). A little practice could definitely go a long way.

On the final day we did grading, which was both harder and easier than I expected. Overall, it’s not that difficult to do (for an unwired bra– a wired bra is a whole other story of hardship), but it is very fiddly and can trip you up if you’re not careful. Of all the pieces we did, this is probably the area I would have the hardest time repeating on my own.

Grading!

Grading!

The tutors were understanding and knowledgable, giving time to even the most seemingly random of questions (even though they often ended up being very useful!) I felt like a dunce at times not able to measure anything correctly or draw a curve that didn’t look like a sea creature’s tentacles, but I gradually improved. I also started to figure out how to use a french curve properly, which helped.

My certificate

My certificate

It was heavenly to be in a room with people who were happy to talk about bras all day long and actually be learning so many things. They also gave us biscuits, which helped. And now I have a whole folder full of patterns I drafted and my priceless lingerie knowledge that I’m just bursting to put to use. Stay tuned to see what happens next!

Would any of you think of taking a lingerie short course at DMU?

21 Comments
  1. I would love to take a lingerie course, I think it would be really cool to see how the thing I’m most obsessed with is made! I love that you’re doing this too so we can all get a “brief” insight into it (excuse the pun).

  2. That actually sounds terrific. I’m always weary of taking short programs because I wonder how much you can actually learn in that time. Too bad I live all the way across the pond. Do you mind me asking how much the course cost?

  3. Ahhh, that is so cool! Congratulations on the course and on your lovely bra! I imagine the learning curve is insanely steep, and that this first step will be so helpful to you going forward. I love seeing what other (craftier) bloggers make, and I love your taste, so I hope you continue to share your work with us!

  4. As a DMU Contour BA student I can’t agree more on everything, particularly how great it is to be in a room with many another lingerie obsessive after being the outcast lingerie weirdo for so long! Good to hear you enjoyed the short course, hopefully the Leicester Lingerie World will be seeing your face again soon :)
    Ruth

  5. Very interesting. Are you thinking of what style of bras you would like to design? Any other lingerie pieces? Also did they teach you that DD+ is plus size? I thought it depended on the band size as well. Full bust and plus size can be different markets too.

    • I’m going to try bras & knickers first and then try other things! Yes, full bust and plus size are two different markets, but in this case “plus size” is merely referring to DD+ because of the more complex construction of the cups in larger cup sizes, no matter the band size. Of course, on either end of the spectrum there are particular challenges (and different brands cater to these different markets). Plus size for bras is not really the same as plus size for clothing in this case, which is a little confusing.

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