Making My First DD+ Bra: Review of De Montfort Plus Size Bra Pattern Drafting Short Course

34GG Bra from the De Montfort Short Course 2

After I learned so much taking the short course at De Montfort on bra pattern drafting in core sizes, I knew that I had to come back to take Plus Size Bra Pattern Cutting, Grading and Sewing. I couldn’t wait for a chance to apply my new knowledge to creating bras for full busts, knowledge that is both crucial and hard to come by.

Unfortunately the regular professor for the course was hospitalized at the last minute and wasn’t able to teach, so we had a series of substitutes and a bit of confusion on the first few days. Obviously, this was not ideal, but I did feel like I got a lot out of it despite some unforeseen organizational issues.

One thing that became clear through taking this class was just how much effort goes into creating a large cup bra. The larger a cup gets, the more the shape becomes exaggerated, which means that any defects get magnified. After constructing the bra, we looked at the alterations we would make to improve the fit and it was astonishing the way a few adjustments so improved the cup shape. When I’ve made cups in a 34B, I never even thought about making the kind of subtle pattern changes that make all the difference in a 34GG. In a 34B, the smaller volume means that a few errors of shaping don’t really show up. I think that I have a much greater understanding of the subtleties and difficulties of creating a bra that will have a flattering cup shape.

34GG Bra from the De Montfort Short Course 2

One thing we focused a lot on in the class was grading, i.e. how to grow or shrink the bra to fit different sizes. As anyone who has tried full bust bras in different sizes or seen people try full bust bras in many sizes, you know the importance of getting the sizes right across the size range. This is not so simple, especially given the many shapes of breast tissue. Although one of my classmates seemed keen on a simple formula, the teacher, Frieda, kept reminding us that grading is as much an art as a science and that there is no guarantee that two bra patterns will work under the same rules.

If you’re a frequent reader of full bust blogs like I am, you’ll know all the ways that bra fit can fail different people because of the variety of breast shapes. Faced with the task of making my own full bust bra, this truth made me wonder how anyone gets the courage to release a new full bust bra pattern, knowing that there is no way it will work for everyone.

34GG Bra from the De Montfort Short Course 3

Another educational portion of the class was simply seeing a model in all of her bras and seeing the difference between them. Seeing photos of different bras online really does not tell you a lot about the fit. I know that photo ‘fit checks’ are staples of bra fitting forums like reddit’s r/abrathatfits, but despite the hundreds of photos of bras in boobs that I’ve seen in my lingerie-blogging adventures, nothing tells you as much about bra fit or shape as seeing the example in front of you. I don’t get a chance to see of a lot of 34GG bras on a person, so it really, really helped me to see several examples!

The fit model also tried on one of the bras we made, which was great for us to see how our pattern worked out. Experiencing having a fit model for the first time meant that I could really see how little adjustments in shape work in real time. It also showed me how crucial a fit model is to the development process. A fit model has to be a good example of the consumer– but she will never be the right fit for everyone, especially the more different your size and shape. If you have a rare or unusual body shape, the problem is not only that you are a small part of the population (an economically difficult prospect for the manufacturer) but also difficult to get a proxy of and therefore address your specific fit issues. Measurements will never properly explain how breast tissue functions, so if there isn’t a ‘version’ of you available, you’ll never know. Obviously there are experts on drafting large-cup bras out there, but it was cool getting a little glimpse into that world. I hope I’ll have more of a chance to use my skills soon and draft some more full-bust bra patterns.

30 Comments
  1. Great job describing the challenges of creating bras for larger sizes. You are exactly right that every woman is so different! I have had clients with the same measurements but their bra patterns were quite different since measurements don’t convey the underlying contour and shape.

    • Thank you! I think the other thing that is hard us that a bra is not supposed to mirror exactly what’s underneath– it’s supposed to move, lift and support it, which requires a set of knowledge about shape and texture that can only come from a fitting.

  2. Yes please, I’ll have one in 30F :D. Grading is sooo critical, I’m finding having gone up 2-3 cup sizes and down a band that all the straps are really wide and are marking my skin permanently bu my armpits, as well as the straps sitting partially up on the bony part of my shoulder. Is is possible to put straps closer together on larger cups and still have good support, because the strap width almost puts me off being in my correct size?!

    • Yes, the straps closer together actually offer more support! The reason that many people like the straps wider is so that they don’t show under scoop neck tops. I think I should do a tutorial on the blog about moving straps closer because that seems like something a lot of people have issues with and could be a relatively easy fix for the home sewer.

  3. I’m so glad you shared this here! I think it’s important for people to realize that making a bra is actually really complex, and that there may be more reasons behind why something doesn’t fit your body than simple carelessness (which is all too often people’s first assumption). This kind of lingerie education is super important, and I’m glad you can bring this to the blogosphere.

  4. What a great post! Excellent explanation and information about what goes into making a fuller bust bra. I am now feeling like I need to appreciate my bras all the more, and I’m seeing the true beauty of a large cup bra that fits me well. I’m so thankful for each and every designer that deals with the complexities to create large cup bras for full bust ladies. So appreciated. I think your bra turned out lovely, also!

  5. I loved reading about this! I think it’s really important for people to know that full-bust sizes exist, yes, but also to recognize that they require a specialized skill and knowledge set. What an amazing experience!

  6. I’m so glad you’re taking this course, and I’m looking forward to reading more about the challenges. For instance, there are some gorgeous filmy, lacy Simone Perele bras that don’t go past an F. I’d love to hear your take on if it’s even possible to create them for the G+ market.

    Also, how did you feel about it being called a “plus size” course. It doesn’t sound like they focused on 38+ bands. Did they combine full bust and plus size bra making into one course, or was the focus primarily on large cups? I would have loved to have sat in on your classes–w/o doing any of the work!

    • I think it’s possible, but would require a lot of work– and plenty of lining! In this case it was called ‘plus size’ because it was ‘plus size’ cups, not ‘plus size’ in the same way as clothing. They definitely were *not* focused only on sizes for what we would usually call plus size.

      I think the name is a bit confusing, but it’s hard to come up for a name to talk about DD+ bras in general! Perhaps simply saying ‘DD+’ would have been more of a catch-all.

      Edit: I can show you my bra and we can talk about it at all the lingerie events that are coming up! I’m sure I can answer any of your questions then :)

  7. I like how you explained the “magnifying” of minor design differences that happens in full-bust bras. Many people who are new to full-bust bras get overwhelmed by the importance that shape has when buying a full-bust bra. Although the core sizes do have shape differences, it feels like shape isn’t usually nearly the dealbreaker it can be for full-bust sizes.

    I also thought it was interesting that they called it a “plus-size” drafting class, like Darlene said. There’s a bit of a difference between plus-size and small-band/large-cup bras, but “full-bust” tends to cover both of them. Why not use that one?

    Great article! I can’t wait to read more :)

    • I think the name is a bit confusing, but I’m not sure ‘full bust’ would have been that much clearer! I think that ‘plus size’ (when it comes to bras) makes sense in the industry because it simply means ‘bigger than the core sizes of 32A-38D’ but it is less clear for people who associate ‘plus size’ with its correspondence with general clothing sizes.

  8. Amazingly informative as to why the same manufacturer’s sizing can be inconsistent depending on the model. So many variables! I have far more respect for designers now (and over the past few months).

  9. As someone who wears a 34GG I wish I could loan you my breasts so that you can try out what you’re learning with another shape (and maybe, just maybe, wind up creating something that works perfectly for me? :).

    • I recently purchased BreastNest and it’s a wonderful alternative when I don’t want to wear a bra or go braless. The cups form to each breast and it’s so soft and comfortable.

  10. Where do you buy your supplies from? I’m asking because i live in Mexico, my only option is ordering online and it has to be extremely favorably price as wages here are very low.
    I do however have very good sewing skills, and do a range of bra alterations, that i want to try to start creating my own bras, seeing as anything outside of the core sizes does not exist here.

  11. Great post and congratulations on taking this course! You’re right, every woman has a unique bodyshape, almost like a fingerprint. As a bra designer (Fraulein Annie), I’m aiming for creating bras that fit as many women as possible, it will never fit EVERY woman. In order to achieve this, you have to do as many fits on as many women as possible. You have to select your fit models carefully, they need to have a body that is average for its particular size. This is to ensure that these models represent the majority of women out there. After all, the fit can only be as good as it fits your models. To make things even more complex, every material performs differently. As soon as you change any material in your bra, you have to start fitting allover again. Also, not every bra shape is for every woman. I have customers who can wear all of my bras across the different ranges but I also have customers who can only wear the Falling in Love bra and not the Bye Bye or vise versa. In a way, it is good and necessary to have so many different bra shapes and also differences in fits across all the different brands out there. The more variety, the more of a chance you have to find the bra that fits you. I admit it can be a daunting task as if to find the needle in the hey stack. But there is not hard and fast rule and you have to try before you buy. I can only recommend to visit a specialised shop and get properly fitted and helped. It is worth every penny and saves you a lot of headache and backache!

    • Thank you so much for your excellent comment! I think that part about using lots of fit models is key and I have heard very good things about the fit of your bras, so it sounds like it paid off :). Trying a lot of different styles and sizes is definitely important before finding one that works for you.

      • Yes, but the more women you fit, the more issues you come across. And you need to be careful to not create custom fit for one particular body, it has to fit other women as well. The grading chart will tell you, it has to grade all equally, so sometimes you have to make compromises. I’m my own worse critic and constantly strive for a better fit. It keeps me busy, that’s for sure :-)

      • Really good point– I definitely see how fitting too many people would just lead to more frustrations. I don’t think people realize how much compromise is necessary!

  12. I think people don’t realise how much hard work is included into making bras and that a good fit is the result of years of hard graft and a big investment. Adding sizes to the range is not as easy as it sounds, not only from a development point of view, also the manufacturing and distribution is very costly. The more sizes, the bigger the investment, the more the return needs to be. That’s why not many brands do rare sizes. Every business needs to operate with a return or they are not around for long. I sometimes wish people would appreciate it more and be less harsh when in particular small and new brands don’t make all the sizes. Right, I got this off my chest now :-)

    • It’s really hard to get a good fit in larger cup sizes! Honestly, it takes a lot of trial and error, whether you try store-bought or making it yourself. If you do try, I would love to hear about it!

  13. What a great review of this course, and clear explanation of the grading challenges! After experimenting with a lot of grading over the last couple of months, I completely understand how a shape and even a particular curve looks great in one size but starts to distort after a certain cup size. It’d be so fun to have an in-class fit model (and of course an excuse to talk bras with other classmates all week!).

    • You should try it out! I’m sure you’d very much enjoy it. I’m taking a little break from bras right now while I’m in school, but I hope to experiment with more bras and grading soon.

  14. Reading this way late, but very great content! I can’t design to save my life so I appreciate this perspective that I experience as a consumer. I’d love to take a class on this where I could observe vs. actually design. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Krista! The gap between consumers and designers is surprisingly wide– I do my best to bridge that when I can!

  15. Hello, I’m thinking of doing a couple of the short courses at DMU but i have no bra making experience. I’m currently studying fashion so I have some pattern making experience but not for lingerie. Would you say you could go into this class inexperienced?

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