I love bralettes for the light support they offer. They're comfortable, quick to sew, and a staple in any lingerie-lovers wardrobe. However, sometimes you want a bra with a little more body without the hassle of sewing and fitting an underwire bra. Adding padding to your bralette gives an extra layer of protection between you and the outside world as well as added fullness and a small amount of structure to an otherwise unstructured bra.
First, you'll need to choose which type of padding will work best with your bralette.
The two forms of padding outlined below each have their pros and cons. Experiment with both methods and find which one works best for you!
Foam cups come in a number of shapes, sizes and densities. They include push-up, triangle shaped and balconnette. Normally found in beige, white and black, this type of padding should be purchased in a color that coordinates with your garment.
If choosing to go with pre-formed cups, select a shape that's similar to the bra shape you're making. As an example, for my Jasmine Bra , I like to use balconette style cups. For a traditional triangle bra, I would purchase triangle-shaped foam cups or swim cups.
Foam cups can be found in a vast array of sizes. Choose based on the bra size you typically buy in ready-to-wear.
One of the benefits of these types of cups is that they can be hand-stitched into existing garments and require very little effort. On the downside, it can be hard to find a cup shape that fits perfectly into a bralette, whether one you are making on a garment already in your collection.
My preferred method of adding padding is with cut-and-sew foam. This type of padding is sold by the yard and comes in an variety of colors. It's relatively thin and can be cut to fit any bra. That's the beauty of it!
Cut-and-sew foam can be a little trickier to sew than a pre-formed foam cup, but in my opinion, the results end up being smoother, more professional looking, and most importantly, more comfortable!
One quick note about adding cut-and-sew foam is that it may reduce the overall stretch of the garment. If you're just beginning to experiment with using cut-and-sew foam on a tried and true pattern, you may want to begin by sizing up slightly.
Preparing your bralette
When adding either type of padding to a bralette, you need to use a lining. For pre-formed cups, I recommend using an opaque lining; a lightweight stretch mesh is suitable for cut and sew foam.
For both methods, begin by assembling the outer shell of the bralette as well as the lining. If your bralette pattern has a center front seam, I usually sew it after attaching the foam cups to the lining.
Adding pre-formed cups to a bralette
Place your cup down on a flat surface so the concave side is facing up. Some cups will have a distinct right and left side, so be sure to take note!
Place the lining into the cup so that the wrong side of the lining is against the concave side of the padding. Pin the lining in place and use a straight stitch along the lower edge of the cup to attach the cup to the lining. Be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of your stitching line.
Adding a layer of cut-and-sew foam to a bralette
Cut-and-sew foam requires a couple of additional steps.
In this method, you need to cut your bra cup pieces out of cut-and-sew foam. Trim off the seam allowance. Butting the edges against each other, use a tight zigzag stitch to attach the pieces of the cup together. You now have a custom foam cup that can be sandwiched between your exterior layer and lining.
I usually anchor the lining to my foam down one of the bust seams, then baste the lining and foam together along the upper and lower edge.
Once you've secured your padding to the lining, you can place your assembled exterior layer overtop! Smooth out any wrinkles and pull snuggly over the foam. Pin along the upper and lower edges and baste all of the layers together.
Elastics and finishes can be applied exactly as you normally would. Be cautious as you sew through any foam areas, as these areas can get quite thick.
If you're looking for a quick fix for an existing bralette or don't have easy access to cut-and-sew foam, pre-formed foam cups are an excellent option! But, if you are carefully planning your next bralette project and want to experiment with adding padding, I recommend going the cut-and-sew route. It involves a little extra effort, but the results are well worth it!