Black multi color costume part 2: the bra base

I did mention that I have little time on my hands, right? The last couple of weeks I made it a habit to bring a costuming item to the couch when I watch  tv and this really helps me to get stuff done.After the last post I promised to post pictures of the bra base seperately because I assembled it by using my sewing machine.

When I started costuming, I read all the available tutorials and decided early on that I would use my sewing machine. My arguments are that all the straps can be made, covered and added with a sewing machine. Why would I spent hours on sewing them by hand if it only takes 45 minutes with a sewing machine? Machine stitching is just as secure as hand stitching, I have never had a bra strap give out on me. The thrid reason might be because hand stitching delivers a neater result. However, I usually cover my bra completely with beading and sequins. If you have never tried using a sewing machine to assemble a bra base, I urge you to give it a try. After all, normal bra’s are also made with a sewing machine. Just be careful with the underwire and the many layers of fabric, causing your needle to break.

The reason why I wanted to blog about the bra seperately is because I also covered the straps in sequined netting before attaching them to the bra thus saving even more time! You’d think with all this time saving I’d have more time to spend lounging around watching bellydance clips on youtube but that didn’t happen yet.

I started by cutting of the side straps and shoulder straps of a regular black push-up bra.

Bra witout the straps
Bra witout the straps

I put the bra cups on a bit of white cotton and drew the shape of the side straps. My side straps are straight at the bottom and slightly curved on top and I draw them on sight. It has always worked for me. I made the straps significantly longer (roughly 3″/7.5 cm each) to create a bigger overlap in the back. I like to add hook and eye closure and velcro to my ribcage straps, I need the overlap to add both types of closures.

I decided to cover the whole thing with sequined netting instead of beading by hand. For the straps, I needed to cover it in sequined netting before attaching the straps to the bra. I cut out two layers of whte cotton for both sides, then covered both straps in black lycra just like the belt. Usually when I cover a set in fabric, I fold it over the edges and hand stitch into place on the inside of the costume. With sequined fabric, this is not a good idea. Sequins in close and constant contact with your skin itches more than an ant colony with a grudge.

Side straps for the bra base
Side straps for the bra base

My grand master plan was stitch the sequined fabric to the top of the straps, cutting it off a couple of mm from the edge. The resulting slightly frayed edge would be held in place by a zig zag stitch, ensuring the sequins would stay on the fabric and hidden by beading along the edges with gold seed beads. The side straps were thus covered with this method, and attached to the bra by machine. Pin them into place, then slowely double stitch along the egdes of the wire in the bra. I broke two needles in the proces, other then that it was smooth sailing.

Cut off surplus fabric of the side straps
Cut off surplus fabric of the side straps
Bra cups with new side straps
Bra cups with new side straps

The shoulder straps were wraught in a similar way and attached to the inside of the bra cups. I kept the rest of the bra cup in it’s original shape. The devious thing about my plan is that I didn’t cover the bra cups in lycra because they are made of black fabric. I covered the connector with a scrap of sequinend fabric and stitched it down by hand. Then I took a rectangular piece of sequined fabric and covered the bra cup.

Cut out lycra to cover shoulder straps
Cut out lycra to cover shoulder straps

I like to cover my bra cups by starting on the straight edge of the bra and folding the fabric so it neatly covers the joint with the cup connector. From that point, I pin the fabric to the bra moving outwards. First I pin the straight top (in this case I used the sequined fabric to cover up the original bra shape) and down to the top of the side strap. Returning to the starting point, I pin the fabric along the lower edge of the bra, making sure to keep the sequined fabric on the outside. I end up with a sort of flap of fabric.

Covering bra cups with fabric: pin down the sides
Covering bra cups with fabric: pin down the sides

In this case, I cut off the flap, folded the edges to the inside, pinned and hand stitched into place. This creates a neat seam from the side strap to the apex of the cup. If you are going to over the bra with beading, don’t worry about creating even seams. If you plan on not using much decorating, pay extra attention to make this seam as neat and even as possible.

Cut off the remaining flap
Cut off the remaining flap
Fold raw edges to the inside and hand stitch into place
Fold raw edges to the inside and hand stitch into place

Still lazy, I sewed the fabric to the edges of the bra cup with my machine.

Sewing fabric to a bra cup with my sewing machine
Sewing fabric to a bra cup with my sewing machine

Ta-daa, the complete bra base covered in sequined fabric! The total time to create this bra from scratch was two hours. Here is a gratatious shot of the bra, belt and armbands all covered in sequined fabric.

Complete set of bra, belt and armbands
Complete set of bra, belt and armbands

In the next post, I’ll tell you all about decorating the bra.

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Black multi-color costume part 1: new belt base

Covering the belt base with fabric

As I examined the original vintage costume it soon was clear to me that I needed a new bra and belt base. Sometimes a costume can be rebuild on the original base but the fabric was already falling apart. A good piece of advice; if you are repairing or fixing a vintage costume, always make sure that the original material is in good shape. No use in rebeading fringe on  a bra that is already disintegrating. However, I didn’t have the time to create a bra and belt base completely by hand. Instead I opted for using my sewing machine for most of the work.

Only attempt such a feat after going through this checklist. Do you…

  1. have a lot of experience with manouvring and sewing thick layers with your machine;
  2. don’t mind breaking a couple of needles during the process (some sewing machines can’t handle breaking needles and need to be recallibrated, and then you’ll have no choice but hand sew everything by hand for the next week or so);
  3. have the right material to work with (if your layers are inpenetrable, don’t even try. You will kill your sewing machine).

I made sure that I checked all three of the requirements and off I went. I bought fairly thick felt on the fabric market and used it to make a new belt base and two arm bands. Simply draw your design on top of the felt (this is why I used white felt) and cut. To even the design, I folded the base with the sides together and adjusted the shape by cutting away excess. I added a couple of scallops to the upper edge of the belt and imitated the scallops in the armbands. I kept an extra bit on one side of the front belt part to leave room for overlap with the closure.

Belt base made from felt
Belt base made from felt

I covered the belt base with black lycra that I had lying around. Why lycra? Because I can stretch it so it smoothly covers the scalloped edges without wrinkles in the fabric. I put my belt base on top of the lycra with the good side of the fabric facing down. I pinned a couple of pins smack in the middle to make sure that the fabric is not shifting when I am sewing the edges. Then, cutting around the belt base with roughly 1″/2,5 cm seam allowance, I cut the lycra. This is an easy step, always to remember to err on the cautious side and cut of more fabric when you have complicated shapes or angles to cover. The extra fabric might come in handy.

Belt base pinned to fabric
Belt base pinned to fabric

Once cut, I started tucking and pinning the lycra over the scallops. For the middle front pointed edge of the belt, I first folded the fabric upwards in a horizontal line, then folded the fabric from the sides inwards. I made small cuts when needed so the fabric was easier to smoothen over the edges.

Covering the belt base with fabric
Covering the belt base with fabric

The end result:

Finished belt base
Finished belt base

Stay tuned for part 2!