Before we continue with the Afi Chic pattern adjustments series I want to talk about bra underwires and bra patterns. Add your body to the equation and you’re looking at a more complicated problem. A problem we need to understand and solve.
The thing with underwires and patterns is that patterns are drafted for specific underwires. And this is valid in two aspects.
One, a specific (or a few) underwire shape(s) is used (which can be day wear, balconette, plunge).
Two, the pattern is designed with wires having defined a specific length, or an acceptable wire length interval.
Good patterns mention both of those two things in their description/instructions. Although the second may come in two forms: the pattern provides a chart with used underwires and you can compare your wire against the chart, or in the Afi Chic case, tables per sizes are provided, and you can see the maximum underwire length for your size.
That was about patterns.
But the golden rule of a good fitting bra is: use the underwire that fits YOUR BODY.
What this means, the wire that fits you may not satisfy the two criteria we discussed just a second ago. Your wire may be shorter or longer than the pattern expects you to use. We need to compare your favorite underwire with the specs the pattern calls for. If we’re lucky, our wire matches the pattern underwire criteria. If not, we may still be able to use the pattern, but this is where wire curve length adjustment may come in.
Inspecting the underwire and the pattern
To summarize: the shape matters, and this is your first check of the pattern. If the underwire that fits your body is not a good candidate for the pattern, I guess you can move on to another pattern.
Passing the first test gets us to the second one. The length comparison. But why? Haha, haven’t you heard enough the phrase: bra sizing is different from vendor to vendor? Underwires fall in this “rule” too, unfortunately.
I could consider a 199 mm length underwire as a regular wire for an EU 75B (UK 34B / US 43B) size, while, other vendors consider the regular underwire 210 mm. That 11 mm difference in length matters for a pattern! Not using the correct length, again, means the pattern may ill fit. Yes, that 11 mm make a difference 🙂
As an example, here’s a picture with a shorter wire in the Afi Chic bra. You can see the distortion and the wrinkles. This is a relatively small size. But when this happens in larger sizes, well, you can imagine for yourself. The band is distorted, the fit of the tissue there is affected. Wearing that pulling band puts pressure on the wire, which may very soon poke the channeling.
Grab the wire that fits your body, and let’s compare it with the pattern. Trust the lengths the pattern tells you in the instructions or the charts it provides. But the best test is to compare your wire with the cradle pieces! The Afi Chic cradle has two separate pieces: B2 (outer cradle) and B3 (bridge).
The tricky thing when measuring the wire is you have to take into account the wire spring. If the underwire is rigid, thus it does not spring, you measure the wire as it is. But if the underwire allows some flexibility, then, you have to hold both ends and slightly spring the wire to match the wireline on the pattern.
The hardest thing though is to find the balance point of your underwire. What’s that? The balance point is the bottom point of the underwire on the curvature. If the balance point is not determined correctly, you can end up with an abnormally tilted cup. And this would result in an odd bra shape, which evidently means the bra won’t fit. But the talk about the balance point is longer and it would not fit in this article. Let’s leave the juicy details for another article.
For now remember the simple rule: the bottom bowl of the underwire has to be arranged to the bottom bowl of the wire curvature on the cradle. What’s it saying, is:
When you’re fitting an underwire to a (any) pattern cradle, the starting point is NONE of the ends of the wire curves. It’s the bottom bowl.
Yes, it’s tricky to measure. It’s rather a trial error operation. In time, with practice, the measuring gets easier and intuitive. But back to our pattern and your wire. Here are two wires I’m measuring for our quest.
Remember: measuring has to be done on the wireline of the pattern, not the seam allowance!
Armed with the knowledge that our wire is shorter or longer at the underarm area, we now know, the pattern has to be adjusted. In the next article, we will look at this particular adjustment. Other future posts may cover shortening in the front, or the opposite, adding length. But, one article at a time.
Adjusting the pattern is not complicated (you will see, chopping here and there). What’s complicated is understanding what you need to adjust and when.
The underwire curve is the most sensible part when it comes to altering it. Because there are curves, not lines. And because you have to pay attention to a zillion things: the metal wire, the pattern wire curve, your breast shape, and breast root.
But it’s also one of the most (if not THE most) important thing when it comes to bra fitting. You have to have it right.
I hope this article sheds some light on fitting an underwire. See you all next time. Cheers and have a wonderful week ahead!