Thursday, 9 April 2015

Open Bra Surgery - What goes into a Dance Bra Reconstruction

So I thought I would do a blog post on what goes into re-working a bra. I recently had a commission through which involved changing the shape and size of a much loved dance costume, and managed to take photos of the process, and thought I would share these to show what really goes into having to "refurbish" a dance bra!

So this was the original bra... It was a lovely "Dina" style cup, however the cup size was far too small for the owner, and the cups were too rigid to accommodate any flexibility in size or style. As much as I love Dina bras, they can be very unflattering if you aren't the right body shape! The aim of the game here was to try and recreate the design as much as possible, whilst making the bra larger and a more comfortable design.
There are a few ways you can do this, depending on the look you want to achieve, however I decided to go down the route of using a completely new bra, and re-covering and embroidering. I felt this would give the best fit, and it meant that myself and the client were able to go through plenty of different bra designs and sizes to make sure we picked the perfect fit. The first step of creating the new bra was chopping off the old straps, and covering the bra with a lining fabric. This bra was actually a swimsuit bra and so fairly rigid, and because there was not any very heavy embellishment, I could get away with not having to reinforce with any heavy duty lining or interfacing.

I then began transferring the fabric over. I call this part the open bra surgery as it involves gently unpicking every single stitch on the old bra, so that we can preserve as much fabric as possible, as well as all the beadwork which I stored in handy jars for later.

As you can see I've now made fine progress - the fabric is transferred, the bra is taking shape. What you may find if you are working on something similar is that you might have to fabric match. Luckily with this particular fabric I was able to match some similar silks in a matching cream and blue - however, what I tend to recommend is if you can't find a matching patterned fabric, I would go with a plain fabric with of the dominant colour within the pattern. If you can't find a match for a plain fabric you have - go with contrasting! See what looks best, just because you are re-furbing a bra, doesn't mean you have to stick to the original exactly.

And this is the bra during all the painstaking beadwork! At this point I was glad I took reference photos as it gets to a point where you forget what the original looked like! Everything on this was beaded by hand. I was very lucky with this particular costume as the owner is a very dedicated dancer and takes really good care of her costumes, and so I didn't need to replace any beads. If you are finding you need to replace beads however, go for the best quality you can find - glass beads give the best shine, I tend to spend at least £10 for 30 large cut glass beads, and they really do sparkle!

A few tips for if you are planning to re-work or fix up any old costumes:
1. Crystals are the first thing to deteriorate. Make sure if you are planning to sew or hot fix any crystals on to your costumes that they are A grade standard or Swarovski. A Grade are great as they are a close replica of Swarovski, however they are a little bit cheaper if you are saving your pennies. Of course, nothing beats the shimmer of Swarovski crystals! A BIG no-no for costumes is Acrylic Crystals - you know the ones, plastic, gaudy and CHEAP. I wouldn't touch those with a barge pole unless I was making throw-away garments/costumes, and neither should you!
2. Keep the straps! Sometimes when you are re-working a costume, you can re-use the straps! This can be great if you just want to change the cup size, but everything else is a-ok. And if nothing else - you can re-use the clasps on other costumes!
3. Always keep spare beads and crystals. They come in handy for repairs and re-working costumes. I like to keep some matching spares in a little tub in with each costume - so if I'm ever off to do a gig and find a crystal is missing, I can quickly re-do it before I go out! Get in the habit of checking these things, as the last thing you want is missing gemstones on your best cossie!
Good luck!
Final Note for the Day:
If you are looking for crystals, check out Eimass - these guys produce incredible hot fix, and sew on crystals and gems, and I have always found them to be a lovely quality. Shhh! It's our little secret!

If you want to use this post in your e-zine, blog or newsletter, please go ahead! But make sure that you credit Louise Brooks -