one pattern, two ways: the Shelley bra

The pattern I used for the “one pattern, two ways” challenge is one I have made several times already. See my April “Flower Power” post…& my May “Inspiration Nation” post. It’s the Shelley bra, from Pin-Up Girls.


I’ve been on a big bramaking kick lately & this challenge seemed like a great way to showcase the way small alterations & fabric choices can make the same pattern look completely different.


I think of the first bra as the “Bluebird bra,” because the Duoplex I used in the cups & frame is called “bluebird” on the Bramaker’s Supply website. In real life, it’s more of a soft Wedgewood blue color. I paired with pretty yellow lace with pink accents. The Shelley is specifically designed for a lace upper cup. I made a little tweak by shortening the bridge & widening the upper cup so the lace meets above the bridge & appears continuous. I also placed a little extra lace along the bottom of the cup, & cut the frame into a Gothic arch (see the way the bottom arches up in the middle?).


But mostly I used all my lace on the back band. I used pink powernet under the lace (a necessity for a larger cup size like mine—a band constructed only of stretch lace would never give me the support I need). I also used pale pink findings throughout to pick up the pink accents in the lace.


The straps were a technically tricky bit of sewing. They are made of lace hand-basted over sheer, stable nylon. I finished the sides with Duoplex that I ran through my bias tape maker (though it was cut on the straight grain because stretchy straps are a recipe for disaster!). The end result is fairly subtle, but I love the fact that this entire bra is just covered in lace!


I call the second bra the “Vintage Valentine”. I’m not in the habit of naming my makes, but come on. This thing just SCREAMS ornate Victorian valentine! (& yes, this is me modeling it! Eek!)


I started with the polka dot netting with this one. I actually don’t really care for polka dots, nor for red lingerie, so I was really flummoxed about using this stuff in a bra. It was also VERY sheer. To make the color pop at all, I had to layer it, but the polka dots in the bottom layer were still visible through the top layer. Ultimately, I decided to use the netting on the frame instead of the upper cup, & preserve the scallops along the bottom. I just placed the low point of the scallop along the bottom of the pattern piece & cut it out that way. & then I realized that I had to layer my netting with each polka dot precisely on top of another polka dot if I didn’t want the whole thing to be an unsightly mess of random polka dots. This gave me the chance to offset the two rows of scallops, but it necessitated a LOT of very finicky hand-basting. & I had to extend the length of the back band a bit to match the longline dimensions of the frame.


So what about the cups? I thought I’d just do all red Duoplex, but I wasn’t stoked about it. It just seemed kind of blah. I happened to pile the fabrics & notions I was pulling for this bra next to the scraps left over from my rose print Marigold dress, & suddenly I had an idea! What if I cut the upper cup from those scraps of Swiss dot? I could use a bit of white lace along the top to finish the edge & soften the impact of all that red.


I happened to have several huge spools of antique rigid lace trim I picked up at a thrift store for dirt cheap. I got it out & started draping it along the cup edge & had another idea…Would ribbon fit through those little holes? I tried some of the narrowest ribbon I had & it kind of worked. I decided to keep an eye out for something even smaller.

The next day, I hit up the Hancock liquidation sales & came me across this 1/8” red polka dot ribbon. See above: re: my feelings about red & polka dots, but I knew it would be PERFECT for turning my boring white lace into bespoke insertion lace! I tried a few different treatments trying to decide if I wanted more or less ribbon showing, & if I wanted the rows even or staggered. & this is what I decided on!


I kept the back simple (just red powernet) & used white notions for a clean, bright finish. I came upon a trio of imitation pearl ball shank buttons in my stash that called out to decorate the bridge. The bra really came together once I sewed those on.


You can stop by my blog for more details & to see the matching undies I made for each of these bras (not from indie patterns, sadly, so I won’t include them here—but the Vintage Valentine undies have quite an elaborate ruffle situation happening!). Thanks for reading!


21 thoughts on “one pattern, two ways: the Shelley bra

  1. Pingback: And the One Pattern, Two Ways contest winners are…. | The Monthly Stitch

    • Thank you! Sewing bras seems really intimidating (like sewing jeans, bathing suits, etc), but really, if you can tackle elastic & follow a precise seam allowance, you can do it! Now that I’ve nailed the fit on this pattern, my handmade bras fit better & provide better support than any RTW bra I’ve ever owned. & it’s so satisfying to know that literally everything I am wearing (well, aside from shoes) is something I made myself!


    • Thanks! Give it a try sometime! I know it seems intimidating, & sourcing the notions can be a pain in the butt, but the satisfaction level is incredible!


  2. i love that pattern so much and i love what you did with it. so creative! but my cup (K) size is bigger than the pattern (H) so i wonder – how hard would it be to enlarge the cup? has anyone done it?


    • Well, you could try a sister size. The biggest size in the line is 48H, which corresponds to a 42K. You can Google sister sizes to figure out the size that might work for you.

      Also, if you have never made a bra before, or if you just want to finesse your techniques, the Craftsy classes that Beverly Johnson teaches (she designed this pattern) are 100% worth the money. She’s very responsive to student questions & could probably walk you through whatever alterations you need to change the cup size.


    • Thank you! I feel like bras lend themselves especially well to showcasing the results of small pattern alteration & fabric choices because they are comparably so small. Making a Gothic arch, for instance, is just a matter of changing the angle of the frame under the cup by less than 1/2″. But it has major impact! I love making bras, & I love the Shelley pattern, but I don’t want a drawer full of identical bras in different colors, so I am always looking for little ways to change the look & experiment with techniques & finishes.


    • Yeah, the red & white one definitely has the most hanger appeal! The Gothic arch on the blue one lends a lot of extra comfort though. & I just really love the way the colors look together.


    • Thank you! & yeah, the fit is spot on. I had to tinker a lot to get it right, making tiny 1/4″ alterations here & there. But the Shelley is a great base pattern, so it was really just a matter of perfecting.


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