Making a sports bra

Panache sports bra
Panache sports bra

I don’t usually do much sports but when I do, I wear a pair of Panache sports bra. This sports bra is quite wonderful. It is an encapsulated type, which means that each breast is supported individually. The bra is double layered so all the the seams are enclosed between the layers.

Since I only have one pair of sports bra, this pair deteriorated rather quickly although I only wear it for a short time about twice a week. I’ve ordered another one but I wonder if I can make myself a pair of decent sports bra.

I took apart my old Panache to see how it was constructed. So, what makes a bra a sports bra?

The outer layer has mesh fabric in the center front and stretchy wicking materials for the rest. This layer acts as a cover and attached to the inside layer along the outer edges.
Panache sports bra Panache sports bra

All the seams are enclosed between the outer and inside layers. On the inside layer, the bridge and frame are made of absorbent jersey underlined with non stretch mesh. The back band is powernet, strengthened by the wicking material on the outer layer. The bra has foam cups, all the edges of the cups reinforced with a strip of interfacing. The underwires are enclosed in a wide casing that has silicone cushioning inside.

Panache sports bra
Panache sports bra, deconstructed

The bra has wide elastic (13 mm) on the bottom edges, the stitches that hold the elastic can only be seen from the inside. The upper edges are finished with foldover elastic. The straps are shaped and padded, connected to the 2 cm width back straps. The straps can also be hooked on the back to make it a racerback. The hook and eye parts are thicker with extra cushioning.

I think both layers are first constructed individually, then joined along the bottom edges with the wide elastic. The elastic then topstitched on the inside layer with zigzag stitches. The outer layer is folded up to cover the inside layer and basted along the top edges of the cups and band. The top edges of the front are finished with foldover elastic and the covered straps are then attached to the bra. Next, foldover elastics are applied along the padded straps and bra band.

In addition to the drafting, materials and construction techniques are very important in a sports bra. Some of these materials are somewhat difficult to find. I’ve never found the silicone cushioned underwire casing or the cushioned hook and eye parts. But I guess these can be eliminated or alternated by other materials. Otherwise I can reuse the parts of my Panache bra.

Making lines on foam muslin
Making lines on foam muslin

The Panache bra has different drafting for the inside layer and the outer layer. The inside layer has cup seamlines and the outer layer is only a cover. I plan to make mine in the same way.

I started working on the outer layer by making a foam muslin with my Pin-Up Girls bra pattern. The Bra-makers Manual Volume 1 by Beverly Johnson has a chapter on drafting a sports bra using this manner.

After drawing my design lines on the foam muslin, I cut them up and traced the pieces to paper.

 

Cutting the lines
Cutting the lines
Tracing to paper
Tracing to paper, seam allowances added

This is my first muslin made with the paper pattern. The seam allowances are not trimmed yet, thus the cup wrinkles. I might move the straps a bit closer to the center front later but otherwise it looks quite good! In fact it can also work for a simple single layered sports bra without all the complicated things inside.

First muslin
First muslin

Sorry if this post has become quite lengthy and geeky! I really really love taking apart things to see how it looks inside. When I was little, I cut open my Barbie’s legs to see how the knee could bend like that (turned out it has metal hinge inside). Then I put away the body because I didnt want my mother to find the mutilated Barbie (-_-“)

Next I will continue perfecting the drafting and started to research some materials for the sports bra!

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  • Caitlin

    Did you ever finish this?? I would love to see the rest of the project!

    • Unfortunately I got distracted by other things. Maybe someday I will continue it.

  • Debbie Jones

    Daya, did you ever received a response to your question. I ask because I am on the same hunt.

    • The type of fabric was listed in the post.
      “The outer layer has mesh fabric in the center front and stretchy wicking materials for the rest. This layer acts as a cover and attached to the inside layer along the outer edges.
      All the seams are enclosed between the outer and inside layers. On the inside layer, the bridge and frame are made of absorbent jersey underlined with non stretch mesh. The back band is powernet, strengthened by the wicking material on the outer layer. The bra has foam cups, all the edges of the cups reinforced with a strip of interfacing. The underwires are enclosed in a wide casing that has silicone cushioning inside.”

  • daya Monay

    Hi! I just found this post, and I was wondering if you found out what type of fabric was used or at least the amount of stretch in the various parts. I’m on the hunt for sports bra fabric! Thanks!

  • yvette

    This is interesting. Panache bras are my favorite. Im going to make the superbra in brown to match my skin tone. Panache only make them in white, black and nude 🙁

  • This is amazing! My latest obsession is to sew built-in bras into knit dresses. So I have been taking apart my old sports bras and buying inexpensive ones in order to take them apart and figure out the construction. Thanks for sharing. Keep us posted on your progress!

  • This is so interesting – thank you for sharing!

  • Orange-Lingerie

    This method of creating your own pattern works well. You can also clone the Panache directly using the approach outlined in the Threads magazine article “Clone Your Favorite Bra” (Issue 99, Feb/March 2002). Looking forward to seeing your progress!

  • sallieforrer

    Wow this is so interesting!! I’m so impressed with you for tearing apart your old sports bra to see how it works. I’m always too scared to tear apart my ready-to-wears! But I love this undertaking! Look forward to seeing the next installment!

  • So impressive Novita! I saw bits of this on Instagram and am amazed how well it turned out!

  • I’m impressed, that’s really thorough work you’re doing!

  • Crafty Albumine

    I love this post… so interesting. Thank you for opening my eyes to a new sewing world

  • i love the geekyness! this is super interesting, keep us posted!

  • Scruffybadgertime

    I agree, really interesting – you’re pioneering new ground!

  • Not geeky at all, I love this kind of post! I was the kid taking apart her toys too- that Barbie comment made me laugh. 🙂

  • jen (ny)

    Wow-looking forward to see how it turns out! I just recently bought a new sports bra, not an inexpensive one, and it is rapidly falling apart : ( ! Hooks fell off and the wires poked through their casing. It’s not Panache, but the style looks really similar. So–I’m really interested to hear what issues and solutions turn up. Great project!

  • Sophie

    This IS so interesting! You are like a sewing surgeon. I think its the best way to learn, mutilating ready-to-wear pieces.