Gathering Supplies for Bra Making

In the really awesome comments to my Sewing Lingerie post, some of you were asking  if it would be less expensive to make my own bras. I’m always curious about the cost of handmade because we can all easily admit that it costs more…or does it?

I can’t compare one of my made to measure dresses to something I could get off the rack because that’s not quite apples to apples. I’d have to first and foremost compare to something made especially for me and my measurements. What are we talking about? $100? $200? I think a couple of people who make high quality custom garments could tell us if we’re warm.

That’s only talking about time. We haven’t counted materials and any other incidentals. With that mentality, let’s look at the cost of a bra I’ve bought in a store and compare to the materials first.

I’ve spent anywhere from $60-$80 on a bra and don’t get me started on the $40 I spent so my set would match. It just looks so cute! Anyway. Let’s stick to the higher end bra. The $80 one.

What do you need to make one bra? I’m going by the prices at Sew Sassy.

  • Pattern: about $10, depending on the pattern
  • Underwire: $1.10 a pair
  • Hook and Eye tape with 2 rows of eyes: 1/4 yard is $2.10
  • Half a yard of foam to make your own cups: $8.50 (depends on the style you’re making)
  • Fabric: Techsheen Fabric or Power Knit $11.98/yd
  • Bra Straps: 5/8″ wide $1.90/pair
  • Bra Strap rings: $1.45/dozen
  • Bra Strap slides: $1.40/dozen
  • Channeling: $1.20/yd and I’ll need at least a yard
  • Elastic: $.70 a yard or more, depending on the kind you want

Roughly, $40 plus shipping for one bra, though you’ll probably have extra fabric and extra rings and slides.

Conversely, a bra making kit from Bra Maker’s Supply is CAD $28 minus pattern and underwires, which you can get for about CAD $2.60 per pair of underwires and CAD $20 for a pattern. So, total, they sell the whole thing for about $50 plus shipping. Note that this kit doesn’t include the foam cups.

That’s the cost of materials. Let’s not add the time that it takes to make the first bra because it’ll take time to learn the bra making ropes. Let’s also allow the bra making process to go into the enjoyment category (once we get the hang of it) and not count our time. Plus, can we really use the full sale price on these materials when bra makers probably buy in bulk and get a discount? If I felt the desire, I could buy wholesale and cut down costs.

However, if we did count our time, we’d be looking at a more expensive bra. That would be when comparing to a mass produced bra like the ones I’ve bought, not from a custom made small batch bra maker who might charge $400 (and more likely more) for one bra. If you look at it from that perspective then the cost of materials and your time are completely and totally worth it.

How do you look at the costs of your handmades? Do you compare to Ready-to-Wear? Or to high ticket prices you might find at upscale shops? Do you know what a custom tailored jacket might cost? Did I add up the costs right? Am I missing something?

20 thoughts on “Gathering Supplies for Bra Making

  1. Vicki Kate says:

    That’s really interesting. I don’t tend to cost my projects as its not a cost saving exercise (but I do keep a record of my sewing expenditure). Bras will always be bought as I am generous in the chest and have no confidence in my engineering ability to support them!

    • Leila says:

      Let’s hope I can figure some of the engineering. At least as a challenge. I’m sure I’ll learn something about…well, who knows. 🙂 should be a wild ride.

  2. robindrush says:

    I have a strong desire to make my own bras due to large cup and band size. When I find a line that carries my cup size they only go up to 42 or 44 band. I have a customized pattern which I’ve never made and a retail pattern. I am tired of putting up with ill fitting bras so I guess I will have get busy. I’m not concerned about the initial cost. A bra that fits me in my own style, fabric and color preference would be a dream come true. Rachelle of Smoking Needles blog talks about her bra making journey and I’m really inspired by her and many others to quit stewing and start my own journey. In spite of the (initial) costs, I’ve read custom bra making is not as expensive as you might think. A little lace, spandex, and hook tape goes a long way.

    • Leila says:

      I like your attitude. I’ll have to check out Rachelle of Smoking Needles. Thanks for that one. I’m learning as I go.

      How cool that you have a customized pattern. That’s pretty awesome.

  3. Theresa in Mérida says:

    I think that while the initial outlay may be more, you will find that each subequent bra will cost less. Patterns are reusable after all. Of course, if you already have an excellant bra that fits you can just take a pattern off it and eliminate the pattern cost all together. I would prorate the pattern cost either by only counting it once or dividing it among how ever many times you project using it.

    One minor cost cutting measure is the bra slide portion. You don’t need that to be adjustable, or at least I never do, once I adjust a bra to fit I rarely mess with that unless the bra is a “convertable” style where I change them around. So anyway, I wouldn’t bother with the slides etc only the back hooks.

    Also there is nothing to say you can’t use sale fabrics and as you mentioned buy in bulk. You might want to buy elastic by the roll and split it with a few fellow bra makers.

    Also a good fitting bra makes such a tremendous difference in how your clothes fit. If I wear a sports bra with a top and maybe the next time a person sees me I have the same top on but with a well fitting bra, they always want to know if I lost weight! LOL…getting my chest up where it belongs makes a big difference.

    I also think that each subsequent bra will take less time and you might find yourself making bras to match outfits. How cute to have a bra that matches your cami!

    Anyway, from my reasearch unless you are paying full price, buying high end fabrics and throwing away your patterns, the bras shouldn’t cost more than an off the rack bra and may even cost less. Plus they will fit! that itself would be worth the extra money even if they did cost more. I always feel more confident when I look good. I believe we should dress for ourselves first because we deserve to be happy with how we look.


    ps. I didn’t comment before but I am fascinated by how you can pull off so many different looks from polished professional to fifties housewife but never look like you are wearing a costume. You have great poise and style!

    • Leila says:

      I was thinking of pro-rating the pattern, too but figured I’d want to look at it from the first chunk of money I’d throw at someone. I hadn’t thought of the slide. Makes total sense.

      I used to wear ill fitting bras and ever since I started wearing ones with smaller bands/larger cups I’ve found myself standing taller and walking with more confidence. go figure.

      Thanks Theresa for the compliment on my ability to change styles. I do like being a chameleon- probably from my time in theater.

  4. Betsy says:

    Go for it ! You have a great sense of adventure and know what you want and need–that is half the battle. You’ve done a ton of the brain work already. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the challenge if you only make one, you will have done it.

  5. Lisa says:

    I want to make my own bras. I dream about it. Nothing fits me. Big cup, small band BUT also extra flesh. I’ll be watching. I may jump in the pool.

  6. Brooke says:

    Bra making is probably one thing that would end up being cost comparable and probably less than off-the-rack options. It’s the engineering that you are paying for because it takes the most time to work out. And that’s why I’ve never really wanted to bother with making my own – too much experimenting beforehand.

    Your dress/outfit making, however, is worth FAR more than ready-made! I usually try to estimate the number of days something will take to make and I consider a rate of $100/day to be on the low end for cost of labor for custom work. So if you think about it that way, you have some rather expensive “designer” items in your closet! =)

    • Leila says:

      I’m going to give myself extra time with the bra sewing. Honestly, I’ve been trying to get good fit from store bought bras and I’m so frustrated by them…I wonder if even a step closer to better fit will make me feel like I’m doing some good.

      Part of looking at my makes, I have to remember that although I sew a lot every week, I still don’t have the know-how to make something without instruction. Well, maybe a corset.

  7. Pella says:

    I guess the pattern will be used more than once? So that reduces the cost. Also, its not very difficult to clone an old but past it favourite bra, then you don’t need a pattern at all. Similarly, underwires and sometimes some of the other ‘hardware’ will be re-usable. That said, I don’t make bras any more. I’ve only so much sewing time, the lace on the rtw ones I like is really chunky and sturdy, and the laces I’ve found, all a bit flimsy.

    • Leila says:

      I think I’ll be doing this reusing of the hardware from a bra that’s too ugly and worn to wear.

      I wonder where the realy nice laces come from?

  8. Lynn says:

    Interesting question. I have one concrete example of a made-for-me by someone else item, my wedding dress. It was a knee length, 3/4 length sleeve lace dress with a little beading on the cuffs and lined in silk. I sent in my measurements and it was made to my specifications by an online couture site based in New Mexico. Absolutely beautiful and fit perfectly for a mere $680. I am petite even using lovely lace and 100% silk lining, the materials would not come close to that price. I chose to not make my own in that case because there was too much else to do for our backyard wedding and it was too much stress, but the price is an interesting comparison point for hand made v. Custom made.

    • Leila says:

      I’m always impressed by those who make their own wedding gowns. I didn’t and I was plenty stressed. 🙂

      Thanks for telling me about the cost of your gown. Sounds beautiful, by the way. There’s something very special about a gown made just for you.

  9. anna (@RankkaApina) says:

    I see sewing as a hobby and I can spend on my hobbies 🙂 I think clothes actually are cheaper for me: I tend to like high quality fabrics and clothes, so it’s definitely better making my own even if I don’t save on the fabric. I haven’t made any lingerie yet, but I have supplies for my first bra. I have the same problem as you, my proper size is something like 28E-F, which is extremely hard to find (I get closer in France than I did in Finland, so geography matters here). I can sometimes find a basic bra, but otherwise, no deal. And the ones I usually need to buy are bit more expensive anyway. But I’d like to be able to make my own bras, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about finding one, when I really need one. I also would like to make dresses with bras in them, so that I can have a low cut back…

    • Angela B. says:

      I would like to make my own bras for the simply reason, they don’t make high intensity work training bras for 46 H and up. I ordered a sport bra that was prefect for busty women like my self. I the latgest size they had …. it did’t fit. I valled and that if they plannyht (lllynnjgj*bb

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