Well, I tried to make a bikini and ended up with something wearable and functional that I like!
|super cliché jumping picture: check
I'm not particularly interested in sewing my own lingerie. I'm a pretty standard size and have no problem finding bras that I like within my budget. Swimwear is a different story though! I want to be able to actually swim without worrying about flashing everyone. I want to feel comfortable, not like I have to adjust my swimsuit every time I move. And I want something I like the look of.
Enter the Sophie swimsuit! I had looked at lots of different swimsuit patterns and settled on this one because it has an underwire, which reminded me of a great bikini I owned ten years ago and never found a replacement for. Hanne recently made me a great one piece (thanks again!) so I decided to go for the bikini version. It took me a while to get going because I had only a tiny bit of experience sewing swimwear (a half-finished Ohhh Lulu swimsuit that was just too revealing at the time- I might finish it though since I don't fill it out quite as much anymore) and no experience at all sewing lingerie.
The whole cup size thing scared me a bit as well. I bought the pattern without really looking at the size chart and only noticed later that I was about one cup size bigger than what the pattern is drafted for. Heather provides some excellent instructions for sizing up and finding the right underwires, but it still gave me a headache. In the end I had printed out the size 8, compared the cradle pattern pieces to an underwire from an old bra that fit me well in the cup, and decided to risk it. I can happily say that it fits pretty damn well, and a larger cup would definitely have been too big!
Sewing this wasn't difficult (the instructions are really clear and all in all it's pretty logical how things come together) but it was fiddly. There are lots of small pieces and tiny seam allowances (which get bulky at time!) and you have to be precise. I found hand-basting worked really well to keep things in place before stitching (cough cough underwire casing) but I also have to admit that part of the topstitching has been hand-embroidered because there was no way I was getting it exactly right by machine. Ahem.
I made a test version in a different fabric before cutting into my precious grey cloud print (how perfect is that) and found a few things I wanted to change. I used this spacer fabric I got in New York on our last trip there to construct the cups, and while it works great (it adds structure but it's not too stiff and still moves along with my body) it's probably a bit stretchier than the foam that would typically be used. The pattern instructions have you use a bit of bra lining to stabilize the cradle, but I noticed how on my (unpadded) bras the cups were also lined in this material, and thought it would give the spacer cups a bit more support. I underlined the foam cup pieces with the bra lining and covered the seams with strips of swimsuit lining. It totally worked! The cups are still supple, but there's just a bit more lift in them.
|Baywatching the hell in there!
As you might have noticed, I also went for a different bottom. I made the bikini bottom as drafted (high waist and all) but don't really like the high-waisted look on me. At first I 'fixed' it by removing some of that height, but I realised I also don't really like the shape of the leg openings. I guess some people want to feel a bit more covered at the beach but I just felt like the shape made my legs look really short and stumpy, so instead I copied a bikini bottom I already owned, and added the colour blocking to match the top. It's similar to the type of underwear I prefer, so that's a win!
Another thing I noticed with the original pattern: the elastic lengths given for my size were TIGHT. And by that I mean that the leg openings gave me an extra pair of buttcheeks. In the end I just stitched the elastic on directly, stretching it as I went, and this worked way better.
So that's all fine and dandy for the sewing and fitting and stuff, but can I swim in it without the whole thing falling apart?
Yes, I can! For like, two seconds, and then I baywatched the hell out of there again. It was a bit cold.
My friend Karen took these pictures for me while I visited her at work at the seaside. I was scared I'd be uncomfortable taking these pictures and actually got pretty nervous beforehand, but she's good at making me laugh and forgetting about how little I'm wearing. Thanks Karen!
So hooray for swimsuits, hooray for swimming and hooray for summer! Will I make this again? Maybe when this one wears out.