I have the good fortune to have an antique 1910s brassiere (or "bra") in my collection, and with all the 1912 sewing going on, I have taken a pattern from it. I publish it here for personal use, and request that you not republish or repost it anywhere else, on the web or otherwise, as this is my own work which is protected by copyright laws. Thank you for your kind attention to this!
If you do make up this pattern, I would love to hear about it! Shoot me an email, or pop on over to my blog
and tell me how it went! :)
And of course, if you have any questions or issues with it, feel free to reach out to me, and I will do the best I can to assist you!
Without further ado, let's get right to the pattern pieces! Click on the thumbnail below, and then right-click and save the image it takes you to. Print them out (being sure that you have it set to print at the actual size, and not to scale to fit the page or anything), and tape together on the dashed lines, as instructed. (To check it has printed right, measure the length of the center front edge. It should be 7 13/16" long).
The size of this pattern is. . . Well. . . Antique bra sized, because I just traced the one in my collection! Ha ha ha! Seriously though. . . I wear a modern bra size 34B-34C (somewhere in between, but they don’t make that size!) and the antique bra fits me almost perfectly. It is perhaps a tiny bit too loose above the bust, but this doesn’t surprise me since I seem to be narrower than the average person's side-to-side than I am front-to-back, and frequently have to alter patterns accordingly. Also, I am short-waisted, so the brassiere may not appear to be as long on someone else as it is on me. Here are some pictures of me (very carefully!!!) modeling the antique brassiere, over my present-day bra and a thin camisole:
Where the lower edge of the bra hits me, I am 31.5”, and at the fullest of the bust it’s around 37”. Sorry I can not be more specific than this! My best advice is to make a mock-up in inexpensive fabric and play with it!
All of the seams where the pieces are joined, with the exception of the side seams, have a tiny (approximately 1/16” wide) Entredeux insertion in them. The raw edges of the fabric are enclosed in the tape-like foundation of this insertion. In the case of the front-to-side-front seam, this appears to have been sewn before inserting the decorative emblem.
Close up of the Entredeux, from the "right" side (left), and the inside (right).
At the side seam, the back piece had the edge folded, was placed on top of the side front piece, and stitched through both layers. It is left raw on the inside. This seam shows signs of having been altered (let out).
Close up of the side seam, from the "right" side (left), and the inside (right).
The Center Front
The brassiere closes at the center front with twelve sets of hooks and eyes. Eleven of these are on the brassiere itself, and are spaced approximately ¾” apart, except for the top one, which is a full inch away from the next one down. The twelfth hook and eye is placed at the top of the trim that is attached to the upper edge of the brassiere.
Close up of the top two eyes, showing the top eye is sewn onto the trim.
Clever use was made of the selvedge edge of the fabric. On the wearer’s left, (the side with the bars), there is no seam allowance at the center front edge, as it was cut right on the selvedge edge. It was then backed with a ¾” wide strip of twill tape. On the wearer’s right, (the side with the hooks), the center front piece was again laid against the selvedge edge, but this time allowing for a 5/8” turn under (instead of being reinforced with twill tape).
Close ups of hooks and eyes.
The “trimming” at the bottom edge of this brassiere is, in my opinion, rather an important part of the bra, as it adds length and a stable, non-stretching edge to the garment. From the front, the trimming is a 1” wide embroidered cotton, and this is backed with ½” twill tape. It looks as those the trim was laid on top of the brassiere, with the twill tape in back, sandwiching a very scant amount of the edge of the brassiere, and then it was stitched through all layers. A second row of stitching was then made to secure the lower edge of the twill tape in place against the trim.
Close up of the band of trim around the bottom, from the right side, and then from the inside.
The neck edge and armholes are both trimmed with a trim that is approximately 1” wide. It would appear that the raw edge was turned under the tiniest amount, and then again about 3/16”, and stitched through all layers from the front. The trim was then joined to the folded edge.
Close up of trim at upper edge (this is at the center back), showing the patern which is a flower and dot (or square), maybe made of bobbin lace? I'm not sure. . .
The same area of trim, viewed from the inside.
A delicate lace motif was set into each side of the front of the brassiere.
Close up of lace motif viewed from the outside.
Close up of lace motif from the inside.
The Underarm Darts
There is a small dart taken at the armhole on each side of the brassiere, (which is marked on the pattern pieces, as a "tuck" but I actually think it's more of a dart). I don't think this is a later alteration, but rather, something that was done during the original construction. I think this because it was clearly done before the armhole was finished or trimmed. So, either it was done before trimming, or somebody was crazy enough to totally remove the trim, unpick the hem of the sleeve, sew the tuck, then re-do the hem, and apply the trimming!
The tuck was made just as you would a dart in a bodice, buy folding bringing the lines of the dart together and having the darted material to the inside, and stitching. Then, the dart was pressed flat (towards the bottom edge), and a second line of stitching was made (which is the line of stitching you can see from the right side of the corset in the image below).
Close up of tuck or dart, from the right side. You can see the line of stitching that was done after making the dart, and also the fold line (which was step one of making the dart).
Close up of tuck or dart, from the inside. The stitching line to the left is the first line of stitching, as you can see on the right is the fold of the dart. In between is the second line of stitching, done from the right side through all layers.
The Twill Tape at the Front
A piece of 5/8” twill tape has been sewn to the bottom edge of the wearer’s left side of the brassiere. It is about 2.5” long, with 0.5” turned under, and is placed parallel with the bottom edge, and lined up to the bottom edge of the trim. It extends about ¼” beyond the center front edge. I am not sure what this was used for.
Twill tape on the wearer's left side, viewed from the inside.
Another piece of the 5/8” twill tape was sewn to the wearer’s right side of the brassiere, this time perpendicular to the bottom edge, and it is currently approximately 2.5” long, but has been cut. I have been told this would at one point have been much longer, and would have joined somehow to the corset, to keep the brassiere in place.
Twill tape tab, viewed from the right side, and then the inside.
This page © 2012 by Jennifer E. Lithgow