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You purchase the combination every time you buy exercise clothing or sundresses. Fashion designers create some women’s clothes with bras built into the garments. Built-in bras offer many advantages such as having the same support as a bra that’s not built into the garment. However, you don’t have the hassle of finding a bra that fits the color of your shirt or a strapless bra to wear under your dress. Typically, most shirts and dresses aren’t made with built-in bras. That doesn’t mean you’re destined for a life in exercise wear. Instead, you can sew bras into the garments you choose.

Installing the Bra Cups

Purchase bra cups. You can find bra cups at your local department store. Make sure the cups are appropriate for your bust size.

Select a lining for the bodice. The bodice is the fitted area of the dress or shirt that starts from the waist and extends to the shoulder. If you want a lining that’s stretchy, pick a swim suit lining.

Place the bra cups on the wrong side of the fabric’s lining. Leave about 1 inch underneath the cups for the empire seam or elastic.

Try on the shirt or dress to ensure the cups positioned correctly. Mark the areas where you placed the bra cups while you’re wearing the garment -- you don’t want to lose the position. You can use a water soluble pen, marker or chalk.

Remove the garment and pin the bra cups to the shirt or dress lining. Allow for enough space inside the cup for your bust. You may want to use an object like a ball or heavy fruit such as a grapefruit to provide weight so you can make the adjustment.

Sew the bra cups into the shirt or dress on the fabric side. Use a zigzag stitch to secure the bra cups into the shirt or dress.

Completing the Bra Shelf

Cut the lining. You want to remove the lining located inside the bra cups. Cut close to the stitching then remove the lining.

Cover the stitching and any raw edges you have with a strip of tricot. You can also use a bias cut lining fabric.

Sew the underlining and bra cups to the bodice.


If you have a dress bodice with a loose fitting back, you may want to add more support. You can add a back strap or shoulder straps to the built-in bra. The straps provide you with a snug fit. You don’t want to have to constantly adjust the built-in shelf bra. However, if the bodice has a fitted back, you won’t have to add any additional straps.

About the Author

Demetrius Sewell

Demetrius Sewell is an experienced journalist who, since 2008, has been a contributing writer to such websites as Internet Brands and print publications such as "Cinci Pulse." Sewell specializes in writing news and feature articles on health, law and finance. She has a master's degree in English.