The balconette bra, also called a shelf bra, is a bra with little to no coverage. This is a more revealing version of a demi bra and creates quite a bit of uplift and cleavage. Bras are one of the most difficult articles of clothing to sew, so you can expect to spend several hours on the first one you sew.
Things You'll Need
Measure your bust. Wearing your best-fitting bra, measure around your rib cage, just under your breasts. Pull the measuring tape snug to your body and take the reading. Add four or five to the resulting number to get an even number. This is the bra band size. Wrap the tape around the fullest part of your bust and measure again, not pulling the tape tight. Subtract the bra band number from this number to get your cup size. A 1-inch difference is an A-cup, 2 inches is a B-cup, and so forth.
Draw or trace a pattern onto the material. Draw the midriff and the cups. The midriff should be slightly longer than the measure of the bra band size. The cups are made of two pieces of material: one for the upper portion of the balconette and one for the lower, supportive portion. Hold the material up to your breast and lightly trace around the outer edge to find the size for each cup.
Cut out the pattern. The cut should be even on all parts of the bra. Because it is such a tight-fitting garmet, the smallest difference in cut could alter the fit.
Stitch the two pieces of material for each cup together, then attach the cups to the midriff. You might need to slightly gather the material as you sew to make the cups rounded. Place the padding on the front of the cup before attaching the back of the cup. Because a balconette bra is revealing, you should pad only the lower portion of each cup so as not to alter the look.
Attach elastic to the band of the bra. Cut the elastic slightly shorter than the length of the band, then stretch it slightly as you move along while sewing. Pin the elastic to the material prior to sewing to keep the elastic straight. A wide zigzag stitch across the middle of the elastic band will ensure you stitch down the entire piece of elastic from edge to edge.
Sew the edges of the premade shoulder straps to the bra. It can help if you hold the bra up to your body to decide the best location for the straps, then mark that location with pins.
Turn the bra over and attach the closure. Hook and eye closures are the most common for bras, but it is up to you if you use a single, double or triple hook and eye closure. The wider the closure, the more support the bra will offer; however, a balconette bra is usually a narrower bra with a single hook and eye closure.
Add a double layer of material in the lower portion of the cups for additional support if you have large breasts.
References and ResourcesBare Necessities: Bra Glossary
Threads Magazine: The Bra Dilemma Solved
Leenas: Bra Without Underwire