Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bra Alteration: Tightening a Stretchy Bra Band

Today finally I got around (with the help of my mom and her sewing machine!) to modifying the band of the black 30GG Deco bra that I bought a few weeks ago. It's really the first bra alteration I've done besides taking in a center gore, so I'm by no means an expert, but I found this really pretty simple. Here's a quick rundown of what I did.

The unstretched band measurement of the bra is about 26 inches.
The stretched band measurement (before alteration) was almost 32 inches (stretchy even for a 30 band)
My underbust measurement is about 27 inches and I wear a 28-band bra, so I wanted get the stretched band measurement down to around 27-28 inches.

The method I used was Venusian Glow's easy tutorial on Tightening a Bra Band. I used a ribbon for backing as suggested at the bottom of the post (and basically did the same thing as in her Bra Band Tightening Using Elastic post), as just simple stitching wasn't going to give the tightness I wanted. Thankfully, since the unstretched measurement itself (26 inches) was a little less than what I wanted, I didn't have to worry about taking off any actual length of the band: I just needed to provide a non-stretchable backing to the bra so it wouldn't stretch to the full 32 inches.

We stitched ribbon onto the elastic of the bra on both sides of the band, top and bottom (I left the panel right next to the cups alone, as I didn't want the bra to end up too tight).

I didn't have black ribbon, but I think the blue looks kinda snazzy... plus, it's on the inside of the bra, so you can't tell from the outside!

The end result is that the bra now stretches to just 28 inches. Much better! No cutting necessary, and I didn't find that the cups got distorted.

However, this fairly quick fix doesn't always make for a perfect bra. Before, the bra was much too loose on the tightest (3rd) hook. Now, the bra is quite tight enough on the middle (2nd) hook. This bra is now wearable for me (whereas before the band was so big that it wasn't), but the issue of the center gore not sitting flush with my sternum was not corrected by tightening the band, even when I wear the bra on this now-tight middle setting. The center gore should always sit against the sternum in a well-fitting bra, but I'm not quite sure how to correct this; it may just be a shape issue?
In any case, the gore not sitting quite flush means that there is a little gaping in the top of the cups that is corrected when I hold the center gore against my sternum. Again, since I'm not sure this is correctable for this bra, I may just have to live with it!

Of course, the best thing to do is to buy a new bra that fits you perfectly. However, many of us aren't able to do this as easily as others, or our particular shapes make it necessary to do "quick fixes" on even some bras that are the correct size, but have slight style issues.
Have you ever done alterations on a bra? What were your reasons?

Also, do you wear below a 32-band size? We'd love to have you participate in The Bra Band Project!


  1. I just brought in the gores of my Freya Lyla and Eleanor. In Freyas, I really should wear a 26 band because the bands are so stretchy, so these 28G bras were too loose in the band. The tops of the cups were cutting into my breasts too, even though I'm definitely not full on top. I hoped by bringing the gores in, I could both tighten the band and tip the cups so they were more compatible with my close-together breasts.

    Doing so brought the bras from "almost unbearable" to "actually pretty good for the whole day". (Tutorial here:

    I've also shortened the band with the technique where you cut the hooks off and restitch them further up the band. It's like this, but with cutting instead of folding (which I find to be more bulky than it's worth):

    My Curvy Kate bra has wires that are much too wide for my frame, and even worse, they bend under pressure, nearly wrapping around my body! I bent the wires like this ( for a while until the bra started to fit me better.

    1. I find that I have the same problems with Freya (28s too big, tops of cups cutting in) and the few Curvy Kates I've tried (wires too wide), so I'll definitely be checking out these tutorials! Thanks!

  2. On the Deco gore: Decos have very low gores, so maybe you're expecting it to look a certain way even though it can't because the wires are so short?
    How is the gore not laying flat? Is it the classic "the cups are too small so the gore has no hope of reaching my chest"?

    When you take the bra off and then clip it into a circle, do the cups lay flat or does it form a triangle like in the above BrasIHate post above? I'm envisioning that maybe, your frame is so narrow and the stiff wires so wide that the bra forms a triangle, even on your body. Then, the angle is such that it can't possibly lay flat.

    1. Well, I've owned a few Decos before, both too small in the cup (a 28G and a 30FF; I was also a bit smaller back then), and the center gores sat better against the sternum as far as I remember... but again, they didn't fit perfectly overall. The 30GG is slightly big in the cup, if anything (which I'm fine with, as I needed a bra for when I get PMS bloat :P), but it seems like it would fit better if the center gore sat flush...

      It doesn't seem like the cups are inordinately stiff/flat, but I think I'll try playing with a bit more to see if I can figure out the issue and if it could be fixed by bending the wires a bit or something. I wonder if taking in the center or tightening it with ribbon might also help...

  3. Do you find the bra just as comfortable with the ribbon? It seems like a band with no stretch would cut in more and be very constricting, like a tight woven top is much less comfortable than a tight tee.

    1. Since I left a few inches of the band without ribbon (and therefore still stretchable), the band stretches to about 28 inches still, whereas my underbust is 27 inches. So for me, it's not too tight and constricting, just quite firm (as I prefer). If I had altered the band so that it was completely unstretchable, it would definitely be too tight!

  4. Genius! I was considering altering my bands on my new Ewa Michalaks that are too loose in the band. (Their calculator put me at a 32/70HH - I should def. be a 30. I put reviews/pics/measurements on the bratabase as ChestyMcV for anyone interested) I was afraid I would mess things up beyond repair if I tried to actually shorten the band, just keeping it from stretching so much would be ideal! I've been to Venusian Glow before, but somehow missed that tutorial. Now, I just have to dig out and dust off my sewing machine...

    1. I really like this option of just tightening up the band... it's less scary than actually cutting up the bra, and you can always take out the ribbon if you make it too tight.
      (Cutting off part of the band might be a better/necessary option in some cases, I suppose, but it probably really depends on the bra and what you need! At the very least, this is an option that you can try before doing more serious alterations.)

  5. Hi there- I've been doing bra alterations for years. I have a new seamstress who is pretty great at it and we offer this service to store customers right now - but you're right: buying a bra in the right size is always best! For those who have a hard time finding their size or a specific style in their size, it can be a helpful option.

    1. Good point! Getting bras altered by a seamstress is also an option, if there happens to be a good one in your area! I believe June of Braless in Brasil has had experience with this. What I did in my case was really a "quick and dirty" bra fix.

  6. I went tramping with a woman with a very small underbust and pretty big boobs and I noticed when we were changing that her bra definitely didn't fit. I mentioned it to her and she said she has to get all her bras altered to fit her. I'd never heard of altering bras before so I was pretty shocked. I didn't know much about bra fitting then so I kept quiet. Now I think I'm going to Facebook her about it.

    So have you worn this a whole day yet? How does it do now? Is it worth it? I've altered one of my bras just by sewing the band under the wires out to stop it rolling under and cutting me, which I think I got from Bras I Hate here: (the last alteration she shows photos of in that post). It worked super well, but of course it wasn't by any means a major alteration.

    1. That's interesting... I wonder if she knew about small band sizes (26-30), or if she didn't know about them and just did something like altered 32 bands down to fit her? If her bra didn't fit, I wonder if she knew of the existence of 28 etc bands.

      A lot of bra bloggers have experimented with altering bras, so they probably know much more about it than I do (Venusian Glow, Braless in Brasil, Bras I Hate, etc)! But the few small alterations I've done seem to have been helpful. I'll report back once I've worn this bra for a longer period of time. I did notice that the cup rubs a little against my armpit uncomfortably after a little while.. not sure if that's a style issue or a slightly-too-big-cup issue. I'm pretty sensitive about cups coming up too high and I know some bras just don't work for me (even in my size) because of that issue.

  7. Update after wearing it for a full day!
    Hannah - yes, it did feel tighter and more firm than a bra with just elastic would have. I assume that using the tightening-with-elastic method from Venusian Glow would make for a bra with more "give". I definitely wouldn't use ribbon to tighten the entire band up. However, it was still quite wearable for me - mostly it just felt like wearing a tight new bra.
    I wore it on the loosest hook and it was tight enough (yay!). The center gore didn't seem to be sticking out much at all, just a tad bit. Overall, it passed the wearing-all-day test quite well! I am pleased. :)
    I plan on wearing it as a PMS bra, like I said, but if my ribcage gets bloated too, I'll probably wear a band extender, at least until the band loosens up a tiny bit.

    If anyone does a similar alteration, I'm interested in knowing how it works out!

  8. Dear Christine,
    I'm newish to this whole "wearing a bra that fits" thing even though I am well past 30 years old. :-) I purchased my first 30-band bras in the past 2 weeks. I've read on your blog (and others) that say I should be able to get 2 fingers under the band. Just/only two fingers and no more, am I understanding that right? I haven't tried a bra that size yet. My ribs are anywhere from 27-29inches, depending on how snug I hold the tape measure and whether or not I have on a bra. With a bra on I have to hold the tape measure at 27 to get it small enough that I can only fit 2 fingers underneath (rather than sliding all 4 fingers under the tape measure. At 28 I can fit my whole hand under and I can still pull the tape measure out a tiny bit). Some of the 30's I've tried on seem small enough (gore seems to lie flat, straps don't seem to dig in). I think I'm a F cup but that part seems easier to determine if it's "right" on me or not. I'm afraid I'm a bit of a sucker with the sales ladies, who don't stock anything smaller than a 30 and they tell me the 30 looks like a good fit on me. I just got in an order from Bare Necessities of a bunch of UK brands in size 30(that are all too small in the cups anyway). I'm wondering if I need to exchange them for 28's. This process could take "forever" but I'm hopeful that I'm going to get the size right soon! Any advice here?? Is it possible that 30 really will work out for me? I'm wondering if I am just in denial/settling because I see how much harder sub-30's are to find.
    Thank you for your blog. Once I started measuring correctly I also started thinking that I am freakishly adolescent-sized - until I discovered a bunch of blogs with sub-30 rib cage women! -Hopeful in the USA

    1. Hi there! :) You're right that the bra band should feel firm and supportive and you shouldn't be able to pull it out too far. To get the most accurate underbust measurement, it's best to take it without a bra, right underneath your breasts, and pulling the tape measure firm, but not *too* tight. You shouldn't be able to fit any fingers under the tape measure when you're measuring (that's just for the bra band itself).

      If your ribcage measures around 26-27 inches with a firm measure, then it's most likely that you'll be a 28 band rather than a 30. As a small 28 band myself, I can definitely sympathize with the difficulty finding bras!!

      It can be even harder to tell if a band is fitting right if the cups of a bra are too small. Have you tried out any of the bra calculators linked to in the Bra Calculators post? They can give a really good starting point to figuring out correct bra size. If you don't currently have a bra that fits well, it may be best to take the bust measurement sans bra, bending forward at the waist, to get a measurement that's more accurate (where your bust isn't being squished down by a poorly-fitting bra). If a 30F is too small in the cup for you, then I would be looking at a 28G-GG range. If you're ordering a number of bras to try on, it's often most helpful to order a range of sizes within the same brand to get a good idea for a "starting point" size.

      And there really are a lot of us sub-32 band women! The Bra Band Project (soon to be released!) should really help illustrate this.

      Thanks for commenting! :)

  9. Great post thank you. In the last year I have changed from a 34FF to a 32G (and even a 30GG in some Freyas like Arabella as the band is so stretchy).

    I have a brand new Frida Deco in a 34F from my last trip to England (Decos are a cup size big), but by using ribbon similar to yours (velvet no stretch) I have made the bra perfect - like a 32 now. I am so happy. I used to cut the hook tabs off, cut the band and re-attach, but I think other posts are right, this causes to much pressure on the band. This method supports the band, and the bra is comfortable as. I totally recommend this method, and you can hand sew the ribbon on too.

    Regards Lucia :)

  10. I'm a 34D-DD and thanks to this article I'll see if I can fix a bra 38B or 36C bra to fit me better than the back.
    I had thought to cut fabric and add hooks but this method seems much easier.
    thanks :-)

  11. Hi, thank you so much for this post. I am a 34D and I ordered a bra from figleaves that was the right size but way to stretchy, it pulled up every time I moved my arms. I ended up sewing ribbon just on the bottom band and it seems to be working great. Now the bra doesn't ride up and it is pretty comfortable even when I sit down. It also made the cups fit better (they were gaping) and it only took me about an hour sewing by hand. Thanks :)

  12. Hi! I actually had a similar idea and I wanted to see if other people were doing it, so it was definitely helpful to see your post!

    I would make this suggestion though:

    So my band size is actually a 32, but my breasts are huge, so all the bras I get tend to ride up in the back after a few hours. It has nothing to do with tightness (if it gets tighter, it will hurt and cause fat rolling), but with the fact that the bra doesn't create enough friction with my back. So I started digging through my bra drawer and thinking...

    I found a clear plastic strap from a victoria's secret bra and remembered how much those hurt my shoulder (after a day of use, they felt like they were rubbing my skin off), and thought, what if I could sew this plastic strap to the inside of my bra? Kind of like those linings they put on some strapless bras to keep them in place.

    So I did, using a similar method as yours. To preserve the stretch, I used elastic thread in the bobbin of my sewing machine, and sewed the bra strap right along the base of my bra band on both sides. The results: my favorite bra now doesn't ride up! It did get slightly tighter still, so now I wear it on the last hook instead of on the middle one.

    Seriously, this may be a life saver for some of the bustier women out there who are tired of having to hitch their bra back into position when they're out in public.