draped clothing: the bra

So I’ve been on about draped clothing before.  Draped clothing: when you get dressed from a (usually rectangle) of fabric, with no cutting or sewing.  Saris are draped, dhotis are draped, kangas are draped, so are sarongs/lungis and a host of other garments around the world.

Some people think that draped clothing is likely to fall off, but that’s not been my experience.

And I’m all in favor of draped clothing, because it’s custom fitted to the wearer, every single time.  Gain a pound?  Lose a pound?  No problem.  Also, it packs FLAT.  You can get a TON of draped clothes into a suitcase.  And it’s very versatile.  I have done almost everything except swim in draped clothing now, at least for my bottom half.

Also, the range of gorgeous fabrics is amazing.

But there’s been one glaring hole in what I’ve found.  I can make a dress, or a pair of pants, or a shawl.  But a top/bra?  Not so much.

Until today.

I was noodling on ancient bra technologies (don’t wear one was really popular, but after that it was usually just a strip of cloth across the middle of the breasts, more to hold them down than anything else) and then I started thinking about babywearing, and the wraps that people use.  And I realized that if you remove the baby, you might get a decent start.  So I hopped up and got my trusty bolt of muslin (if your local fabric store is ever having a deep discount sale on muslin, grab a bolt (25 yards) of 45″ to experiment with, you can thank me later.)  I cut 4 feet of it, tore it into 4 strips of about 11 inches each, and sewed them end to end. (Now technically I could have taken 3 yards of muslin and torn a single long strip, but I didn’t want to waste fabric).  The next step was suddenly (after all this time) obvious.

Put the middle of the strip on your sternum.  Wrap the fabric to the back, crisscross it and bring the ends over opposite shoulders.  Crisscross it again between your breasts, wrap it to the back, tie a half knot, wrap it to the front, tie a double knot.

This avoids the discomfort of a halter, which hangs the weight around your neck, and creates both sturdy coverage and support.  It does NOT create the standard silhouette at all, so your couture dresses will still require an underwire.  But it works.

Improvements: I would like to experiment with a bias-cut strip (which would probably conform better to the breast shape, this one gaps a bit), speaking of wasting fabric, and with a knit.  I also think some kind of buckle for the ends would be preferable to a double knot.  And I am test-wearing it to see how it holds up under actual use.  I suspect the fabric that covers the breasts could creep over time, but practically speaking it may not.

Further questions for investigation: can this garment be worn swimming?