Monday, May 15, 2017

In search of Armor: Undergarments

Because I wanted to build my armor from the skin out to ensure optimum fit, I had to start at the very beginning, with the foundation garments that go under it all. I had decided at the beginning in the design phase to try and make a supportive linen undergarment to replace my modern sports bra. This was for a few reasons. One reason was comfort. The wicking power of linen is insane, it's the coolest most comfortable fabric out there, even more than many of the "high tech" sports fabrics. Another reason was that I kind of doubted women would have worn neon green sports bras if they went off to war (I equally do NOT buy that women didn't wear any underwear before we developed the modern bra. Whoever came up with that idea was clearly a dude. A dude who had never talked to a girl.) But the most important reason was because currently at practice, I get to stand around in my hot sweat soaked gear while the guys strip down and either walk around half naked to cool off, or change into gloriously dry clothing. I'm jealous. I want to be able to change into dry clothes too! So I designed a wrapping top, probably most accurately called a breast band, that, while I probably won't be comfortable just stripping down to and walking around in, I'm at least comfortable in stripping down to for long enough to change into a dry tunic!
Drafting! lots of rulers! 

The first thing I did was to have someone (Blessings to Olivia who knows how to measure and is willing to help) measure me for a new body block. My last body block is pre babies and will never fit again. I've put off making a new one, because I find drafting patterns for my fluffy self depressing, but for this kind of fitted garment, you just have to have one. What you ask is a body block? A body block is the perfect representation of your 3 dimensional shape, with all your unique bumps and wiggles, rendered flat onto paper. If done properly, when it's made up in muslin it will fit you like a second skin. This provides the foundation for drafting patterns that actually fit with a minimum of fussing. Once I have a body block I can make almost any garment from it and need only one fitting to iron out any small problems with fit. It's the invaluable tool of the custom pattern drafter.

my front and back hip length block. No sleeve on this one.
Since I'm being all technical and stuff here, I'd like to take a moment to clear up some terminology confusion. A body block is a flat representation of a specific person's body, used as a tool to draft patterns for that person. A Sloper is a generic body block, made in standard sizes (not specifically for one person) used in commercial pattern drafting. So if you work in a fashion house, you might go grab the size 8 sloper to make a dress pattern. If you draft from measurements directly to the pattern for say a bodice or a doublet, (which is a fascinating period technique), it is neither a Block, nor a Sloper, it is a Pattern. You have completely skipped the Sloper/Block step of pattern drafting and gone directly to the end goal: a pattern that fits. I prefer, usually, to work from a block, because if I go direct to pattern I have to re-do the drafting process every time: if I have a block I just trace the pattern off and make the appropriate alterations.

Something extremely fitted and supportive like a breast band may require more fiddling than the average garment: even with a good body block, I had to go through two mockups to get the shaping just right. The final product though is super comfortable, very supportive, cool, and un bra like enough that I'm comfortable stripping off to change in the middle of a field full of primarily dudes. (I want to be clear that this is an issue of personal comfort, not of modesty. I applaud any of my sisters in arms who do not feel weird about stripping down and changing, I am not as brave as you!)

 The final garment is made of two layers of linen in the front, and one layer, with an extra strength piece added at the center in the back.  There's a small loop to keep the straps from shifting around at the center back. The tie is  double folded light weight linen. Usually I cut all selvedges off of linen, because they can make your seams bunchy. However here, I used the selvedge in the tie on purpose, because it 100% will NOT stretch.
  I wanted to give the back a little extra strength, but not make it two layers, so I put a small panel at the center back to give support to the fabric where the straps pull and minimize stretching.The straps are cut on the straight of the grain to minimize stretching.

I need to add a small button hole for the under wrapping strap to come out of, because that is showing a tendancy to slip.  All the front edges have three rows of top stitching. This is because they are necessarily cut on the bias, and will be prone to stretching. If this isn't stretch proof I can run a small ribbon through one of the "chanels" formed by the top stitching and sew it in place to firm up the edge.


  1. That looks so comfortable! Let's talk at Roses.

    1. I am tempted to make them to wear around the house all summer, so comfy! and I'm really looking forwards to seeing you at Roses!

  2. The blog are the best that is extremely useful to keep.
    I can share the ideas of the future as this is really what I was looking for,
    I am very comfortable and pleased to come here. Thank you very much.

  3. I very much like your pattern it's beautiful,thank for sharing good i dea !