Monday, July 14, 2014

Make a Mastectomy Bra from a Purchased Bra with Easy Sewing Instructions

Orange gerbera daisies with imperfect petals
Imperfections Can Be Beautiful

A mastectomy without reconstruction requires some clever underwear to look normal. Mastectomy bras are available for purchase at a high price, but they may not be the style you like. Many look Victorian and fit up around the neck, while others are itchy fabrics. Revising a purchased bra gives you a better selection and more choice of styles. You may also find the price worth the effort. The Fruit of the Loom bra shown here is about $8 in 2014, compared to $80 for a mastectomy bra.

You can choose a bra you like and turn it into a mastectomy bra in a few easy steps. You’ll need a straight-stitch sewing machine and ordinary sewing supplies, along with a purchased bra and a fabric square or squares the size of the bra cups. You’ll need two squares of fabric for a double mastectomy bra and just one for a single left or right side. A soft knit fabric seems to work best for the cup pocket that holds a prosthetic breast.

Wash the bra and the fabric you plan to use for the lining or pocket the way you normally launder bras, using the same water temperature and drying in the dryer, if you dry your bras. This allows the bra to shrink before you start sewing.

Wrong side of white bra and white single knit fabric
Wash and Dry Bra and Fabric for Inside Pocket

Lay the purchased bra on a flat surface with the inside facing you. Choose the side you need to revise and place the fabric square along the top edge of the band (bottom of the bra), with the edge of the square folded under about 5/8 inch. Make certain your fabric square will fit all areas of the cup. 

Determine where you want the opening pocket for the prosthesis to slide in place. Most purchased bras have the opening on the side near the arm, but opening at the top keeps the prosthetic in place and makes the underarm area of the bra smoother. If you choose the side for the opening, leave the side and part of the underarm seam open or your prosthesis might not fit.

Bra with fabric pinned at center and bottom edge
Pin the Fabric in Place Starting at Center of Bra
Trim the fabric square to fit about 5/8 inch outside the edge of the bra, starting at the center; fold the edge under about 5/8 inch and pin in place.  Work one edge at a time for best results.

Trim the bottom edge about 5/8 inch longer than the bra and fold the bottom edge under 5/8 inch and pin it in place above the elastic band.

Trim the arm side and the top edge of the fabric individually and pin the fabric piece in place all around the bra cup. You want it to be flat and smooth, not cupped like the front surface. (If you've had a double mastectomy, unpin and use the fabric to make a mirror image with another fabric square by placing right side to right side and cutting the shape. Pin the fabric back in place.)

White bra with fabric square edges folded under and pinned in place
Continue Pinning Clockwise Around the Cup Edge

Unpin the side you want to leave open for the pocket, but don’t unfold the edge. Stitch along the open edge with your sewing machine straight stitch with thread the same color as the bra. This gives the open edge a finished seam and some structure. Pin the edge back in place. 
Shows stitching in place and completed mastectomy bra revision
Stitch Around the Bra Leaving an Opening for the Prosthesis

Starting at the top center of the bra, sew with a straight stitch where you’ve pinned the fabric down to connect the lining fabric to the bra. Turn the garment and stitch around the bottom, making sure you're stitching above the elastic.Stitch three sides of the edge of the bra cup where you’ve pinned the fabric, leaving the opening at the location on the cup that you’ve chosen. 

Trim the threads and try the prosthesis into the opening. (Repeat the process for the other side if you have a double mastectomy.)

Front side of Fruit of the Loom bra with revisions
Stitching Shows A Little from Front

Save money and put your sewing skills to work with an easy revision to a purchased bra. Once you learn this technique, you'll be able to revise any ordinary bra to fit your new body shape.

See you next time!