Tips on pattern grading bra points

I'm writing the book 'How to grade a bra and brief' and one of popular questions I receive about grading is:  how to apply the grade to the pattern, and which point to alter if you need to increase or decrease the final measurements to get the grade measurements.

In an ideal world if you needed to grade the bra size by the width 1.2cm you would add 6mm to one side and 6mm to the other side of the cup to achieve the increase in bra size by 1.2cm.

However because you on some points  increasing the points upwards as well, your increase of the pattern (or the increase going up a bra size) may not reach 1.2cm. 

So which point of the pattern should you increase more to get your desired measurement you want?

As the breast and bra size gets bigger, then the design of the bra needs to do it's job and support the heavier part of the breast which is the outer part (near underarm) and project them forward. 

Therefore if your measurements are falling short I always increase the outer points on the bra (see picture) this then prevents the flattening of the breast and so you don't end up wearing your boobs under your arms. 

Points to increase on a darted bra to increase a bra size

Points to increase on a darted bra to increase a bra size

 

If you are coming up measuring over (your 1.2cm increase is more than 1.2cm) your grading measurements, then I would go in reverse, and decrease the CF part of the bra.

Designing the correct bra size for your lingerie brand

I got asked a few weeks ago, whether there are any standard measurements that you can use as a starting point when starting to design, so you achieve the correct bra size.

Unfortunately there are no standard bra size charts, each company does their own bra fitting and designs patterns for their own customer.

However I can give you some insight on measurements from different companies I've worked with and where some companies start.

I have worked with a company (2014) that had their own bra size chart where they begin each bra sample with the underband of a 34B measuring at 64cm andeach wing measuring 16cm and the bra cups with cradle measuring 32cm. 

When I design a pattern for my brand (aimed at women with smaller backs and a bigger bust size, so my measurements may be different from high street brands). I start with a pattern/bra that I'm happy with the fit then I use that as pattern block and with every design I use that pattern and alter that, to fit the new style.  Usually then, only a few bra measurements alter, depending on the fabrics or how much the design has altered.

 

Lingerie Specification sheets

Below are actually specification sheets from when I designed for UK high street stores, The first one is from Topshop (2001) and the second is from River Island (2003), originally they were presented with designs that were from the same pattern (different design), and due to how they do their bra fitting on their fitting models, they altered the fit therefore altered the measurements such as on the wing, the underband and also the centre front.

Bra specification sheet for a Top Shop bra (2001)

Bra specification sheet for a Top Shop bra (2001)

Bra specification sheet for a River Island bra

Bra specification sheet for a River Island bra

 

There are no correct or standard measurements for lingerie, and even different companies have different size charts and grade differently (the UK brands grade underbands on 5cm and the French brands grade underbands on 4cm); so even if you start at the same measurements by the time you reach 4 sizes bigger or smaller then each brand measurement will be different. The best thing you can do is stay consistent to your own brand, each bra fits each woman differently so what is favourable by one person may not to be so in another, so build your brand with your core customer in mind.

*For those who need advice on How to fill in a Specification sheet then the book "how to spec a bra and brief" is available to download or buy as a book. Also there are downloadable spec sheet that you can use as a template.

Helping you design lingerie with Technical design packs

Are you stuck with needing help and support with your lingerie designs?

Launching seven packs to propel your lingerie designing and label forward. Complied together from the most requests received in how I can help designers with their lingerie, that can be printed out and use as templates to transform your lingerie business

The following design packs are designed to save you time and giving  you the confidence and the freedom to set and achieve your goals within the lingerie industry.

The design sheets are self-explanatory, and quick and easy to use.

Design pack one: Fabric & Trim Design Packs

"Keep a track of all fabrics and trims in one place for future use"

This Fabric and trims sheet is a place to note down the cost and fabric supplier of everything you order, keeping it in one place. When you buy a fabric a fabric or trim, noting down where you received it from, what the fabric is made from and how much it cost will save you time in the future.  No more trawling through receipts to find the cost or supplier. It's no rocket science this form, but how many of us has stashed fabrics or trims to use later, and then not been able to find any information about it?

Once all the information is filled in, just file the sheet away to locate later.


Design Pack two: Style progress Pack

"Design and map out your lingerie ideas the technical way"

Note down lingerie designs on a style sheet

The Style progress sheet is designed so you can record your design idea progress, in one handy sheet. Noting down what fabrics are being used, any key construction or special measurements.This sheet is useful if you are an independent designer hand making your entire collection and don’t need the full Technical pack but all the information on one page.

The sheet is also important if you do decide to take your collection to the next stage and wish to get it manufactured by a factory. 


Design Pack Three: Cutting sheet Pack

"Plan, cut and sew you lingerie in order for each season"

cutting out lingerie

The cutting sheet has been created if you are an independent designer sewing your lingerie that you are producing. This is extremely helpful if you have orders coming through, working on orders ahead, or are planning to launch your own label. Work out how long it will take you to make the order, then you can plan for future orders.


Design Pack Four: Time Line Pack

"Track your lingerie progress from design to production"

This time line design pack, is invaluable for when, you want to track your design styles from start to finish. Sometimes when you're starting out it can be hard to know all the steps you may need to take to produce your lingerie so these information on the sheets are what I previously used in the industry. There are two types, one if you're an independent designer, designing and sewing up your own lingerie, and a sheet if you are going down the manufacturing route and outsourcing to a factory.


Design Pack Five: Specification Sheet Pack

"Map out your lingerie sizes the industry way"

These spec sheets are designed so you can write your key measurements from your sample, then work out and record the sizes for the full-size range. Included is an example of the "point of measurement", used in the industry, with an example of a bra, a soft bra and a brief with references to a picture with the corresponding measurements.

For those wanting an in-depth insight into how you spec a bra or brief, then the book "How to spec a bra and brief" is available to buy and will take you through step-by-step on how to complete this.


Design Pack Six: Tech Pack Sheets

"Get you lingerie manufactured the professional way"

The tech pack provides you with separate technical sheets for you to use, depending how detailed you need your tech pack to be. This tech pack provides sheets for either design labels who are outsourcing just the manufacturing, or those who are outsourcing everything including the make-up of the labels and packaging. Each sheet has a prompt for what you should write, and there are over 20+ blank sheets (all different degrees of blankness).

For those wanting an in-depth guide of writing a tech pack, there is the book "How to write a tech pack for a bra and brief" which is available to buy and will take you through step-by-step on how to complete this.


Design Pack Seven: Costing sheet Pack

"Calculate the cost price point for each piece of lingerie designed"

The cost sheet is designed so you can work out how much each piece of lingerie designed costs to make.  It requires you to work out and measure how much elastic is on each piece, and how much fabric is used. Including adding VAT if you're VAT registered.

Then importantly is the percentage that gets added when you want to sell to either wholesale or direct.

*For those wanting more advice on how to cost your lingerie, there is a section in the "How to to become a Lingerie Designer" book



 

 

 

Designing and grading a bra - lingerie courses

The latest Lingerie courses from iatechnical for September 2017 are the following:

September 11/12th - Core Fit Bra Pattern Cutting and Grading

This course starts with developing key pattern blocks then restyling, This session will cover wired and non wired bras with an emphasis on core grading.

September 13/14th - Plus Fit Bra Pattern Cutting and Grading

This focuses on patterns, fit and grading with three current popular styles examined. In this course wire technology is a key feature.

September 15th - Technical Bra Fitting

This fit day includes defining you models correct commercial size and understanding what creates a good or bad fit. It also covers communicating fit corrections to your factories, getting good outcomes from fitting sessions and solving material, sizing pattern and grading issues.

September 18/19th - Swimwear & Activewear Pattern Cutting and Grading

The swimwear course covers core and plus fit styles from basics through to complex bikinis, suits and tankinis and their grading.

September 20/21st - Bodies & Briefs Pattern Cutting & Grading

This course starts with basic stretch and rigid blocks. It looks at the European pantie fit as the favoured choice of retailers and the demand for fashion bodies.

September 22nd A Technical Introduction to setting up a new Lingerie Brand

 

please note this bra is an image designed previously from the Vanjo brand 

please note this bra is an image designed previously from the Vanjo brand 

 

 

Please note the courses are now held at the IA Studios at 91 Warwick Street Leicester.

All courses include full digital notes and lunch

2 day courses are GB£250.00 and 1 day courses are GB£125.00

Course bookings are limited to 6 delegates on each.

Please go to the website for more information :  iatechnical.com to book or contact David on dmorris@iatechnical.com for more information.

For those wishing to learn more via books please head to the lingerie shop page.

How many designs do you need to start your lingerie label?

Last week I was approached by a new label to provide the technical aspects of all their designs so they could launch their own lingerie label. This included mocking up spec sheets, writing up their tech sheets and support on measuring up their garments and getting them to manufacturing stage.

They had 13 individual designs! 

Having launched my own label previously, I know the amount of work that goes into producing each piece, getting each piece fitted, sourcing the fabric, and then manufacturing each piece with minimums that the factories want (or the amount of sewing you have to do by yourself). Working on the 13 pieces wouldn't have been a problem, but I told them to go back and re-look at each piece, and if possible come back with no more than five designs, (seven totally tops). 

I spoke to them about trying to create signature pieces for their label, and putting those designs into different colour ways for fabrics, for every piece you design, you are creating more work and if you're starting out, chances are it's probably just you doing everything. It's best to start out with five tight pieces, otherwise you are spreading yourself too thinly when problems crop up.

So if you are out there starting your own lingerie brand and have so many designs that you can't pick where to start, or want to produce all twenty!! Go back one step.

Who is your core customer?

Who are you pitching at? Please don't say everyone. Try to design for everyone and you'll end up designing for no-one. Your designs will be so watered down that no-one will glance at them. That's not to say that people out of your demographic you're aiming at won't buy your lingerie, you just need to be pitching at a certain group of people. In the book HTBALD it covers this and gives an example of profile questions that you can use to profile your customer.

It will take you far longer to launch if you have so many designs .If you look at independent designers, you will see that that the same design crops up each season in different colour-ways. Having smaller options of designs, you can see which designs work and sell and which don't. If you are still insistent on wanting to produce all of your designs why not check each season and introduce new designs and get rid of old ones that are not working. 

The same pattern, put in different fabrics for each season for Vanjo.

The same pattern, put in different fabrics for each season for Vanjo.

My first meeting with Topshop I took 2 different style bras, and 2 different options of briefs and one thong, (over four stories) and that was it. The collection was tight, so the buyers didn't get distracted. Remember you only have a certain amount of time to wow them, if you're pulling out design after design then they might wander.

My meeting was in June, and I was showing the Spring/Summer collection for the following year, they wanted to see the collection for Autumn/Winter of that year, did I have one? "Of course I did" (I didn't) I told them that I was I was in London for two days and would be flying back to Ireland and when I got back I could send through images. Truth was I was flying back that night and sat and made a new collection and got it shot and sent through to them within the two days. Because I was only working on the 5 shapes, they had seen them and knew how they work, I offered to leave my samples there as a reference if they wanted so they could have a reference of the shapes, so they could off the images that I sent them. If I had had more designs, I wouldn't have been able to turn around a new collection so quick, and they wouldn't have know how the shapes of the lingerie would have worked.

Building loyalty of a customer By keeping the shapes consistent throughout your collection each season, means that shopping online is made easier for your customer, they can order in confidence knowing that that shape worked for them. Throughout Vanjo (for four years) I had two shapes of bra that I used, whilst I worked on a third.

Remember that one shapes has infinite ways of producing new designs, Below is an example of using the Betsy lingerie brief pattern in different fabrics. 

Lingerie digital pattern betsy
Betsy lingerie pattern

If you think you still need more than ten design of lingerie - then by all means go for it, no-one know your lingerie brand better than you, but try to remember the points above, and if you need  a hand with any of them, then please contact me.

How a dream became a reality now becomes a name change

First came the book, then followed the website with the name "How to become a Lingerie Designer" . The idea came about after receiving requests for advice from people how to start their own label.

This was back when I was running my lingerie brand 'Vanjo', after researching what was out there I noticed that there were many fashion books but not relating solely on lingerie.

After returning back to the UK after lingerie designing in Melbourne, Australia; HTBALD grew allowing me to take it on full time whilst freelancing.

Four books later HTBALD was no longer just about becoming a Lingerie Designer, it was about all the different aspects of designing lingerie. About owning your designs and believing in them, and now my job is to support you, to do that. So it  seemed only natural to umbrella all the aspects of lingerie design under a different name.

This expansion has been not only with technical books "How to spec a bra and brief" and "How to write a bra and brief tech pack" but also with design sheets, to help you take the next step with the technical side of lingerie. Having been there before, I understand that it's those parts that can take your time researching and working them out.

'Van Jonsson Design' now guides you through every aspect of lingerie design, including patterns to get you started, and on the blog are "How to" tutorials and Advice about the industry.

van jonsson design logo lingerie

What's to come is further design sheets and another book is being drafted "How to grade a Bra and Brief" which is the third book in the trilogy of the "How to" books, also I've received such a great response to the patterns, that more will be released. 

If you have any ideas or suggestions on what you would like more knowledge on, then please let me know. 

Welcome to Van Jonsson Design. 

 

*This website can still be reached by howtobecomealingeriedesigner.com

Boobs & bras after breastfeeding

 

Years ago when I met people and I talked about being a lingerie designer, the questions I always got asked "Did I see lots of boobs?" (guys) and "what was the best bra that I had designed and for who?" (ladies). The seeing lots of boobs question still gets asked a lot, but recently what ladies seem to what to know is what bra to go for after they've had children.

So through lingerie knowledge and personal experience here is what I usually end up talking about: boobs, bras to wear orto design and improving your appearance of your boobs.

Structure of your boobs

1. Your structure of your boobs change once your pregnant, that flatness that most women experience after breast feeding, has occurred during pregnancy, so breast feeding doesn't start to alter your boobs being pregnant in the first place does. Let me digress (puts technical hat on)

- When being pregnant your boobs go through a change that is called maturing (sounds equally as good as being called 'a geriatric mum' when you're pregnant over the age of 35! Whilst being pregnant your boobs become bigger and the fatty tissue is replaced by milk producing tissue, therefore changing the internal structure of the breast. The increase in size may cause the ligaments to stretch, and it's this stretching that may lead to saggier boobs. Think of it like holding a partially filled water balloon in your hand, if you filled it completely your hand would open up to accommodate the balloon, (your fingers represent your ligaments) then if you let water out, your hands are still splayed open but the fullness of the water (ie breast) is no longer apparent so the fullness has gone. There by the structure of your breast has changed.

2. Your bra size will most likely change, not everyones does, some peoples increase size, others decrease, just like whether you'll fit back into your pre-pregnancy clothes, some people will be bigger and other smaller than when they got pregnant.

3. Most likely your boob shape will have change, some people describe their boobs as empty, which means they have lost the fullness of their boobs at the top, and the fullness is more at the bottom of their boobs, this is usually more prominent for those with a bigger cup size.

after breastfeeding what about boobs

Bras after being pregnant and feeding

With the loss of the volume, many women find they have to change the shape of bra they wear, and that the underwire now digs in at the front. If this is the case with yourself, look for wires that don't come up between your boobs (ie balconette bras) and look for push up style, bras with shorter underwires or high apex bras in which the wire sits low, also soft cup triangle bras will be comfortable.

If you find you have no volume at the top of your breast and are a larger cup, the misconception is that you should go for a contour bra (a moulded cup shape with foam) but what mainly occurs is that the upper breast tissue will either look and be jiggly, or that it won't give you enough support , although there are some bras out there that will be tailored to your needs you may find a cut and sew bra (a 3-piece cup or 4-piece cup) more comfortable and give you a better silhouette. 

Designing a bra 

A few things to keep in mind to create a better lift of the boob (or to look out for if you're having trouble finding a bra that gives you a nice shape and lift)

- A vertical seam in the cup will give you more lift. 

- Side boning or denier panelling, will help keep the breast tissue forward and not creeping under the arms, especially on soft bras.

- Double line the cups if you are using stretch fabrics.

Ways to improve the appearance

Sadly once those ligaments are stretched there is not a lot that can be done about it (unless you're wanting to go down the path of surgery) however there are things that can be done to improve the situation.

- Strengthen your pec muscles, making them stronger will lift the chest wall upon where your boobs sit. Press up and bench presses are probably the two better ones to try.

- Alternate cold and warm water blasts in the shower, although only temporary that the cold water tightens the skin, it encourages blood flow.

- Massage oil, going from under the breast outwards to the armpit and over the breast back to where you started, this will over time improve the contour of the breast and get rid of toxins, plus the more you care the part of your body which you don;' like, the more acceptance and gratitude you have of that part of the body.

Though mainly the appearance of your boobs, will be down to genetics, hoping some of these will help.

 

Five pros and cons working as a freelancer

I often get asked which is better to work as a freelancer or In House. Personally working as a freelancer is most suited to me, I love it's freedom it gives though it's not without it's perils. If you're lucky to be in position to be choosing one route or the other I've highlighted what I think are the high and lows of each path.

1. MONEY

There's no denying when I worked for a company I earned far far more than I do as a freelancer, at the peak of my earnings I was clearing 45K and that was with being a freelancer within that time as well. The main trouble I found hard when returning to work for a company was that my CV was viewed as that I didn't have much manger skills having worked by myself freelancing. Even though I know I can run teams of people have have done so in the past, I was up against people who had never left the industry to freelance so had consistent managerial experience. My first freelance job was in Thailand (which I never planned to get I had originally gone travelling) and I loved designing swimwear in the sunshine and the life I was living there, and on the plus side I didn't need much money. 

2. FREEDOM

The major plus side being a freelancer I think has to be the freedom, pre-children being a freelancer enabled me to travel whenever I wished, within reason. When a project finished I could book cheap flights and spend as long or as little time in whatever country I flew to. But again having the ability to have that freedom, is weighed by having the actual funds whilst freelancing. Nowadays it's all about having the freedom to look after young children whilst working at different times than the normal workforce (ie at night with lots of coffee).

five pros and cons for being a freelance lingerie designer

3. TIME

With freelancing I think you have be great and time management, it can be easy to get caught up with social media. You have to find a schedule that works for you, I'm still working on this - sometimes I get up early to work and get loads don, other times (usually) it's at night. Also there's all the extras that you need to plan for, like accounts, filling in tax returns, looking for the next piece of work. Keeping up-to-date with everything current. Being a freelancer it's easy to feel like you are looking in on an industry rather than being involved and in the thick of it. If you like structure of a 9-5 (or there abouts) Then in house may be more suited to you, or you could get the best of both worlds and be a freelancer on contract - so you are based within a company but only for a set amount of time.

4. THE SOUL

Depending what type of company you work for - will depend on what you are given to design, I was very fortunate in my first job (designing for high street stores in a UK manufacturer) in that as well have been given design briefs from the buyer, I also presented new designs from the fabrics that I sourced. In another company it was all buyer led, I would be given samples bought from other brands and asked to replicate them, it was very soul destroying, and something I didn't agree with. Working as a freelancer people are coming for you, for either new ideas or the technical side of the design so your never ripping off (well you shouldn't be) other peoples designs.  That's what I love the most about freelancing is that if you have the opportunity to work with someone who is just starting out, they are very willing to push boundaries and design ideas.

5. CONSISTENCY  

This is a major one that often occurs, you can be mental busy for ages, then suddenly you find yourself with a free calendar wondering where the next job is coming from. At the start of my freelancing, I continued to do part time work, as I knew that eventually this is what I wanted to do full time, but didn't want the added pressure of the freelancing supporting me at the beginning, I wanted to build up a client base with good strong work. I've done bar work, shop-work and even worked as a TA in a primary school, then worked freelancing in my spare time and also wrote the books. With freelancing I've never worked regular hours, even when I had a full time job designing I was always building up 'Vanjonsson Design' and worked evenings and weekends. Now having children my working hours are even more erratic, and I often work late into the night. 

A friend texted to see how my day was going, this was my face after being greeted with 102 emails that morning at work.

A friend texted to see how my day was going, this was my face after being greeted with 102 emails that morning at work.

Working in a company, especially at the start, I gained so much knowledge from everyone, and I loved the fast pace of the fashion side of things, producing collections, seeing them through to manufacturing whilst balancing the next season ahead, but with like most jobs, the further you go up the chain of your profession, the more away you move away from it, and are managing other people to do the job you loved and set out to do. I have before come into a previous work to be met with 70+ emails on a daily basis, enquiries from manufacturers, changes in tech packs that needed to be confirmed and altered, costings that needed be changed and suggestions back and forth how to do so. Along with future work that needed to be secured, errors on deliveries or stock. So transitioning to freelance full time was a very natural step for me especially now, as the nearest lingerie company is a daily 2 hour commute each way which is not feasible with two young children.

If you get the chance to work for companies then I would recommend it, you learn so much and the support and structure is there for you. If you find yourself out of university or in-between jobs and can't find yourself work, then make your own, go freelance, approach companies, do it in your spare time, or intern, and keep updating your portfolio because if you're static you're not trying anything new and your designs and knowledge won't progress.

 

What to write onto Lingerie Patterns

I think we've all done it, drafted out a pattern, only to return back to it and not quite understand which one it was. Or perhaps your more meticulous and want to write all your information onto your pattern but don't know where to start or exactly what to put on it.

There are usually six basic things you should write:

Full image of information that needs to be written on a lingerie pattern.

Full image of information that needs to be written on a lingerie pattern.

1. The company name: This is not always necessary if it's just you seeing your patterns, however it may be worth getting into the habit for the future, for when you're sending patterns out, this will save you time rather than going through them all again.

2. Name and/or style number: So, so important, you want to be able to know instantly what pattern you have in your hand.

3. What part is the pattern: What looks recognisable when you're drafting a pattern, may not be so when you get the pattern out again, or when you've cut it out of fabric.

4. How many to cut: Pretty much self explanatory. For bras it's usually 'cut one pair' rather than cut two.

5. The size: Again pretty much self explanatory, if your pattern is dual sizing just write all the sizes on e.g. 32C/34B/36A

6. Direction of Stretch: Usually this will be indicted by 'Grain line'; on the 'Vanjonsson Design' patterns it's stated by 'Direction of stretch' as the lingerie can be made in a number of stretch fabrics, and as I have no idea on the exact fabric you will be using, the 'direction of stretch' ensures that the main stretch of your fabric is going around your body.

(7.) Any extra information like if you need to put the pattern down the fold of the fabric, and seam allowances if you need them written down to remind you. I also when I first started out, would number the patterns, for example if there was four pattern pieces I would write 1/4, 2/4, 3/4, 4/4. Just so I knew I had every pattern piece before I started cutting the fabric, which when it comes to bras you may find yourself with a pile of patterns which may have a tendency to somehow float and fall off the table!  

Where it all began... with this soft bra

Where it all began.... I found this beauty amongst a pile of fabric the other day. It was from my first range of my label Vanjo, that was stocked by Topshop. It sold within a week on their website. 

The first ever soft bra to be stocked by them that went up to a FF cup. It was this style of bra that led me to launch my own label. Often labels come from seeing gaps in the market from personal experiences and mine was no different.

Whilst travelling I carried with me a pile of bikinis and two bras, both underwired, one which was padded. I longed for a soft bra, not a sports top, not a beige or white soft bra that was aimed at the older market. I wanted my lingerie to reflect who was, like my clothes did. I wanted to get on an aeroplane and sit in comfort, not to have to undo the bra half way into the flight. I was 30DD/E at the time and didn't really have the option of going braless.

What if I could find amazing printed fabric and make that soft bra I longed for, this was back in 2004 when small backs/bigger boobs didn't have such a market as it does today, and after many trials, I produced this design using Liberty fabric (red with black line drawings of unicorns).

beginning to design lingerie

Your USP of your lingerie brand

I have spent the last few weeks tailoring up new designs to launch into patterns, and looking back at this piece, it evokes memories of what Vanjo stood for. To give women the freedom and choice to have a piece of lingerie which caters for them, for fit and function and for their lingerie to be fun, whether you were a C cup (which Vanjo started at) or a FF cup. It was my USP I suppose.

And sometimes when you get knee deep in patterns, with day to day running of a business you sometimes forget of what you once began and what your business stood for. 

So in full circle I'm bringing back this piece to be able, to buy as a pattern in cup sizes. At present it only goes up to FF cup, so let me know if you are interested for it to be available in bigger sizes. And more importantly if you're struggling with your designs - go back to the beginning. Back to why you wanted to start your lingerie brand. Get reacquainted with your passion and your USP.