What Bra components I use

Like many of you December seems the busiest yet shortest month, and with deadlines looming that I hope to smash by Christmas, todays blog is I hope information that will help you start designing. This week I'm looking at the different components I use when making a bra - there are so many out there, and this is one of the questions which I get asked quite a bit. 

What bra components to use

What bra components to use


The most important part of the bra, and what I design around, for past Vanjo and future Vanjo for under wire bras I use the MS20 wire. Personally I love this wire, it's great for the bigger cup as the wires don't come that high up in the Centre front, which eliminates he pressure and pain of when wires dig into the sternum especially when dealing with 28" backs. Previously I've gotten my wire from Prym Intimates  although each wire had the minimum of about 1,200.


For the top and bottom of the wing I usually use the same width of brushed back elastic, although come companies use a narrower elastic for the top wing, the reason I use the same is that in some of the lingerie that has had a narrower elastic at the top of the wing, when it's been stretched around the body it's gotten too thin and caused irritation and marks on the body. On the cup I usually use a narrow khola, it's lighter than brushed back elastic and usually comes in a prettier version. In the past for the I've used Moll elastic, and bought it by the 500m roll. 


My personal favourite is to use a 38mm hook and eye, it's a 2x3 (2 hooks and 3 rows of them) hook and eye, so not too chunky but offers more support that the 32mm version (who'd have thought 6mm could make such a difference?) I also quite like the 55mm (3x3) but some women seems to have an aversion to have such a big hook and eye on their bra, or that is my experience when selling the lingerie.


I like to use 12mm strapping, 10mm seems to narrow for the larger sizes and 15mm is like the wide hook and eye, some women don't want the larger strap, although when I relaunch I am sampling up wider bra styles to see how that goes. In the past I used fancy bra straps, although that is harder to adjust your bra strap, but at the moment I'm loving the plain preferably matt style of the straps.


For the slides you have to use the same width as your strap, but can go down a size for the rings, although don't go too small or your strap will curve around the ring. I always use metal based rings and slides, plastic ones don't cut it for me. they have a tendency to break.

If you have any questions about any of the components then drop me a line. The book "Anatomy of the bra" covers the components in greater detail.


Van Journal: Starting sewing and fits


If you bought (or remember) the soft bra from Vanjo the first time round, you'll be pleased to know that it's coming back but with a slight alteration to the pattern to ensure a better fit and support.

Vanjo Soft bra 

Vanjo Soft bra 

Drafting out the patterns is one of my favourite things to do as it's the start of bringing a design from your mind into reality. Having worked with different designers I've noticed that lingerie designing usually falls into two camps; one where the design is drafted out exactly how it will be, and the other where the final design is designed until the pattern is right. I fall into the latter category. 

Drafting out and sewing up the soft bra

Drafting out and sewing up the soft bra

Using the right fabric

I don't like to design the final piece (fabric wise) until I know that the pattern is exactly how I want it, there are a couple of reasons for this:

1. It uses up any old fabric.

2. It allows me to keep a track of each sample I made, I don't have to work out which is the first or second sample if they are in different fabrics.

3. It keep me excited to keep designing, I like to make the same thing over and over in the same fabric when it's not 100% right, as when I reach the final piece I'll be bored of making it.

So if i'm making a sample out of cotton jersey which is one of my favourite fabrics to work with, I'll make sure that the fabric content is exact to my final piece (usually 95/5 : 95% cotton, 5% elastane) and the stretch is the same and go from there. Then each time I fit the garment and re-make the it I change up the fabric, that way it seems like I'm designing more than I actually am and sometimes I come across colour combinations or trim ideas I probably wouldn't have thought of if I was just designing on paper.

At this I'm 80% certain of the designs and shapes, and although I have so many I want to do, I'm editing it down to the strongest few. 

"The Van Journal is all about starting Vanjo again and a honest look behind the scenes of how I'm going about starting the label again". 

Van Journal - The starting of Vanjo: Inspiration

Van Journal is all about the process of starting Vanjo; and a honest look behind the scenes of how I'm going about starting the label again. 

This month November, I have started to design and think about the colours and fabrics and also draft out the patterns, sew the pieces together and start fits.

When I ran Vanjo the first time around, I would have a loose idea of the colours I wanted each season and would totally go off the fabrics I had selected. I went on the ethos of not using any new fabrics and would buy rolls of left over fabric other lingerie/fashion companies didn't use. When you're a bigger fashion house, you have to buy over the fabric amount you need as there are flaws in fabrics and to allow for errors in manufacturing. And usually these fabrics would end up in land fill sites or sit for years in factories. 

This time around, I'm hoping to run that ethos when I'm up and running, when I have the time (and room to stock them) to source the speciality fabrics I need on rolls of fabrics that are no longer being used. What I am doing though is sourcing all fabrics from UK companies first. 

Anyway first time round I would design solely from the fabrics I had, this time around I'm having to loosely design what range I think I want then source components and fabrics.  I find this way much harder, as it feels like you can design anything and it's hard to start and narrow it down. Also I like to design after I have the fabric so can feel what seems right in the designs.  I always put together a mood board to get going, even if the collection doesn't end up like it at the end (and they rarely do) but it's a time to sit and think about what I want and get excited about where to start. 

Here are the first thoughts about Vanjo may look like when I re-launch.

First look at inspiration of mood board for Vanjo Lingerie

First look at inspiration of mood board for Vanjo Lingerie

Vanjo is coming back

Planning AW18 range of Vanjo Lingeire

Planning AW18 range of Vanjo Lingeire

Back in 2005 I launched my lingerie label "Vanjo" which specialised in the larger cups and smaller backs of the lingerie world. Mainly spurred on my need to find a 30E cup bra that wasn't black white or nude and I hadn't found one non wired back then in that size. Because lets face it when you're that size a S, M or L size isn't gonna cut it; either it's going to fit around your back or fit your boobs not both.

So after doing the game paper, scissors and stone I ended up in Belfast, with just a rucksack, and with there being no lingerie design jobs there, and with no responsibilities and no little people to support, it was the perfect (in my eyes) place to start my journey designing Vanjo.

Being an only and lonely lingerie designer in Belfast had it's advantages and disadvantages. The advantages being that I was featured on the BBC news on a programme about local designers, I won the NI Shell Entrepreneur award for small business; basically I had a great USP. The downsides was that I had to travel 'across the water' (to the UK) for meetings and shows. And all before social media influenced our lives in a big way (though I did have a 'My Space' page - remember those?) I wasn't side tracked, trawling through and losing a couple of hours here and there. 

Last range of Vanjo Lingerie for SS'09

Last range of Vanjo Lingerie for SS'09

I closed Vanjo down in AW 2008 with the last orders going out for SS09, for a few reasons, one, at the time the orders were getting too big for me to sew myself, but too small to outsource, (though I did do one run with AJM, a UK manufacturers). I simply could no longer go at the speed I was working, working from 7am - 11pm most days. I still wanted to travel and work abroad and I'd been getting heaps of questions from people about advice on how to start their own lingerie label, and I wanted to write a book about this.

Basically I couldn't see how I could achieve all this, having only lived in a new place for four years and with the majority of that I'd been at home with only the postman I saw on a daily basis so didn't have a solid network at that point around me.

And when I closed 'Vanjo' down I was saddened but also excited about my next chapter in my life - I ended up staying in Belfast taking a part time job, moving in with a friend, writing "How to become a Lingerie Designer" then when I had about finished writing, I secured sponsorship with an Australian lingerie design company and generally the time I spent away from my label I had a blast.

But I missed it. 

Fast forward until now, and I love writing and freelancing, doing all the technical aspects of lingerie for different companies, but there is something about having your own design in your mind and being able to sew it into reality. So Vanjo is set to be launched for AW18.

Why now?  To be honest I don't know, I suppose it's the same reason that I closed down Vanjo, in that I didn't follow reason I just went with what felt right.

I can't put it better than Winston Churchill "Never give up on something that you can't go a day without thinking about". 


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.

Sewing Lingerie with Scuba Fabric

Lingerie patterns available sewn up in scuba fabric

Lingerie patterns available sewn up in scuba fabric

Recently I've been seeing Scuba fabric every where, and although I had my reservations how this would translate into lingerie, I thought I'd sew it up in the following patterns, Harriet (high waist brief), Tippi (window back brief) and Birdie (high apex bra pattern not yet released).

For those who have yet to handle scuba fabric, it's a double knit fabric, (but not with the foam insert like wetsuits) with a great stretch and recovery.

So what did I think:

The positives of sewing scuba fabric

The positives: It's really easy to cut, you can leave the edges raw if that's a look you want, or use cut out lace would be a dream to sew and cut behind. It gives amazing support with good stretch on the bra, I had the side cup lined, but I don't think that it would necessary. It has a good recovery, so if you do stretch it whilst sewing then it tends to go back to original shape. You can also get some great colours and prints out there to sew with.

The negatives of sewing scuba fabric

The negatives: It was really hard to iron, there was a crease across the front of the Harriet brief and I couldn't get rid of it (look at the pictures and you can still see it), it's a nightmare to unpick, I attached the lace the wrong way around, and any unpicking resulted in holes, in the end I cut out two new pieces and started to re-sew the lingerie brief again. The seams are quite bulky, I incorporated lace into the design, but the seams still seamed (haha no pun intended) bulky. 

Also personally I wasn't in love with the fabric, maybe if I had chosen a print or softer colour I would have been, if I was to sew with it again I would overlay the fabric with a mesh. I prefer more natural fabrics like cotton etc. I'm not sure how this will feel in high summer.

Tip for sewing scuba fabric

* If you are going to sew with scuba fabric I recommend using larger stitches than you normally use and a ball point needle.