How to alter a wing pattern back

Last month on my facebook and Instagram page I wrote about the difference between bra backs of the camisole (straps that go into the wing) and leotard (straps that curve along the wing into the hook and eye).

From this I got a request about how to change a camisole back into a leotard back, so I thought I’d show you both ways to alter the backs of the wings. Starting with the easiest first.

ALTERING A LEOTARD WING TO CAMISOLE WING

  1. Draw around the wing pattern. I am making the new wing pattern with a 30mm hook and eye, so first mark 6mm up (thats the seam allowance) to know where the hook and eye start. Then mark 30mm up from that line, then mark 6mm again. That is the width of your new pattern at the hook and eye point.

altering a wing pattern

2. Next draw a line across from the hook and eye (see red lines) and draw a line joining the top of your hook and eye to the top of the wing.

In-between these lines draw a curved line, it needs to be curved for the elastic not to bag out as it goes around the back of your body.

altering a wing pattern

3. Shade off the areas you don’t need. And you will be left with a new camisole wing pattern.

altering a camisole wing pattern to leotard

ALTERING A CAMISOLE BACK WING TO LEOTARD

  1. Draw around a camisole wing pattern.

ALTERING WINGS ON BRAS

2. Mark 5cm from the hook and eye, this is where the strap will end up. At the hook and eye, mark 6mm up to see where the hook and eye will start and mark down from the pattern edge taking off the 6mm seam allowance, then mark a further 3mm down, this will allow for the attachment of the elastic that will go into the hook and eye.

ALTERING WINGS ON BRAS

Mark 1.5cm up from the 5cm mark and draw a line from the top of the wing.

ALTERING WING ON A BRA

Draw a curve from the hook and eye to the point where the 1.5cm is.

Draw a curve from the 1.5cm mark to the top of the wing.

ALTERING A WING PATTERN
ALTERING A WING PATTERN ON LINGERIE

Shade off the areas you don’t need so no to confuse when cutting out, and you will be left with a new wing pattern in the style of leotard back.

ALTERED WING PATTERN LEOTARD FROM CAMISOLE

Five ways to make your cash flow go further

Without a cash flow, you have no business. Dealing with invoicing companies or chasing them up, for your lingeire can be part of the job in which you hate but is also the thing that is going to keep your business alive.

Some companies want to pay you after 90 days of delivery, some 30 days and others will happily pay you upon delivery, or 50% up front and 50% after delivery.

So what should you ask for?

Well it depends on the company, the bigger the company, the more sway they will have (and it might be non negotiable) on how you get paid. The big boys payment methods usually pay you 30 - 90 days after delivery, and realistically they are the ones that are going to place the bigger orders, so when planning manufacturing and buying the fabrics, can you survive without being paid that long? Especially if you are working to a two-season calendar drop.

Improving everyday cash flow can be tricky, but there are ways to help the cash flow in quicker and out slower.

improving your cash flow in business


Ask customers to pay sooner

If you are following the two-season calendar drop (selling Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter) then technically you’re only getting money in twice a year. Ask customers from the off set to pay a deposit, the bigger companies as stated will probably say no, which you can counter ask them, with paying pro-forma (when the goods are ready to ship) then giving credit and asking for the final amount 30 days after delivery.

Sell Online

No brainer really, by selling your stock online as well, you are able to get a cash flow in all year round.


Negotiate a split delivery

This works well if you are hand making everything. This is a term used when some of the shop wants their Spring/Summer stock early Jan whereby others are happy for mid February. If you are getting everything manufactured then see if the factory is happy with a negotiate split as well, this means that you’d pay for the first drop, then by the time you pay for the second drop you’d have the money in from the first customer.


Ask for extended credit

Develop a relationship with your suppliers and you may be able to ask for extended credit, this may mean setting up an account with them but having a 30 day credit period (or as much as they allow) can make a big difference to your cash flow, if companies are paying you with a 30 day credit.


Get rid of selling into stores

You may view this as a bit extreme, but depending where you want your brand to head and the amount of money you’re making with selling into stores, versus the complications and time that could be spent else where. When I first ran Vanjo, I sold to shops and online, this time I currently sell solely online. As I hand-make all the lingerie, write and freelance I wouldn’t have the time with balancing three little ones to make the quantities that shops want. With all the overheads for wholesale price. It’s not as daft as it sounds, other lingerie brands that wholesaled previously and now just sell online are Ayten Gasson (who also sells in her own shop) and Kiss Me Deadly.

If you are going down selling the route of selling into shops, ensure you have a terms and conditions form which outlines all payment terms and conditions, including what happens for late payments.

Van Journal: The problems with a second collection

Most new designers, worry about their first collection. It’s such a learning curve that usually takes longer than originally thought, but thats’s okay as you’re still learning, and most probably working in another job, so time may be a problem. What starts off thinking you’ll launch in 6 months, turns into a year (or more) , and suddenly you launch, you’re up and running , you’re taking in sales and you’ve made it.

However if you’re following the seasonal launches of the fashion industry, in another six months you’re gonna have to release your next collection. And this is where it can complicated.

Technically you should be working on your second collections when launching you’re first due to the fact that buyers buy ahead of the season and factories are booked up in advance. If you’re doing different shapes of lingerie than your first collection then there is the time it takes to fit it etc.

How to over come problems

  1. Don’t rely on your first collection sales to predict your second - first collection sales can be at an all time high (or low), you may have landed a contract with a big shop, and be thinking/presuming that they will buy like that off you again.

    STOP.

    You need to take into consideration, how much they were actually able to sell, some companies have budget for new designers and brands, but unless your lingerie significant sold out, they probably won’t place a second order from the second collection, they may wait until your third or fourth or longer to invest in you again.

  2. You don’t have enough data to know what has worked - sadly on your second collection, there isn’t enough time or analyse what did or did not work, or which size sold the best..

  3. You want to produce new patterns and shapes, think about how long it took you to sign off the first collection. For the second collection I would strongly recommend sticking with the same patterns. Vanjo first time around had one bra shape, with and without a cradle, and I launched three collections each season, over the five years it ran - that’s a total of thirty collections with the one pattern.

  4. The flow of money - You probably won’t have been paid for your first collection by the time you need to place an order with your second - bear that in mind.

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Overall when designing your first collection, start to think about your second, rather than launch say three or four collections, then only two for the next, try and and keep it consistent. And when I say collections, it could just mean different colour-ways.

Know what you do, what you stand for and your collections will be strong enough to survive getting past the first year. With also planning for the cash flow to take you past the second collection.

If you are not selling into shops directly there is also another option of not doing seasonal drops. So you produce fewer collections but around the year. That is what Vanjo stands for now. Working as a freelancer and writing means I have less time to sew, so I produce smaller collections throughout the year, that also means less waste and I can react on new ideas quicker, and reject ideas that aren’t going to work.

Mid year catch up

About every 3 months I usually have a look and catch up with myself to see how the year is going and if all that I planned for the start of the year is coming into play. I look at what’s working and what isn’t and what I want to produce content wise.

At the start of the year, I plan/draft out what I would like to achieve, set each month where by i’m just working on one project so i can see progress by the end of the month and not flitting from one project to another and then if time is short it doesn’t feel like I’m starting at the start each time.

Then end of March which co-insides with end of tax year, I go through all my figures of each section of book, ie freelance work, book sales, pattern sales etc. Then I break that down even further to see which book sold the most in money value and also a percentage of my business, this lets me see which product is doing the best and which one I need to spend more time on or get rid of. (“how to become a lingerie designer” took 38% of my sales last year) .

So June catch up is really about if I’m on target ( a month and half behind schedule currently), and what to drop. The thing is you can’t do it all, so at this stage you have to locate the most important and know that there may be projects that carry on next year.

May was to see pattern work occur, which I’m still to do, with the release of more, although it may not be as much as I would like.

First one to add to the collection is a crop top, have been working on a sized one, but it hasn’t been fitting like I would like, and when I made it to the measurements I needed, it was hard to get on. So I’m currently shelving it and going back to ones to be worn either over a bra or on their own for either sleepwear or lounge wear around the house, ie comfy but not as supportive as the other bras.

Ideas that I’ve been throwing around.

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If you would like help with your lingerie drawing, this page is out of “how to sketch a bra and brief” , where there are templates available.

What to write in a tech pack

So the past couple of blogs have been about keeping track of fabrics and trims and costing a bra. This piece covers what to write in a tech pack, it’s one of the most common questions I receive.

Going from a design in your head, to an actual sample  to getting lingerie manufactured is where most people come to a dead end.  Most factories, can’t or won’t give you a price unless they receive a tech pack or at least a construction page, how they they cost a bra you’ve designed unless they know the exact sewing procedures you are wanting. How complicated your design, or fabrics you are using will determine how long it takes to go through production.

By presenting a tech pack or page, you look like you understand how everything works, you look professional and it saves the factory time and you’re more likely to get an answer as factories deal with many requests from designers approaching them to get their lingerie made up.

So what to write in at tech pack?

A lingerie tech pack is similar to a fashion design tech pack, apart from you would have more on your trim page, elastics underwires etc.

Through out my years designing I have presented my tech pack the same, the only difference being is if I’ve worked for a company that manufactures in China, and they are printing and designing their labels and garment labels, then I would have an extra page for that, including artwork that they need. But usually I would start off with a summary page  which includes an overview  of the garment, the size range and a check list of everything you are sending to the factory with a comment box (for you or them to write in) so you may be sending patterns, a spec sheet, a check box for when they send you Pre-production samples etc.

A construction page is the most important, the more detailed this is, then mistakes are less likely to made. Every sewing procedure will be added, so every seam, where the label goes, and how it is sewn, a running stitch? A zig -zag stitch? Twin needle?

sewing terms lingerie

*This is an extract of “How to write a tech pack for a bra and brief”

After the construction page, you will usually have a trims/fabric page, depending on the amount of detail of the construction page, this can go on the same page as the construction page, but usually with lingerie you can have over nine components not including fabrics so it’s sometimes easier to put it on a separate page for space.

*Extract from “How to write a Tech pack for a bra and brief

*Extract from “How to write a Tech pack for a bra and brief

Either the trims I note down everything so when I look back I know everything about that design of lingerie. For example I would note down the article/reference number (so I can order it again) composition (what it’s made from) and placement (where’s it is on the garment). And with the fabric I note down the fibre content (what it’s made from). 

This may be enough in your tech pack, other pages to add would be about the labels, the sew in labels and the swing labels, this is important to add if you’re getting your factory to source and produce your labels, you would need to send the artwork to them and the details such as the washing instructions on them.

Also if you’re getting your lingerie shipped from far away you need to think how it will be packed, if you’re an eco-friendly brand you may not want it shipped in plastic etc.  

if you have no preferences of how it is packed then don’t worry, your chosen factory will have experience of shipping lingerie so will pack it safely. 

When I first got a factory to make Vanjo it was the factory in Wales (AJM) , I visited the factory first and took my sample then sat with the sample machinist and talked her through how I wanted the sample to be, from this she took her own notes with what machine she used and what tension and size the stitch should be so it could go through the factory the same. 

If you’re at a complete stand still on how your garment should be made I recommend starting to look at the inside of lingerie and see what stitches they have used, and if you want more understanding check out this book.  

How to cost a bra and brief

When I first started out Vanjo I was a little bit bewildered about the costing side. I only had costed for big companies, where I either knew what each operation of sewing costed therefore could reduce costs with buyers if needs be or companies had their own formula whereby you would enter what the bra and brief cost and the calculations would happen then you could adjust accordingly and get them signed off.

But there I was about to launch my own label and I didn’t know where to pitch my prices, it all seemed different for your own brand, of course there was the actual costs to add in, but what about everything else. I contacted my friend who at the time had her lingerie label stocked in Liberty and she told me that not only are you proving lingerie but you’re providing a fit, and to pitch yourself at your customer, again we go back to your customer base.

If you’re designing a high end lingerie label, your fabrics are going to reflect that and your prices, don’t just pitch high in hope that you are that high end brand, you have to execute it all.

I wasn’t aiming for the high end lingerie brands, my label was to help women find a good fitting bra with small backs and big brands. I didn’t use the most expensive lace, but I used french lace, so not the cheapest either.

I wanted my brand to be able to expand, so from the start I added in manufacturing prices, I know that going wholesale I would wouldn’t make much profit, but by going wholesale I could then meet minimums on my lingerie, and be able to offer my lingerie to stores and not worry about making them. Although truth be told, I only did one factory run and the rest I handmade, but my having the manufacturing price already in meant that I didn’t have to raise prices for the lingerie at a later date.

Below is an example of a basic costing sheet with the direct costs (not the indirect costs), and example of the bra costing sheet, and blank costing sheets and instructions how to work it all out can be found on the designs sheets in the shop section.

So we all know that without profit and cashflow you have no business.

A basic cost would be : Costs of fabrics + trims + labour + business overheads + profit = Garment costs

After deducting all of your direct and indirect costs (such as rent in your studio) you are left with your profit.

Things to take into consideration when costing are direct costs and indirect costs (your overheads), your hurdle rate (how much profit you need to make ) what your competitors are charging ie where do you want to position yourself in the market and what the customer is willing to pay (what benefit are they paying for when they buy from you.

Before you begin costing you will need to know how much fabric and trims does one garment make then you can work out the percentage of the cost. Just be aware of unseen costs like post costs.

If for example a bra costs (with the pattern and graded) £120 and you’re only selling one then you will have to factor in the full £120 but if you’re planning to sell six then 120/6 = 20 then you factor in this price, and if you’re planning on using this pattern again and again then the price shall be even lower.

You can also work backwards, if you know your market your aiming for sells say bras at £125 and you;re marking up at 2.5 then you can work out the whole sale price (£50) then if you’re wanting to make 2.5 you then know that the bra needs to be made at £20 to get the figures correct.

Remember mark-ups and margin are two very different things. Also another to know is Gross profit is Selling price - Direct costs.

And Net profit is gross profit - Indirect costs

Net profit is usually the money you pump back into the business to get it going.

And I’ll say it again, if you have no cash flow or profit you don’t have a business.




How to keep track of fabrics and trims

Do you order a load of fabric and trims at the same time?  Stash them away to sew up at a later date, then by the time you get to use them, you either forget where you’ve got them from, the code they came under or the price they were?

It’s time consuming to scroll back through receipts or your emails, to check; then email the supplier to check if they have anymore.

There are simple ways to keep track, either in a note book or separate sheets of paper, or on the computer. I’m a fan of printing out forms and fling them in, mainly because fabrics and trims can go quickly so you;re always crossing out what has gone, and I usually order many fabrics at once, so put it all on the same sheet from the same supplier and can add to it, which can be quite hard if you have a paged book.

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I also prefer to have a paper copy in case I need to put a fabric or trim cutting on as a reference and it’s easier to reach for my folder with it all in, rather than start up the computer.

What is on my ‘keep track’ list?

I have the date, the supplier, code, my description and the price. So at a glance I can check with the company if they have anymore or if i’ve bought a lot of that said item, I can check and work out costings without having to spend time trawling back through past paperwork. I also then highlight which item I am using for the collection.

Also I can check at a glance when I bought it. Get into a system that works for you. By doing so you’ll save time and feel a bit more organised even if you’re drowning in trims and fabrics - which in my opinion is not a bad thing!

If you need help with getting a system into place then these design sheets may help you. In them is a style sheet to keep progress of your designs, a fabric/trim tracker (as stated above) a cost sheet to work out your costs, a tech pack template and a spec sheet template.  

How to sew the Betsy brief

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to make your own lingerie but don’t know where to start? The Betsy brief pattern was the first one to be released as this was  my starting point on many patterns. Simple in make-up but can be used with lots of different fabrics to look totally different. A high leg pattern with narrow side seams.

betsy brief pattern
Pattern_betsy brief

First start with sewing the hidden gusset piece, following the steps below. I have also done a detailed post here, if you need more diagrams.

SEWING THE GUSSET

Laying together the right sides of the outer gusset and front panel together with the inner gusset wrong side facing up. Sew together. Finish the edges by sewing close to the straight stitch with a zig-zag stitch if you do not have an overlocker available. Trim excess fabric.
With outer gusset right side up, roll up front piece, then roll up back piece and with wrong side up place on top of outer gusset and then bring inner gusset over both pieces sandwiching them. Then sew back piece and inner and outer gusset together. Pull out front piece and back piece, and with the gusset seams on the inside, sew down the edge of the two gussets together, then trim any threads and fabrics that are sticking out.

SEWING THE SIDE SEAMS

You now have two choices, you can attach the elastic to the legs then sew up one side seam, attach the elastic to the waist then sew up the final side seam, or you can sew the side seams together then attach the elastic in a loop. I usually sew the side seams up first, by laying the right sides of the fabrics together and overlocking, if you have no overlocker then zig zag the seams together. Then trim excess.

ATTACHING THE ELASTIC

You have two choices when attaching the elastic, you can sew the elastic one the legs and waist and overlap at the end, ensuring you keep an even tension the whole way around. Or you can sew your elastic in one loop, then pin at the half, and quarter to ensure an even tension. The elastic will be zig zagged on, there is a tutorial here if you need more information or pictures. Lay the elastic at the leg opening with the decorative edge facing in, pull the elastic evenly and attach using a zig-zag stitch. Then turn the attached leg elastic, back on itself underneath, so that on the right side you only see the decorative edge of the elastic. Secure with zig-zag stitch.

The lovely thing is that you can create a number of designs with just one pattern.

betsybrief lingerie pattern
betsy lingerie pattern


For those wishing to buy the Betsy pattern, please tag me on Instagram when sewn #vjdpatterns




Is a 34D really the same as a 32DD?

You’ve probably heard of sister sizing in the lingerie, for many women they wear a bra band that is too big and cup too small. Many think that a DD cup is bigger than a C cup and in some cases that’s correct but unless you know the back size as well , a bra measuring a C cup can be bigger than a DD cup.

This is where sister sizing comes into play. Before we get into that, let’s talk about what the numbers and letters represent. The numbers (from the UK measurements) represent the measurement taken from under the bust. And the letters represent the difference between your back and bust measurement. Each inch you breasts project from your ribcage is a cup size. For example a 36C, 34D and 32DD are all the same cup size, but a 34D breasts project out 1 inch less than a 32DD but because the different from the band to the cup has increased they are both the same cup size.

So a woman wearing a 36C can wear a 34D , and how it would fit, it would be tighter around the ribcage but the cup would be the same. So technically a 38C cup wearer has smaller breasts than a 30DD cup wearer.

is 32DD the same as a 34D

SO is a 34D really the same as a 32DD?

Fundamentally yes. The same wire is used (and for a 38B, 36C & 30E, and if you were using a moulded cup then that would be the same size. The wings on the 32DD would be shorter than a 34D, hence why if your under-band of your bra is too big when wearing a 34D, you can wear a 32DD for a better fit.

Now this sister sizing doesn’t work on all sizes, when you reach above a E cup, tweaks have to be made for example a 34F and 32FF may have a slightly different neckline measurement, as with a 32FF there is usually more boob than back, and to keep them projecting forward and not under the arm pits, the apex on each cup may be closer together than a 34F. Although the wire might be the same so the manufacturer doesn’t have to produce a wire for every size bra.

If you are designing a collection, it may be worth taking sister sizing into account when deciding on your range, as the bra wire minimums are going to be the same whether you’re producing for a 32DD so using them for a 34D makes sense to have that in the range as well.

If you are grading your lingerie, I always start with the cups, because they are the main importance and when you grade a 32DD, you’ve graded the 34D, 36C etc as well, therefore it’s then easier to work out which wings need to be graded as well. I have always worked for companies that have used the sister sizing, so it’s a useful bit of knowledge to know which cups correspond with another, for both fit and ordering components and wires.

When ordering components even though the 34C is technically the same cup size as the 30DD, different elastic may be used. A 30DD wearer may need wider elastic for the bra to hug and support the weight of the breast, whereas the 34C has a wider distribution for the weight of the breasts along the under-band so a thinner elastic may be used.


Practising lingerie sketches

I haven’t had much time to sketch these past two weeks, but the other day I sat down and wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone a bit, so instead of my black and white pen drawings I decided to add colour. With all things new when you start my hands didn’t always correspond to what I wanted in my head. But I was quite pleased with the first attempts. I will have to invest in more colours and not just design from my head but with intended fabrics, but I’m hoping I get more time to perfect my style using pens.

lingerie sketches
close up of lingerie sketch

The pens i’ve used for this drawing are: Staedtler pigment fineliner usually using the 0.3mm and Winsor & Newton Promarker.

If you are wanting to practise or start lingerie sketches, an e-book is available “How to sketch a bra and brief” which contains 12 shapes and examples of sketching.