The bra-slip (and lessons learned)


For years (years!) I’ve been looking for loungewear that is cute, feminine, comfortable, and supportive.

That last one is really the sticking point. There are tons of cute vintagey-looking slips and rompers out there, but it’s not easy to find one that will support a larger bosom. For most, I’d need to wear a bra with them, which has a tendency to spoil the effect.

So now that I’m learning a bit about bra-making, I decided to give this pattern from merckwaerdigh a shot. I love the result, but even more, I love what I’ve learned from it.

First, this pattern is not for the faint of heart. You have the usual extra steps with European patterns, namely that you have to trace and add seam allowances. Not a huge deal, especially because there aren’t many pieces here. But the instructions are minimal, and that’s putting it mildly. There are no illustrations (other than the technical drawing), and the translation from Dutch reads… well, like a translation from Dutch. At least one or two steps seemed to be from another pattern. I scratched my head reading them and then just followed the general steps and used what I’d learned from bra-making, which worked pretty well.

For the main fabric, I used a pale blue silk jersey from my stash (so luxurious!), coral stretch lace, coral ribbon for the teeny bows, ivory bra strap elastic, and ivory picot elastic. The cups are lined with leftover duoplex from my pink bra. Oh, and by the way, if the fit looks off in the cups above, as I mentioned before the dress form is smaller in the cups than I am.

I tried to use what I had as much as I could for this, since it’s nigh impossible to make a muslin when there’s hardware and elastic involved. And I’ll definitely make this again, now that I’ve learned a thing or two from it.

That brings me to something I was thinking about while sewing this.

As I sat unpicking a seam I’d sewn a little wonky, I thought about how frustrating it can be when you make a mistake in sewing, or even when an entire garment goes completely wrong. You’ve spent hours on it, and maybe it just didn’t turn out the way you wanted, or perhaps there are just a few little details that you KNOW you could have done better.

But isn’t this how we become better at things? Why do we spend so much time hating and fretting over our mistakes, when it’s learning from our mistakes (or failures, even) that leads to building new skills? If you did everything perfectly, you wouldn’t learn anything new.

That led me to think that it would be a really good practice to document “lessons learned” from sewing projects. I mean, I ALWAYS learn something new, and writing it down could definitely help me to remember what it is. It might be a lesson from a mistake, or it could be something I did right or tried for the first time. So, in that spirit, I’m going to start including them when I write about my projects.

Lessons Learned:

  • An easy way to add seam allowances: After tracing my pattern, I tried this method using the sewing machine from Pam at Off The Cuff Style. It was so fast and easy, highly recommended!
  • Reverse engineering is awesome: The pattern for this slip instructed me to sew the picot elastic along the top of the lace scallops. I knew that would show through and look wonky, so I just copied what I see in many of my RTW bras and bought some narrow, clear elastic to sew behind the lace. Problem solved.
  • Support comes from the band: I already knew this in theory, but this really demonstrates it. The cups themselves are well fitting and supportive, but this bra-slip is nowhere near as supportive as a bra, because there’s no band underneath. That’s fine for me, but now I know what to expect.
  • Support also comes from the bridge: Ok, this is something I’ll improve on my next version. The cups are spaced way too far apart. If you look at the bridge (the little piece between the cups), it’s quite wide. Because the underwires aren’t butted right up next to each other, it’s much less firm and supportive. Again, it’s fine for lounging around the house, but I wouldn’t do jumping jacks in this thing.
  • Double scalloped lace is economical: The coral stretch lace had scallops on both sides (called galloon lace). After cutting out the cups and back, I sliced the remaining lace down the center and had just enough left to add to the hem because both sides are usable as a border. I used almost every scrap, which always feels so good, doesn’t it?

Thinking about what I’ve learned from a project really feels good, and seems to turn the little mistakes into opportunities instead of disappointments. I think writing it down like this will make it even more concrete. Do you do this yourself? I mean, do you look at mistakes and failures as a waste of your time and materials? Or more as a learning experience?

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 73


Fabulous! I also bought a merckwaerdigh pattern for my first go at bramaking, My mistake was not buying enough lace and buying too much shell fabric! Also it is definitely better buying a set to make up when you first start. I didn’t and now I had to order one to get the right colour straps and stuff! Nevermind we live and learn! x


Totally agree, kits are the way to go at first. Luckily, this slip doesn’t require quite as much hardware.


I try to make notes on the pattern instructions as I go, about what worked or what I had to do differently, like I do with recipes.

British patterns usually have seam allowance included – I didn’t know continental European patterns were different.

I can’t decide if it’s encouraging or discouraging to know that even you, Sarai, have sewing disappointments!


I doubt there’s anyone who can claim to never make mistakes, even stupid mistakes. I’m sure even the most prestigious couture workrooms have their share of cursing. :)


Wow this looks stunning. I am making too many mistakes to list them!

paige p @ luxperdiem

If you made a supportive bra slip I would totally buy it. Poorly translated directions scare me, since the Colette directions are so amazing!

paige p @ luxperdiem

pattern that is!


Beautiful job Sarai! So very feminine. I love it!

May I ask?….when tracing your patterns and or creating your own, what type of pattern paper do you prefer and use most often?


95% of the time I’m using my own patterns, so they’re actually just printed on my huge plotter. When I do trace, I use rolls of light bond paper, since it’s inexpensive, doesn’t tear easily, but is light enough to trace through.


So cute! Supportive loungewear is indeed very rare, so i might give this pattern a shot. Dutch is my mothertongue, so if I can help out with weird translations, I’ll be glad to.


I’ll never be upset by no seam allowances on a pattern again, thanks to Susan’s couture dressmaking class on Craftsy….mark the sewing lines, not the cutting lines…genius!!! I learned so much!!


Oh that is so beautiful. I know your just starting your journey into bra making but my ample bosoms are so in need of even more support since the children came along. My sisters all have such pretty underthings I hope you do a pattern like this for us some day because I love to sew but there is NO way I could use a pattern without good instructions and yours are always the best!


This is beautiful! Nice work (and I second the above comment that if Colette released a pattern like this, I’d want to try it.. Maybe after trying out Cinnamon first.)

As a beginner sewist, I definitely keep notes. I have a binder that I think of as my “lab notes,” since the methid reminds me of doing lab experiments in high school! I photocopy the pattern instructions and highlight things as I go (like steps I found tricky the first time around) and I actually write down everything I do that’s different from the instructions, or a choice that I made, so I remember how it went. It’s been super useful so far, especially since I really only sew on weekends and sometimes forget where I was at, or what I was about to do. I find this method is really useful for fitting, too. I’m a fan of the wearable muslin concept, so once I finish I make fitting notes of adjustments to make next time.


Wow, that sounds amazing. You are inspiring me to start my own sewing journal, it sounds like such a great idea.


Gorgeous. Thanks for sharing! While some mistakes used to seem like the end of the world, keeping at it has definitely made me more patient and forgiving over the years :) That SA link? Brilliant. I’ve spent too much time adding them with pencil… never again.


I know, Pam’s SA tip is amazing, isn’t it? Such a time saver. I really need to post more links to great tutorials and ideas like this.


Beautiful slip! Thank you – I loved hearing your lessons learned. I’m definitely one of those people that beat myself up when things don’t go perfect instead of seeing it as a learning experience. I think I might start documenting my lessons learned – because the other side of it, as I’m seeing, is that your lessons learned have taught me something I wouldn’t have known otherwise! So our mistakes are not only a learning opportunity for ourselves, but a teaching opportunity for fellow sewists!


So true. And I think we’re much harder on ourselves than we need to be. Sometimes I’ll look at my RTW clothes and notice little things about them and realize that if I had made the garment, I’d be nitpicking it to death and wondering if I could have done it better. Whereas on a RTW garment, I barely notice.


I have recently realized this as well and I’ve started paying closer attention to my RTW wardrobe to try to educate my eye about what has obviously been ok to me all this time. Unless it is obviously bunched up somewhere or twisted or something, I always subconsciously permit so many things like wrinkles and non-matching stripes and such in RTW that I’m embarrassed by if I’ve made it.


Great post! I can never wear these slips I see in stores for the same problem. I love the colors in yours.


Thanks! I saw a vintagey rose/seafoam/cream bra recently, so this was sort of a variation on that color combo.

Heather Lou

I’ve been keeping track of “lessons learned” on my blog too. Especially since I just started sewing this year and every damn day I’m learning something new.

ps. Love the slip! I have tonnes of vintage lingerie I never wear, but something tells me I would if I actually made it. Your man is a lucky man.


I have lots of vintage stuff too, but don’t really wear it much. I think it’s mainly the support issue.


That looks so pretty.

As Nina mentioned, I’m a bit surprised that European patterns don’t have seam allowances built in (hailing from there), but then I have only vague memories of the patterns my mother used.

I don’t think a mistake or failure is ever really a waste of time, if you actually can figure out where the problem lies and how to work through it. Sometimes if it indicates an actual flaw in the pattern and leaves you completely stumped, I’ll admit that frustration will set in and it’s hard to see through to the positives and to pick yourself up and try again.

Nina also said: “I can’t decide if it’s encouraging or discouraging to know that even you, Sarai, have sewing disappointments!” – I think it’s helpful to know that everyone can have some issues with things, and that even very experienced sewists can be thrown for a loop. It would also make me do a particular pattern that I know gave people some troubles more carefully, and remind me to try not to get as frustrated as easily if it wasn’t working out quite like I wanted immediately.

I wonder, Sarai, when you encounter patterns that are difficult to decipher or lacking in very expansive descriptions, does it make you more mindful of the way your own patterns are written and laid out? A different way of learning through mistakes.


That’s a good point. I hadn’t thought about it really, but I do tend to get extra frustrated with poorly written instructions. Not so much in a case like this where it might be translation issues to a great degree, but if it seems like they just didn’t put the effort in… that is frustrating and makes me want to do better.

That actually goes for any product design. I think a lot of us will tolerate faults in a design, but it’s much more annoying when it seems that no effort was really put in, or that the end user isn’t really being respected.


Of course I feel bad when a sewing project ends up a dud – whether it’s a total wadder, or just kinda-sorta-uncomfortable due to some small error (not fitted correctly, poor fabric choice, etc). But I totally get what you mean – it does feel good to know what I’ve learned, and how to improve the next go-round. Muslins can eliminate some fitting errors before the reach the final garment, but they can’t save everything. I don’t like to wear something that I feel I need to be constantly adjusting, so if it doesn’t feel good on my body… I just give it away. It does make me feel a little better (and my friends are thrilled with the freebie haha). I usually write my notes all over my patterns & they tend to end up in my blog as well – for both my reference and anyone who comes across it!

Anyway, that slip is gorgeous. I love that your stash-busting involves luxurious stuff like silk jersey :) The colors look really wonderful together.


I think I have a lot of fancy stuff in my stash! It’s hard to pass up a good sale, even if you don’t know what you’ll use it for. :)


Thanks for another awesome post. I try and constantly remind myself while sewing that though it can be totally frustrating at times, mistakes are the best way to learn. I’ve sewn pockets onto the wrong side of a skirt, royally mucked up an FBA, and sewn more than a few wonky seems. It’s always nice to be reminded that all of us go through this – no matter what skill level we are.

Also have the same problem with slips which is such a drag. If you ever get the urge to turn that bra-slip into a pattern, please do!


I love this post! Its a great idea to keep a sort of journal of your project. I can see naming the feelings that go with those experiences too. It might foster more patience. I find the fact that in sewing you can make mistakes and then have the chance to undo and fix your mistake positively therapuetic. Not saying its fun, but rather that I appreciate when a mistake can be fixed, unlike so many other obstacles we encounter in the world today. Thank you for sharing this insight with us.


That’s an interesting idea, including your thoughts and reactions to the mistakes. I guess a blog is handy for this too.


I strongly agree on the topic of learning from your mistakes. As you move forwards in your sewing career you can be more pragmatic (after cursing!) but it’s the new Sewists I feel for, whose hopes can be crushed by a failed make. What a great idea to keep a learning diary! Firstly, because we learn by proxy when reading it but also, to reassure us that no one is perfect. You used gorgeous colours, as ever!


Love the slip! (Face green with envy and at the same time burning with the desire to make one)

I’ve discovered that reading other sewists’ blogs teaches me a lot about my own sewing process. For instance, I have used only Burda magazine patterns and those all come without sewing allowances, so for me, it was actually rather confusing to learn that some patterns include them. I’ve always marked the sewing lines and added the allowances when cutting pieces out (my hand is so used to this process, that I cut at exactly 1 cm without measuring it first). And as for instructions, the first Burdas I had were in russian (I understood about every 10th word), so I had only the markings on the pattern pieces to guide me through the process. The thing you’re used to always seems to make the most sense, I guess. It so interesting to read about your sewing process, be it perfect or with flaws.


I live in Europe, so even though I actually add the seam allowances to my pattern pieces, I too can freehand a 1 cm allowance. :)


I have this exact problem (unsupportive loungewear) and my husband doesn’t understand why I won’t buy any/wear any ‘cute’ stuff. This one seems like something I could adapt for myself, especially with your notes on it, lol! I may have to try this pattern. Did it have the original Dutch instructions along with the translation? Just curious – my father was Dutch and I’m in the process of translating a Dutch novel that he’d started translating for me before he died. I would imagine sewing vocab is slightly specialized, but if it had both I could try to do an accurate translation. As someone with a degree in French Lit., inaccurate translations bug the heck out of me.

Making sewing mistakes is always so humbling, but you’re right – they can result in huge lessons that improve our sewing from that point on. I made a huge mistake the other day when I started a skirt without double-checking the length to see if I needed to shorten it. Alas, I now have to take the whole thing apart and try to salvage it. A good, if rather time-consuming lesson.


I think there’s an option to buy it in either Dutch or English if I remember correctly.

Rochelle New

UHG! I don’t even want to admit how many times I had to rip the sleep off of my latest project only to sew it on the wrong way again! Even after I pinned it, “checked” to make sure the right sides were together, and then proceeded to sew AND serge the edges of a sleeve sewn on the wrong way. I’m not a beginner sewer so I definitely know better, which is the part that was the most frustrating!! BUT I did end up conquering the stupid sleeve after making my hubby watch me pin to confirm I was doing it the correct way (even though he wouldn’t have known it was the right way). But yeah, lesson learned: Know when to take a break, and don’t sew late at night!

p.s. the slip turned out beautifully :)


That is one lesson I seem to grasp better in theory than practice. :)


I’m in love with your slip! You’re adding to my want for lingerie sewing with this.
Silk jersey? Where did you find it ? (though I would hate to have do to any ripping )
And I echo the no to sewing when you are really tired or in poor light like late at night.


I think I bought it long ago, when I lived in Berkeley, at Stone Mountain & Daughter. But it’s possible I bought it online. Wish I could remember!

Tasha Miller Griffith

I keep obsessive notes when I sew (and on recipes :) ), and now that I’ve started blogging I find it even more important to document/share things. I think that we have a lot to learn from each other and our collective mistakes, and it’s great to have this online community to reach out to!

I ran into this quote the other day: “All creative avenues yield the maximum when failures are embraced.” – Kevin Kelly

It’s so true, the worst that can happen is you won’t like what you’ve made, but you’ll learn volumes more than you would if you don’t try something new!


That’s a great quote.

There’s a maxim in business (especially tech / start-up culture) of “fail early, fail often.” The idea is that if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying anything new, pushing yourself, or learning.


Oh so pretty! Very nice. I’m planning to sew a slip this year but I’m not up to ‘making a bra level’ – yet :)

When I’ve reviewed sewing projects on my blog this year I have also noted any ‘new skills learned’, partly as a way to help me keep track, as it can be easy to forget how much you learn from sewing as you go along.


I’m right there with you on the need for foundation garments with support! Thanks for sharing your tips and lessons–this might need to be my next project.

Hana – Marmota

It’s beautiful! Good for you for mastering the pattern.
“Support also comes from the bridge” – I’ve found this too; it was the one big difference between my Triumph bras and my cheaper ones – I’ve sewed the bridge more “closed” on the cheaper ones now. It’s a bit of a hacking job, but it makes all the difference in the world!


That’s a lovely slip! I’m just experimenting with bra making, and spent much of last night unpicking the first muslin (which wasn’t bad, just a bit small) to reuse some parts on the second muslin. I was tempted to give up, but when I see all the great laces and colors out there that I couldn’t find in a store in my size, I think it might be worth the “learning process”. It’s also just fun to find out that you actually can make something like a bra, which is a mysterious sort of garment even to most experienced sewers, but not that hard to make once the fitting part is figured out. My mom tells a story of trying to make one back in the ’70s and accidentally making two of the same cup. She stopped there, and thinks I’m a bit crazy for trying.


There is a great little tool (designed in Melbourne, Australia!) for easily adding a seam allowance while cutting out your pattern. Watch a DVD about it here or see a review here –


Wow Sarai this is beautiful! You really do love the light blue/coral combination don’t you?

I agree with you about using your sewing mistakes as learning tools, but it’s hard to take the plunge and try to deal constructively with pattern fitting/alterations especially if you know by just looking at the pattern that it will have to be altered. 9 times out of 10 I just avoid buying the pattern and go for the one I know I can stitch up. It can be limiting though so I try not to do it (too much). Personally, I have broad shoulders and I shy away from patterns with set-in sleeves because altering the sleeves to give me more ease ends up being a guessing game that just frustrates me to no end. Sewing lingerie on the other hand lets me be free to explore because I’m not using as much fabric.


Yes, it’s bound to be my preferred color combo for Spring and Summer this year. I’m already coral obsessed, but the blue is really creeping in everywhere lately.


I love this! I agree that support can be a real issue when making ones own bras and lingerie, and this can be a deterrent. For those needing more in the way of support it might be possible to add an internal band to help keep “the girls” in line.


It looks fantastic!
And about the struggle with the instructions in dutch ==> I’m always using the google translate for specific english terms (since I speak dutch, and most bloggers are making their instructions in english…) But if you need any help, I’m very willing to lend you a hand ;-)

Maria M.

This looks divine. Confession — If I made this and it looked half as good as yours, I’d probably wear it out in public as I would be so damn happy.

Yes, I am THAT girl.


Haha. You’d have to wear something under it or you might get arrested. The lace is rather revealing up top.


I’ve not commented before on your blog but I do always read when I get the chance! I sat all day – for the first time in a long time – with my sewing machine and attempted to rework some vintage pieces which would’ve been scrapped if I couldn’t fix. I ended up getting so frustrated at the hems being wonky and the thread snapping, so it is very funny that I have come across this today! You’re totally right though, and I’m grateful to have read this as it reminds me that it really is a learning curve. I just wish I had more patience like yourself!!


Thanks for commenting, Robyn. :)

I think it helps to realize that everyone who sews goes through this same thing. I actually don’t consider myself very patient by nature because I get so excited about ideas and want to see them DONE. But sewing has taught me some patience over the years.


I think I have a conversation with myself every week about making mistakes. I used to teach reading classes, and I told students they had to be willing to takes risks and make mistakes if they wanted to learn and so now I have to follow my own advice. I do it better when I make myself not rush, when I take a deep breath and just do the next step. It’s hard because my sewing time is limited, but so much more meaningful.


Gorgeous! Ahh I always envy women who have very nice figures and those would easily fit in this loungewear.


Oh, please do post about your mistakes! It’s very reassuring to see that I am not the only one who does dumb things, like sew a right side to a wrong side, or misinterpret the math in one of those recipe-style patterns where you take your measurements and then draw the pieces yourself. I suppose the types of mistakes just change as your skills increase.

I also need to adopt the sewing journal that @elenacpotter described. Genius!


I love your view on learning!! I am a teacher, and whenever my students complain that something is hard I tell them, “Good! If it was easy you wouldn’t be learning anything new!” I believe if we all shared our mistakes then we would be easier on ourselves. We tend to think that everyone else is so much more competen than we are.


Yes, the old “comparing your insides to others’ outsides” problem!


I love this concept! I am going to memorize: “Turn little mistakes into opportunities rather than disappointments.” Perfect for sewing, knitting and life! Thank you. And your slip is a maze ing.


Have you thought about doing a “sew along” for the great looking bra and/or this fabulous slip?


I have never even seen a slip with supportive cups before, so I am loving this! And the colours you chose are beautiful!


Gorgeous! Fab colours, and I love that you managed to use both sides of the lace – I hate bits left over – you must have been really chuffed! And so clever… I don’t wear slips and stuff like that around the house because although I’m only a 36 C, gravity is working agaisnt me now :(… so this is a cool solution. But pray please tell – what is a wing needle? i tried to google it but only got instructions on how to use it.


A wing needle is a very sharp needle with little “wings,” used often for doing decorative hemstitching and the like. It actually cuts the fabric as it sews because of its shape.


Thank you, Sarai!


Thanks for the lessons learned! The tip about seam allowances is great!

elena gold

hi! i think this is my first time commenting, but i enjoy your blog. ( i am a buddy of caitlin’s. :) i completely agree about the importance of making mistakes and learning, especially with knitting and sewing. i feel that to get better at my work, i simply must make mistakes and keep trying to improve. i love that i have the chance to rip out a buttonband and reknit until i am satisfied. i love that i can make muslins and fine tune fit/test techiniques. it boggles my mind when i read on ravelry someone criticizing a pattern because it didn’t fit their body perfectly at the first attempt. that is not how i approach making at all. of course i have had frustrated moments, and sometimes i chose brain-less projects for a different lind of relaxation, but learning from my mistakes and improving is probably the most rewarding part of being a craftsperson.


Oh I love this! I’m a 32G bust so while I’ve been gearing up to make a full slip I keep thinking “what a pain that I’ll need to wear a bra under it even for sleeping.” I wonder if it could be made more supportive by adapting it for a built-in band? I have a set of books by Lee Ann Burgess called “Making Beautiful Bras” and “Making Beautiful Swimwear” and she explains how to create a one-piece swimsuit with a built in underwire bra based on a TNT underwire bra pattern–I bet that same method could be used here.


Love it!
I really want to start sewing my own girly undergarments. Where would you recommend finding more bra slip patterns?
And what is the best beginner bra set?


Roxy, check out my bra making post. I link to a pattern and recommend the kit that comes with it.


It’s nice to hear someone else articulate the need to document what we learn with each sewing project. I just recently started a little book where I write down the project, the timespan, what I learned while working on it, and other pertinent details (such as who it was for if it was a gift, for example). I think it will be fun and enlightening to look through it from time to time. P.S. Since I love artsy blank journals, it was a great excuse to get one!

Nancy Schaub

This is gorgeous. I was just telling a friend how much I missed the comfort of a bra slip with stretch cups and decided to go looking to see if there was a pattern. Not sure I want to tangle with the Dutch pattern since I have not even tried to make a bra yet, but it is something to keep in mind. Beautiful color combo! Who remembers Petti-pants from the 60s? I miss those too.

Nancy Schaub

PS: Is there any way to subscribe via email subscription?

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