Pattern Drafting | Swimwear / Sunwear | Vintage Sewing

Another swimsuit.

July 29, 2013
It's not Saint Tropez, but I like it.

I bought a two-piece swimsuit a couple of years ago, a pretty red bikini in my proper cup size from Ballet, which really only served to underline the fact that I’m more of a one-piece swimsuit person. I really am not comfortable with two-pieces, and I wanted a vintage-looking swimsuit with full rear coverage and low legs without the hassle of trying to fit my size 34 F/G bust into an actual vintage swimsuit, because come on, let’s be realistic.

So. It was clearly time to make one. I made an aborted attempt to build a very structured, fitted suit last year, in a heavy black satin with only 20% stretch or something along those lines, and quickly realized that I don’t actually want a swimsuit that I need to be hooked and zipped into. This year I went with regular old lycra swimsuit fabric instead, and since I’m lucky enough to live in a city where there’s a specialised shop for lingerie, dancewear and swimwear fabrics and notions, I got to choose between about a hundred different colours. (“And you chose the snot green? Really?”) I like green, I like chartreuse, I liked the chartreuse better than the available dark greens, and I didn’t want tropical colours or the usual suspects black, blue or red.

Cup drafting is intimidating and I’m not very happy with any of my current cup drafts, so the bust pattern is based on Mrs Depew’s 50’s French pinup bra and adapted a bit. The cups are cut from two layers of the same swimsuit fabric fused together, which does give it a lot of extra stability, and I made reinforced shoulder straps that start from the side of the cups, cross in the back and button to the top of the cups, which keeps everything neatly in place and provides a bit of support.

Swimsuit detail
Full cups and minimal cleavage, which is how I like it. You might get an idea of the stability the fused double layers of swimsuit fabric add.

For the rest of the suit I looked at an old favourite swimsuit of mine, which is sadly worn to the point where it’s coming apart, and drafted the thing with side seams only, a hint of legs and a fairly wide crotch piece. Most swimsuit bottoms and underpants fit my large behind very badly and ride up, this cut seems to do the trick; it does give the full rear coverage that I want, and then some depending on how low on the hips and thighs you make the bottom edge, it’s comfy, it doesn’t have one of those nasty center front seams, and it stays firmly in place. I love it.

The finish of the suit is not what I’d call pretty. I dislike working with knit fabrics – because I’m not good at it, frankly – and I was in a hurry. Call it a test run that turned out wearable, but not perfect. I do like the black plastic anchor buttons, and the bust got some fairly sloppy black satin piping which helps the look, too. But the important thing is that it’s actually a comfortable, serviceable and fairly well-fitting swimsuit that I don’t have to zip myself into.


Swimsuit, back
And the back.


    1. Thank you! I might as well have made those two darts in the lower half of the cup into one, separated the lower half into two pieces and called in a three-piece cup instead, that’s probably what I will do next time – sleeker, simpler and a bit pointier too, probably. It does give nice support, though.

  1. Wow, that is one great swimsuit. So smart of you to choose the crossed strap style. There have been a lot of halter suits being shown on the internet this year, which are glamorous, but…just looking at them makes this busty gal’s neck hurt. I think the color is wonderful too.

    1. Thank you! Yes, I really can’t wear halters with any degree of comfort if the straps support the bust either. I like the look, but it’s not a great idea for larger busts, unless the band portion carries most of the weight. The crossed straps distribute the weight quite well.

  2. I am seriously impressed. I’m a similar shape to you and have never been happy with the shape and support of swimsuits (at least not the ones that I can afford to buy). You’ve done a wonderful job!

    1. Thank you! It’s hard, isn’t it? I’m never entirely happy with off-the-rack swimsuits either, I think I held on to that worn-out one for about 15 years, and mostly because the fit was great over the bottom, which is so underestimated these days.

  3. Oh my this is so pretty! I love the chartreuse colour and you can even sip chartreuse cocktails while wearing this! How very matchy matchy in the best possible way.
    You’ve done a really lovely job and you look gorgeous!

  4. Great swimsuit!I know how hard it can be to get both the bust and bottom fit right (and I don’t have the added difficulty of a large cup size) but your suit looks like it does the job really well. And I actually really like that colour, especially with the black details.
    Does it have a skirt front? It looks like that in the first picture. If not, I can really recommend trying that for a well-covering retro-y swimsuit bottom (I made a swimsuit with that feature a couple of years ago. It’s here on my blog: )
    Oh, and that last picture is really lovely

    1. It does – I just doubled the front piece and squared off the bottom edge of the modesty panel. It definitely helps with the coverage and silhouette in front.

      Thank you, and I really love your suit! The fit is fantastic, and the cut is beautful. The belt is a very nice detail.

  5. Ha ha, you’re funny. I love your suit. It looks great on you! You did a very nice job. I really like the way you made the bra cups. I have a similar shape, and I can identify with the frustration of finding a suit that fits top and bottom without being too big in the middle. (I find the bottom fitment especially problematic.) I may try making one someday, when I get a little better at sewing. (I just started this year.)

    1. Yup, that’s a problem I can relate too, and while there are plenty of fixes for a large bust, and a much better supply of bras and clothing for larger cup sizes than there used to be, large bottoms have their own fit issues. It’s much harder to find a really well-fitting pair of knickers than a good bra, I find.

    1. Thank you! It’s scary as hell, but interesting. There’s a book about bra making that is supposed to be very good and give out a lot of industry secrets about bra making, I’ll have to buy that at some point. I like the drafting aspect of it, especially, but it always strikes me as hugely complex. So three-dimensional, and on such a relatively small scale, and not just the plain converting a two-dimensional shape into a three-dimensional one but to create a form that successfully molds, lifts and balances it as well – that’s mathematics, and not the simplest kind.

  6. That is so lovely – and so flattering to you! You are giving me ideas. I thought I might be stuck wearing the same suit until it frays beyond common decency ;-D

  7. Wow, you did a beautiful job! The fit is flawless and I love what you did with the buttons! Very well done, you should be so proud.
    P.S Thanks for mentioning my pattern!

    1. Thank you, and thank you for the pattern! I was very impressed by how well that bra pattern works even for a very large cup size, with fairly minimal tweaking.

  8. What a terrific suit! The cut is beautiful, and the color makes your skin look perfect. It is so nice to see a bathing suit that flatters curves. If you make another one, would you consider a tutorial?

  9. Those cups are a work of art. You’ve done a stellar job on this suit and I am seriously impressed. It’s flattering and gorgeous on you – but of course you’re gorgeous to begin with!

    I don’t have the same bust issues; instead, I have seriously uneven by 2 cups sizes boobs. I have forms but most swimsuits and bras in my size don’t provide enough coverage to properly wear them. I think it’s time to consider making myself some vintage-inspired bras and swimsuits!

    1. Definitely time to consider working up undergarments of your own, I’d say! Mine are uneven in size too, but not by as much as two sizes, so I usually don’t cut the cups differently. I probably should, though, it would improve the fit. And thank you!

  10. Ahh! This is seriously beautiful and wonderful. I love the color, the style, the everything. Plus, I believe it will fit me perfectly. (How did you know?) Please wrap it up and send it to me!

  11. Very very nice! I like the fit of both the bust and the behind. You encourage me to try to make a suit before my next vacation; especially the way you were able to fit the behind. Very well done.

  12. Amazing job! I love the comment that says the cups are a work of art; that is absolutely correct! I applaud you. Plus, that color combo is lovely as well. It just adds to the beautiful construction.

  13. This is a fabulous swimsuit!!! It provides coverage but great Va-Va-Voom, too. Modest and Sexy at the same time, how can that be? Can you make one for me, too? I have the problems of the fitting the upper chest — small band, large cups. I just wouldn’t have been as brave to try what you did, but now I’m inspired to try!

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