The Story of a Bra in 8 Steps, Part 1

By Pippa

Having recently graduated from the Fashion and Contour Design course at DeMontfort University my first article focuses on the story of a bra.

Over two articles I plan to use the skills I’ve learn in the last three years, to explain the process of designing a bra from an empty sketchbook, to picking fabrics, through to the final garment and everything in between. 

I hope to show both the glamorous bits as well as the tedious, nitty gritty, and pain staking bits in-between.

1) Research

Research is the first step in the story of designing a bra, or any fashion pieces really. It’s crucial that you get this stage right, and explore all areas fully in order to become best informed, therefore aiding and improving the design process tenfold.

For my Final Major Project (FMP) at uni, I chose to research the concept of Hidden Art Forms in Nature, an idea I developed from a lifelong love affair with Ernst Haeckels books Art Forms in Nature, a collection of hand drawn studies of objects and animals from the 19th Century.

I began to collect natural found objects such as acorns, pine cones, seeds, and even an abandoned birds nest. I studied and investigated the underside, the inside, and cross sections of these objects and found brilliant textures and patterns which made up the bulk of my research, and lead onto my initial design work.

At uni, I’d expect to spend at least a month researching, and then continue while exploring initial designs. Unfortunately, in the ‘real world’ there is little time for full research, and designers will rarely even use a sketchbook as the fashion market is far too fast paced to dedicate a month to research for each range.

2) Initial Design

Initial design work involves going crazy with a pen and paper and drawing anything that comes into your head after fully researching the theme. Initial designs involve looking at the textures, shapes and patterns that you’ve discovered in your research, and experimenting with how these images and ideas can be transferred into a garment, fabric print or surface texture.

During initial designs one will experiment with scale, line (both abstract and minimal) and colour. This can result in some truly awful ideas, (that seem great at 1am after about 4 coffees!) and some genuinely good ideas, which are taken further to the design development stage.

Once I get into the initial design stage it always tends to be a mad rush to get as much information out of one’s head and onto the piece of paper as quickly as possible, which means that the initial design work often makes little sense to anyone but the designer.

3) Design Development

Once I’ve gained some perspective I’ll ruthlessly go through the fruits of my labour and highlight the most striking and successful designs. I then develop each of these individually further.

This can involve something as simple as changing a neckline or leg line shapes, changing a colour, style or minor detail. Similarly, this process can result in something much more drastic and changing the whole garment. Often the design development can lead to something entirely different to the initial design, but that’s the beauty of it!

I’ll write a lot of barely legible notes over my design development, explaining details which haven’t been depicted accurately enough, again, it often results in a mad rush to write everything down before I forget.

I’d expect to complete at least one large sketchbook of design development per collection, in order to ensure designs have been developed to their most successful stage.

4) Final Design
Once design development is complete, final designs should exist in some form or another, these need selecting from the vast number of designs which evolved from the design development stage and neatening up. The 6 chosen outfits will be drawn in a line up to best understand how the garments and outfits will work alongside each other as a complete range.

Often at this stage it’ll become clear that one outfit may not fit in the collect as well as the rest, this is where it’s necessary to re-visit the design development and pick another garment or outfit, or develop the original one further to better tie in with the rest of the range.

Below shows my final line up of my FMP, designed for S/S 11.

Part 2 of this article will explore and explains the toiling and fabric selection stage, followed by the Technical aspects and then the final bra for a catalogue photoshoot.

Image Credits: All images Pippa Smith’s own.

Author: Cora Harrington