Friday, May 17, 2013

How To Stuff A Mild Bikini

More stashbusting!  This time it's swimwear.

Despite the fact that I do not like to be in pools with other people (too splashy) and therefore do not like to swim and even though Fogville is just too cold for sunbathing I love swimwear.  I love it. Passionately.  I probably have 20 swimsuits despite the fact that they only get worn when I'm poolside at a weekender somewhere. Vintage-style swimwear is the best.  The BEST!  It's sexy and flirty without showing too much skin and hides so many figure flaws, which I especially appreciate as I don't exactly have a "bangin' beach body"...or whatever.

So, when my Tia Maria gave me a big pile of fabric a while back including some interesting polyesters, it seemed obvious that the polys should be used for swimwear.   Franky, I don't know what else to do with polyester.  Even if the print is cute, it's still polyester which in my mind means it will eventually become permanently sweat saturated and stinky.   Ick.

This yellow poly with a tiny red rose print fairly screams "kicky early 60s bikini" doesn't it?

Unfortunately, once I started working with the fabric it became clear that it probably wouldn't hold up to much wear.  While somewhat stretchy, it doesn't bounce back well. Instead it sort of melts.  Weird.

Also, it runs like a pair of pantyhose.

I forged ahead anyway with the idea that this could be a semi-wearable muslin.

It took forever to find a bikini pattern with the kind of bottoms I was envisioning. Everything in my stash had either regular short-shorts with open legs or was from the later 60s and had "below the belly-button" bottoms.  I did a lot of internet searching and finally found Advance 3169.  (The swimsuit is the teensy photo of view 3 a the top.) The bottoms are exactly what I was looking for!

Being as I am a busty girl, a more constructed top than what was included with the pattern was a must.  Many years ago, I owned a few vintage 60s bikini tops and they were very constructed, almost bra-like.  To make sure that I wasn't imagining the bra-ness of those tops, I did some internet searching and found a few examples of vintage bra-style swim tops on Ebay.

Reassured that it wasn't crazy to make a "bra" for the beach, I went with this Sew Lovely bra pattern for the top.  It's from 1970, but it has exactly the shape that I want.

At first I was a little scared of the tiny pieces and all the tiny seams but you know what?   It's only three main pieces (I made the straps from another pattern) and was super duper easy to put together!

I cut out two copies of the fashion fabric (one outside and one interior lining) and one additional copy out of power net for interior support.  To give the cups more shape, I added Dritz molded foam bra cups between the inner fashion fabric and the interior power net layer.  The serger was invaluable again as I simply basted all of the seams together on the Pfaff and then finished the edges with the serger. Once everything was stitched together and the right sides were flipped out, I zigzagged the edges for extra support.   Instead of bra hooks in back, I added a swim hook.

Shorts construction was super easy too.  I finished most of the seams with the serger and added elastic to the waist and leg openings.  I love the zip back!

Since I had extra fabric, I went ahead and made the bandeau top that came with the shorts. The center twist doesn't really work at all with my sizable chest so I gave up on that.  Without the twist, it makes me look a bit more bulky up top than I would like. It works, and looks okay, but I don't love it. 

But the finished suit with the bra top isn't bad.

It is a full coverage, mild but not modest, bikini and I like it.

With the bandeau top.

With the bra top.
It mostly held up to one wearing for photos and then the side seams, which I neglected to serge, began to run. Also, pale yellow might not be my color.  Eh  la la.  These things happen.

The final result is that I'm not afraid of making swimwear anymore.  Hooray!  I will definitely be making this suit again!


  1. I like the look of both tops. I am always a bit fearful of swimwear but surprisingly, it seems to be rather straight forward. Then a gain I've never sewn a bathing suit with a stretch knit. That water is way too deep for me!

  2. Also, I LOVE the title of this post!!!

  3. Love this, I have some fabric and powernet to make up some swimwear, but my brain is too scared to start thinking of it yet! Do you mind telling me what kind of elastic you used for the waist and leg openings on your shorts? the woman at the fabric shop told me to use normal elastic instead of clear, but im not convinced

  4. I think you (and the suit) look fabulous. Love your daredevil attitude with polyester and sewing with stretch fabrics. Myself...not so much. But you're giving me hope!

  5. Thank you everyone!

    Do not fear the stretch fabrics! My sewing skillz are minimal at best and if I can do it, you can too. Having a serger really helped. As did having low expectations. :)

    The mid-weight poly was easy to deal with. It mostly behaved and didn't curl or pull too badly. On the other hand, the power net was squiggly and kept moving around and curling up into little tubes when I tried to cut it. Horrid stuff! I used a rotary cutting wheel, which worked okay, but I think I would have done better if I'd cut it between two sheets of tissue paper.

    Rachael Lou, regular elastic is fine. It's either going to get hidden in a casing or under a small hem so you don't have to worry about it showing.

  6. Very pretty bikini, I 've always wanted to sew a bra but I think it is too difficult, very nice job!

  7. Awesome! Love it, and you look GREAT in it!