Intimate apparel & swimwear industry articles (updated)

UPDATED 2017-05-26 – changes highlighted in red text…

While searching for a replacement for the defunct (Stretch) Pattern School today, I came across an intimate apparel industry publication website that offers some interesting intimate apparel & swimwear technical articles at US$19.90 a pop. The site is based in Hong Kong, but with international contributors.

The article that lead me to this site initially is “Introduction to Swimwear Pattern Cutting Principles” by British Intimate Apparel Technical Designer David Morris, who seems to have worked for well-known companies & taught at university level. He also offers a remote learning course on “Swimwear Pattern Cutting & Grading” at £250 a pop.

For bras there are obviously a few other home sewing resources available already – eg Bevely Johnson’s books & Craftsy classes. Nonetheless some of the other technical articles still look interesting & unique, like…

  • Introduction to Swimwear Pattern Cutting Principles: Not so fast! Learn the basic rules of stretch pattern cutting before you venture into drafting or adapting basic swimwear blocks. Being able to understand and apply these rules should…18pgs, a handful of insights, but not in-depth enough for me
  • Grading Swimwear: Do you grade stretch fabric garments differently than rigid garments? The simple answer is no … with a few exceptions. David Morris take us through another insightful design course from the world of swimwear.
  • Long Fit Swimwear: Read how, due to the increase in the average women’s height over the years, customers are complaining about being “cut in half” and how brands are scrambling to create variation in sizes to counter the problem. Enter the long fit.
  • Prima Donna Swim: Check out IAJ’s technical piece on drafting and grading two versions of the Prima Donna bikini.
  • M&S Sport Bra Draft & Grade: Wired sports bras still account for a large share of the market. David Morris walks us through the drafting of the cup and the cradle and shows the option of replacing the steel wire with a polymer version.
  • Triumph Shape Sensation Bra Draft: Follow along as David Morris drafts the Triumph Shape Sensation bra style with Comfort wire, which was developed with innovative cushioned ends that adjust to the body’s every move.
  • Playtex Soft Cup Retro Bra: Who hasn’t heard of Playtex? IAJ brings you a detailed profile on the famous “cross your heart” bra, a retro design that never seems to go out of style.
  • Bra Wire Technology: To the untrained eye, it’s just a piece of wire, but to the experienced designer this wire is the make or break component to any successful wire bra design. Find out what makes this simple piece of metal so important to the fashion world…6pgs, interesting insights, but may be covered by specialist books on bra pattern-drafting / sewing books (See Bra-Making Blog’s book & pattern reviews).
  • Fit Evaluation- How Your Model’s Breast Size Changes: Finding a model is hard enough and it doesn’t help when her measurements change. Check out this article that explores the reasons behind the difficulty in achieving that perfect fit. Hormones play a major role…3pgs, 1 superficial insight, not really worth the price.
  • The Perfect Pants: What constitutes the right fit when it comes to pants? David Morris investigates and reveals his findings relating to ethnicity, pelvic shape, size and age. There’s much to learn from this informative article…9pgs, interesting insights, but no drafting solutions to the problems identified.
  • How Hip & Pelvic Shape Affects Knicker Shape: IAJ sets out to investigate, based on online feedback, the many ways different ethnicities and body shapes affect proper fitting. Major lingerie brands are in search of an answer. Did we find it?
  • Men’s Underwear: For those designers out there, IAJ has another technical article on drafting. The subject this time? Men’s underwear. The article’s author Kimberly Hamiliton includes a brief history of this fascinating garment.
  • Leggings: This technical article takes us through the pattern drafting of “bifurcated” garments, garments with “legs,” i.e., Sports Running Tights or leggings.
  • Bodycon: The word Bodycon is slang in the fashion world for the “Body Confidence” trick. This article looks at shapewear garments, in particular focusing on pattern drafting using Negative Ease, testing fabrics, styling, construction and pattern ideas from foundation garments…25pgs, a bit more in depth with good tips on principles, but drafting instruction is a bit generic & light on details
  • Developing the Control Slip: The brands, the trends, the designs, the technical requirements. It’s all here in our fully-loaded and insightful article on shapewear.

So I bought 5 of the articles. I still need to read them more carefully, but here’s my first impression… In general I’d say these are more updates & top-up learning than foundation education for those going into the swimwear & intimate wear industry. They are not very in-depth, but do offer some unique & more recent research & trends. Also keep in mind that because they are geared towards RTW professionals, the information may not be so useful for those of us creating custom patterns or targeting niche sizing. Number of pages varies, but the pricing is uniform. So not all articles are good value for money.

I’ve ordered a couple more pattern drafting books for stretch fabric/ knitwear:

I will review these when I get a chance.

In general I’d say the info on the defunct Pattern School site is probably quite unique – covering principles & catering for both custom & RTW pattern drafting. Real shame that the author has run out of generosity – it’s not like we fans don’t want to pay for his insights or expect professional level book production. I think most of us would have been happy to pay for a PDF of exactly the content he had on that defunct website. I’m going to put it down to giving fatigue & general fashion industry cattiness!

I’m sure there are other experts out there who can provide the equivalent education – in courses if not in book form or free online info. The problem is of course distinguishing the worthy courses from the rubbish one without having to fork out big bucks to try out every course!

And we need more people like Bevely Johnson who when faced with the bra industry’s reluctance to share knowledge went about doing her own research & experimentations, wrote a couple of books on custom bra patternmaking & sewing, and now share her knowledge through Craftsy classes as well. A woman for the modern knowledge sharing economy!

BTW, for those of you making proper sports swimwear,Debbie Iles of Lily Sage & Co has an interesting blog post swimwear technology. She sews for herself & her family, and she was an Australian competitive swimmer in the 90s, so has some interesting insights on swimwear for proper swimming!


20% off – UK source for 98/2 stretch denim

For my UK readers…

Sherwood Fabrics is currently offering 20% off everything in store until midnight Sat 31 Dec (end of year) with discount code FESTIVE20.

And they seem to offer a fairly wide range of 2% lycra/spandex/elastine denim fabrics. You know, the percentage recommended by Closet Case Files for Ginger/Morgan Jeans & Baste And Gather for Birkin Jeans. (Yes, I will be jumping on the bandwagon in the new year – part of the reason I tried out the pants wrap. My RTW jeans are tatty & I hate not being able to buy the one RTW jeans that fitted me fairly well again. Hate fashion! Sort of.)

Do keep in mind that:

  • Many of their stretch denim are more lightweight than recommended for Ginger/Morgan/Birkin – lots of 8oz ones if you like the jegging fit.
  • Not all denim weights are described in oz/yd, and if they specify “light-“, “mid-“, and “heavy-weight” they’re using generic dress fabric weight scale, not denim weight scale. Eg “mid-weight” would be 8-11oz as used to describe dress fabrics in general, rather than 12-16 oz as used specifically to describe denim.
  • Colours in the photos are lighter than the actual fabric, possibly due to the lighting they use. They do offer samples (not free), but that means you’ll miss the 20% off promotion. But they seem to post offers on their Facebook page from time to time.

BTW, have anyone in the UK bought denims from Threadbare Fabrics in the US? Did you get hit with high shipping & import charges? I’m wondering if it’s worthy shopping with them for the high quality US-made  Cone Mills denims (though maybe not with the fallen £ thanks to looming Brexit!).

Speaking of Cone Mills denims, I found on Fashion Incubator’s site a PDF produced by Cone Mills about how to prevent leg twist problem that results from standard denim’s natural tendencies. This is if you can’t find the “broken twill weave” that Heather mentioned in her post on Sourcing Denim for Ginger Jeans.

(I’m not being paid in any way for this post. Just wanted to share a resource I found while sourcing fabrics for upcoming jean-making projects.)


Can a supermodel sell you a Big4?

You know how we often complain about the uninspiring pattern envelope photos? So often they’re neither high fashion nor real fashion, which leaves one feeling a bit meh about the patterns. Even Vogue Patterns – Vogue being the operative word, the association with that bible of high fashion – can look a bit unfashionable.

Well, it wasn’t always like that. I vaguely recall seeing the odd Vogue Patterns being featured in Vogue magazine proper. Which is why I’ve been following the Pattern Vault blog for a while now. She digs up all these fabulous old connections between high fashion and the sewing patterns. Just my cup of tea since my impulse to sew mostly comes from wanting high fashion at a price I can afford and/or in a size/shape that fits my body perfectly. (I still have a Vivienne Westwood dress bought on sale for my birthday waiting to be altered to fit. Sigh.)

Kate Moss in OOP Vogue Patterns 9765 & 1326

So Pattern Vault’s latest post features Kate Moss in a selection of Vogue Patterns. If they had used these images on the pattern envelope would you be tempted to buy? I mean, as they’re unlikely to feature someone shaped exactly like you and me, should they at least go the high fashion route and sell you a dream? Burda style magazine does it. And I do find myself getting sucked in. Are you too a dreamer?