This is a review that has taken me awhile to compile because I had some issues with this pattern that I wasn’t expecting based on the initial feedback the Harriet has received on the Bra Making Forum. So it took me a little while to investigate the whys and the analysis will hopefully help others fine tune the fit on their Harriet. The construction process for this pattern went smoothly, all the notches lined up and all the seam lengths matched. Aside from twisting one of the straps while sewing the Harriet, there were no construction issues to mention. So this review will focus primarily on the fit and grading.
The pattern used was the Cloth Habit 1003 Harriet in the size range 28-42 A-E. I used the latest version to be released. It features a 3 piece bra cup with a leotard style back. I used a kit from my store Arte Crafts featuring a pink stretch lace and gray bra tulle with pink and gray findings. I chose to use 2 sliders per strap rather than the traditional ring and slider.
I cut a 34B to fit both the mannequin I would be photographing on. I chose to cut the RTW size rather than follow the pattern sizing instructions for a few reasons. On the Bra Making Forum one of the most commonly asked questions about a pattern is how does the sizing compare to RTW sizing. Since I am making this sample for the sole purpose of this review then it makes sense to cut the RTW for my standardized dress form. It fits a 34B consistently in multiple brands so it’s a good measure of how a pattern compares to RTW sizing. The second reason is I know this form fits a size 34 underwire perfectly. The sizing guide for the Harriet recommended I cut a 30DDD/E which according to the wire chart provide by the pattern would mean using a size 36 wire since 30DDD/E is not a sister size of 34B. The wire I used matches the wire size chart in the pattern instructions to the millimeter. It fit into the bra without requiring any adjustments.
For future technical reviews, I will be using either my new 36B or 34C forms which were specifically developed for brassieres. My current PGM is a lingerie form also but the new forms have a better shape and are specifically sized for bras.
The issues I did have with this pattern were with the band and frame. The cups fit fairly true to size and the shape was quite pleasing though slightly pointy. I did get a little bubbling around where the upper cup attaches to the two lower cups. This is common in this style of cup and can be attributed to slight pointiness of the cup and the lack of fullness of the dress form’s breasts. The bridge is wider than my personal preference but fits ok on this size form.
The band is slightly loose and the side seam wraps almost all the way around to the back. The distance between the wire line and the side seam is very long and out of proportion for a bra this size. I would move the side seam at least 1cm closer to the center front for aesthetics and support. The side seam generally shouldn’t be right at the side seam of the mannequin but set slightly forward. You can see from the side view the wire has not been sprung into place.
When you look at the side view your first instinct would be to take a wedge out at the cup to fix the wrinkles but the wrinkles are caused by the wire not being properly sprung open into position. This problem could be corrected in a couple of ways. Making the band from by removing some of the space between the side seam and the wire. Or do a downward hike alteration on the band to help lever the wire into place. However, neither of these solutions would completely solve the problem since both the frame and band are very straight and the cradle is very narrow.
Comparing the 34B cradle to the 34B wire shows something interesting that I did not expect. The regular R2 wire fits exactly into the wire line of the cradle with little to no wire spring/play. The distance between the inside of the wire and the wire is slightly less than 6mm. The wire itself is 2.5mm. The balance point of the wire appears not to have been moved back at all either. A wire cannot spring open further than the cradle will allow without placing stress on the fabric of the frame. If you weren’t familiar with wire spring you might think this is the perfect underwire fit. However, as I’ve written about before and will discuss in future underwire theory posts a wire that doesn’t spring open when worn is not desirable.
When you replace the regular style underwire with a vertical underwire of the same size you can see it fits better with approximately 15mm of wire spring which is standard though wire spring can vary from 15mm to 55mm depending on the size and style of the bra. However, this is not the wire recommended for this pattern nor (I assume) is it the wire the pattern was drafted around. This may explain however why bra makers who prefer a vertical style underwire instead of the recommended wire have achieved such a great fit.
Had I not seen several successful Harriet’s before I made this sample I would have just assumed that pattern was just had a narrow frame, a band that runs large, wide bridge and a side seam that was set too far back. However I had seen several examples of the Harriet that did have this issue and in fact had seen some examples where the bridge was too narrow or the band true to size. Other examples appeared to have the side seam in a more aesthetically pleasing place. So I compared size 34A through 34E to see if pattern grading could explain discrepancies in fit.
The total unstretched under band length for the 34B was 67.5cm not including the bra back closure. An under band length of 64cm is typical of a 34B in UK sizing. The flat pattern measurements show that 34A/B/C sizes all have an under band length of ~67.5cm but the 34D/DD/E have an under band length that is 2cm shorter at ~65.5cm despite all being 34 band size. The frame was ~38cm for all sizes and the band length for sizes 34A/B/C was ~29.5cm and ~27.5cm for sizes 34A/B/C
With the frame being the same length regardless of cup size explains why there is so much length between the wire line and the side seam as the wire would progressively take up more space as cup size increased. So this pattern piece would look more proportionate in a larger cup size. The longer band length in the smaller cup sizes explains why the band is so loose on my sample yet other makers have commented it felt true to size.
The bridge width measurements are as follows; 32mm for size 34A, 25mm for size 34B, 19mm for size 34C and 14mm for sizes 34D/DD/E. The instructions do mention that you may have to overlap the channeling in some sizes. Standard underwire channeling is 10mm wide and 20mm is a common bridge width found in RTW.
I feel these three issues were attempts by the pattern maker to address some common concerns faced by the bra making community. Larger cup sizes tend to prefer a firmer band. The use of vertical wires in a narrow frame and a narrow bridge is favored by those with omega shaped breast. So these pattern features make this pattern more suited to those with those particular fit needs. However, I think these variations does make it difficult to achieve a consistent fit across the size range and may cause problems for custom bra makers who have to make multiple sizes in the same pattern. It also means if you make a mockup in one size and decide to remake it in another size your adjustments based on your mockup may not work because the next size may be different.
I would recommend this pattern to those who prefer a vertical wire or a narrow frame and would recommend the band be shortened in sizes A-C with the length taken out of the frame at the side seam. In sizes D-E I would recommend the bridge width be increased to 20mm unless it’s absolutely necessary for it to be narrower. These recommendations are based primarily on the 34 band size but a quick look at the other sizes yeilds similar results.
If you would like to nominate a pattern for me to review next please leave it in the comments below.