How to Sew a REAL bra into Your Fave Swimsuit Pattern

Hey guys!

As you heard on Tuesday with my Swimsuit Sewing Tricks and Tips for Beginners post, I made myself a fabulous swimsuit last week. Since the pattern released today (3/31) I can finally share my pictures and a special hack I made to make it perfect for me!

I am happy to report that testing the new Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop Bahama Mama Peplum Tankini and High Rise Bikini Bottoms went very well, and I ended up with a suit I love for a day at the pool, the lake, or just heading to the splash pad with my kids. I will share more about my new suit on Friday (4/1) since today I want to share my special bra hack for all the ladies eager to sew theirs up right away!

peplum hot tub


I have been testing sewing patterns for about a year now. When I saw the call for testers for the Bahama Mama Peplum Tankini and Bikini Bottoms, I felt challenged to sign up. My last attempt the previous year at sewing a swimsuit for my middle daughter did not go very well. It also meant that I would need to share my swimsuit creation with the sewing world – this challenged both my sewing skills and my confidence!

I have lived a life of ill-fitting swimsuits. I am 5’10” and thanks to four nursing kiddos, have some extra curves. If I’m lucky enough to find a suit tall enough for me, it lacks support. If I find a suit with perfect support, it usually doesn’t fit well elsewhere.

I originally purchased the Dritz Gel Bra Cups in my size and started sewing the lining. After I sewed the bra cups to the lining as instructed in the excellent, clear tutorial, I tried it on. The support was better than most of my RTW swimsuits since the cups were in the right location and the suit was the correct size. However, did you know that a properly fitted bra carries its support in the back band? I knew that without some extra back band support, I would not get the best fit that I’ve been looking for.

So with the designer’s permission, I am sharing my tutorial steps to add a REAL bra to the lining of the Bahama Mama Peplum Tankini. This method should work with MANY women’s swimsuit patterns that already include a shelf lining. I made this particular hack three times using underwire bras size 34 D.


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First, we start with an old bra. I chose one that fit well and was supportive but did not have any foam padding in it (I didn’t want to have to wring myself out every time I got out of the pool). *Please remember, swimwear is specially treated to hold up to chlorine, saltwater, etc. A regular bra may not hold up as well as your swim fabric. If you are concerned about this, you can purchase swim bras elsewhere online for this hack.*


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Second, trim away straps at the top of the cups and the back of the band. Also remove any bling, rosettes, metal, etc., that is sometimes used to embellish bras.



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Third, round out the tip of your cups with sharp scissors. Zig-zag stitch or serge across the top of the bra cup so your bra’s layers stick together.


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This is the step where you are just going to have to trust me and elasticity. A bra band is very elastic with great recovery. It is going to pull your lining in when you pin it. Don’t worry – just follow these steps carefully and when you try it on, the lining will stretch appropriately over your bust line.

Pin your bra band to the lining side seams. I pinned my band about an inch away from the cups. I pinned it to the lining about 1″ down from the underarm seam. (It is important that you pin low enough that you can still apply the bands without accidentally stitching the cup). Pin both at the side seams only. You will see that the lining puckers in the middle because the width of the bra is narrower (and the band is more elastic) than the actual lining. This will be more or less true depending on your cup size.

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I basted the bra band to the front shelf lining first at the side seams where we pinned. I then placed the back shelf lining on top of the bra (layered top to bottom: front shelf piece, bra, back shelf piece).

Stitch side seams at regular seam allowance, stitch top shoulder seams at regular seam allowance.


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Turn right side out. Please note that when you will be wearing your finished suit, the bra cups will be directly touching your chest. The bra band will be buckled between the swim lining and the swimsuit itself. This is different than the regular bra cup assembly in the original Bahama Mama pattern.

We are almost finished attaching our bra, but we have one more important step!

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Try your lining with bra on now. This allows you to make small adjustments to get your lining exactly where you want it.

Pin your cups to the lining across 2-3″ of the top curve of your cups. Do not pin the whole way. I found it easier to get off without poking my eyes out by pinning it so the tip of the pin is facing down instead of up as pictured. Remove carefully taking care to not scratch yourself with the pins.

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Finally, zig-zag in between the pins the 2-3″ you pinned off. This will keep your cups in place. Proceed to follow the instructions as written in the pattern tutorial. You will still want to attach elastic to the shelf liner to keep the lining pieces from shifting up and creating lines in your suit. You can use smaller elastic though since the support is all in the bra itself now and not as needed in the elastic shelf band.


Thanks for joining us for our first tutorial on our new site! We look forward to sharing more ideas with you.

Have suggestions to make this tutorial better? Sources for a swim bra you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you as we sew during our Swimsuit Challenge 2016!



  1. Kathleen Kelley | 1st Apr 16

    Did you use an underwire bra? I’m all about trying this hack. Thanks for the tutorial!

    • MadebyEleri | 2nd Apr 16

      Yes I did! That’s why I didn’t try to tack it down at the bottom of the cups, too. I hope to try that sometime.

  2. The Journey Tank and Dress – Swimsuit Edition! – The Sew and Tell Project | 26th Apr 16

    […] talk about the amazing built-in bra on this suit, too. While I love my bra hack for adding a real bra to a lined swimsuit pattern, I believe in really testing the pattern as […]

  3. Introducing the Bahama Mama Blouson from Peek a Boo Pattern Shop! – The Sew and Tell Project | 12th May 16

    […] before, you could conquer this! I chose to omit the shelf bra and instead used Eleri’s tutorial on how to add a real bra to your swimsuit. The support is fantastic, and I can see myself wearing […]

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