Do you like your bra soft and gentle on your body? Are you tired of padded/boned mass manufactured bras and would love to make something yourself but don’t know how? Do you know what is Kestos?..
Join me and I will tell you a little story and show you how to make a super comfortable soft brassiere vintage couture style. 😉
In 1926-1927 Polish-born designer and the director of London-based Kestos Ltd, Rosamond Lilian Klin (sometimes also written as Rosaline and Rosalind) began experimenting with new forms of brassiere. She began with two folded handkerchiefs, overlaid them, and attached shoulder straps. To achieve greater hold and support she attached long elastic ties to the back corner of the brassiere, wrapping them around the body and buttoning them securely under the cups. Whilst the design would not have offered much lift, it offered light compression and support without bulk, which perfectly complemented the sleek, bias-cut clothes of the 1930s. For the first time brassieres and girdles were worn without petticoats or slips underneath, to reduce bulges as much as possible.
Its simplicity of form meant that it was eminently affordable, and the design became so popular that women did not buy a brassiere, they bought a ‘Kestos’. An advertisement from Eve’s Journal magazine of November 1937 reads: ‘On her entrance all heads turn, all male hearts miss a beat. She has not beauty in its truest sense, but elegance – and – what counts most of all, exquisiteness of form. Because she knows how much this means, Kestos has been her choice.’
The Kestos remained popular through the 1930s and 1940s and was worn into the early 1950s, for day and eveningwear, and was even integrated into nightdresses and swimwear. Although the Kestos brand produced many different styles, this bra shape became generically known as ‘The Kestos’.
Would you like to make a Kestos style brassiere for yourself?.. Let’s get started! 🙂
I have to warn though you that this is not a project for beginner sewers. We are going to use couture sewing techniques and delicate not easy to work with fabrics. You need to have a good understanding of hand sewing techniques and processes. That being said, I tried to make this tutorial as detailed as possible. So if you are up for a challenge – try it! And let me know in comments about your progress!
Download the pattern from my online shop before you go ahead. Add it to your cart and place order to get the link for downloading the document. Print it out and have your paper pattern pieces ready.
BEFORE YOU CUT YOUR FABRIC make sure the 10x10cm test square on paper pattern is exactly 10x10cm! If it is smaller it means your printer shrinks the document. Re-adjust the settings and reprint!
Materials and tools you will need:
35cm of your chosen fabric;
All purpose sewing thread (I used 100% cotton thread for machine stitching. If you choose silk fabric you might want to use silk sewing thread)
75cm regular white elastic 1cm wide;
6cm circular elastic 2mm wide;
Sharp machine needle size 60/8 or 70/10 (use 60/8 for silks and 70 for cottons);
Metal sewing loop turner hook latch;
Fine hand sewing needles;
2 matching flat buttons 0.7-1cm in diameter.
Cut your pattern pieces in the size relevant to your body shape. You should have two bra cup triangles, two bias cut shoulder straps, one bias cut cup reinforcement strap, two chest straps, two pieces of 1cm wise elastic, 2 pieces of 2mm round elastic each 3cm long.
Pin and stitch bust darts on both cups. You should be able to do it the normal way with cotton fabrics. If you are using really fine and slippery silk use tear away interfacing to stitch the darts. This is special interfacing that is attached to very slippery fabrics to make the stitching even. It tears away easily after the stitching is complete.
Finish the top two seam edges on the bra cups. Start with the side edge working towards the top. Fold 0.2mm towards the wrong side, then fold the same amount again. This will create a roughly 0.2cm rolled edge. Fix it with ladder stitch. Refer to the pictures below. When you come to the top corner fold the corner edge nicely inside and continue to the other side.
Overlap the cups at the centre as marked on the pattern and fix the overlapping point only by 0.1cm hand stitch from the inside. Align the bottom of both cups so that they create a common edge.
Complete all your bias cut straps – two shoulder straps and one chest reinforcement strap. Fold the strap in half with the wrong side facing you. Start the stitch 0.5cm away from the fold gradually shifting to 0.3cm from the fold within the next few centimetres, continue stitching 0.3cm away from the fold till the end of the strap. Remember to stretch bias straps when stitching to prevent seam breaking when you turn them inside out. Double line of stitching will make the straps extra strong as single stitching breaks very often with wear with these straps. (Refer to the pictures below).
DO NOT TRIM THE EDGES. Some tutorials recommend to trim the seam allowance to 0.4-0.5cm. I do not recommend trimming the edge in this case as the excess fabric will create nice padding inside the strap thus making it beautifully round. Turn bias strap inside out using metal loop turner latch.
Finish all three straps this way.
One end of your shoulder strap will have the edges carefully folded inside (this is the end you were pulling the strap to turn inside out, see image below). Leave this end like that. Trim your shoulder straps at the other end to the amount relevant to your size. Trim cup reinforcement strap to the necessary amount depending on your cup size. Trim chest reinforcement strap from both ends to create clean cut edges on both ends.
Attach cup reinforcement strap to the bottom edge of your brassiere. Reinforcement strap will be slightly shorter then the brassiere edge, this is done on purpose. You need to stretch bias cut reinforcement strap slightly to fit the brassiere edge when attaching it. This will create better hold and support. Start by placing the strap 0.5cm from the edge. Fold the edge over it (refer to the pictures below). Attach the strap to the very edge of the fabric on the wrong side with small running stitches fixing the folded edge at both ends. Roll the fabric edge around the bias strap twice concealing the strap inside and fix with ladder stitch the same way you did for the top edges.
Complete chest straps. Fold the strap in half with the wrong side facing you. Stitch 1.1cm from the fold to accommodate for 1cm elastic inside. Turn inside out using the same metal loop turner latch you used for bias binding. Insert elastic inside using safety pin. Fix elastic inside the strap with three layers of machine stitching 2cm from the edge as marked on the pattern. Fold another 0.5cm inside. Do not close it yet. On one end of the chest strap insert 3cm circular elastic folded in half to form a button loop and stitch. The loop should be slightly smaller than your buttons when finished.
At one end of the chest strap insert the cup lower edge inside the hole and stitch.
Attach shoulder straps to the cups top edge by careful hand stitching. Apply the cut end of the strap to the cup and the folded end of the strap to the edge of the chest strap as marked on the pattern.
Sew buttons at the base of bust dart as marked on the pattern. Congratulations! You have completed your brassiere! If you are going to share your results on social media please tag me! I would love to see your achievements! 🙂
P.S. I used two vintage handkerchiefs to create this brassiere that already had this beautiful white work embroidery. I am not explaining how to do it here as it is a whole new topic. If you wish to explore it yourself - you might want to look through Therese de Dillmont "Encyclopedia of Needlework" book, it has excellent instructions, clear descriptions and lots of pictures of many embroidery types.