How To Add A Built-In-Bra To Clothing

So, I have a feeling that you saw the title of this post and said either, “Why would I want that?” or, “Oh, dear Lord, YES!” I’m always astounded by the amount of clothing items in stores (especially in summer) that it would be impossible to wear a bra with based on the low back/skinny straps/no straps/cutout designs—and as someone who definitely needs some support in that department, it frustrates me to no end. Thankfully, there’s a way that you can still wear that super cute item and get the support you need with a built-in-bra DIY! Now, this won’t work on every item depending on the construction and what the material is, but my guess is that you’ll be able to open up your options range a lot wider than you would think with this trick. The items that work best with this are ones that are more fitted to the torso/waist, so this method wouldn’t work with a super flowy top or dress. I’ll show you two ways to add some support to your garment based on the level of support that you need:

The More Support Method: This method uses an underwire bra instead of loose foam cups as the underwire will help larger busts keep their shape. Since we are going to cut this bra apart it’s a good idea to find a less expensive bra set (something like this) or you can use an old everyday underwire bra that you were about to retire. I found some bras on sale that had a band size that was too large for me, but since the cups fit I got them anyway, since that’s the part I was going to be using. Once you have your bra, assess your garment and decide if you want to cut off the straps and cut out each cup individually, cut the sides off but leave the cups connected at the middle, or leave the middle and most of the sides and just cut off the closure on the back. It really depends on what you would be able to see with your garment, so try and leave as much as possible and cut off the rest.

Try your clothing on and pin your bra/cups in place at the location where you want it to be. If the top edge or side of your cup is sticking out to where you can see it, you can either fold over that edge inward and tack it in place with a needle and thread (the folded edge shouldn’t really bother you since it’s soft foam), or you can cut the edge and sew alongside it with a zig zag stitch or a serger if you have one to keep it from unraveling further.

Once your cup is in place, use a needle and thread to attach each cup to the garment in at least four places about 1/4″ away from the cup edge (at each side and top and bottom) and you can do more locations on the cup if you feel like it’s needed. If you left on some of the sides of the bra, you’ll want to tack those areas down as well. When attaching the cup, use a thread color that will be least noticeable on the outside of the garment and either make very small stitches to where you are coming through to the front and going back in almost at the same spot, or if your garment has two layers of fabric in that area, just catch the inside layer so no stitches are noticeable from the outside.Once your bra is in, your item is ready to wear!

The Less Support Method: So, for this method you’ll want to purchase a pair of these that come in your bra size (and you may also want to get some that match the clothing item color so it’s the least noticeable). Try your garment on and assess where you would want the cups to be. Pin the cups in place and gently try the item back on to make sure you like the cup location.Follow the advice in the first method about trimming the cup size if needed and how to sew in place.

Once your cups are in place, your new garment is ready to go! Don’t forget that the better the garment fits you in general, the better this will work. So if the waist or chest area is too loose, consider altering it to fit closer to your body first before adding in the bra. Dresses like this and jumpsuits like this are great because you can tie the back or the front as tight as you need to act as your bra strap, but you still get the peeks of skin that you want. I hope this hack helps you widen your range of options the next time that you go shopping! xo. Laura

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • I know it is only July but can I just say, this is on my top three favorite internet findings for the year! There have been so many times that I have loved an outfit but no built in bra or ability to wear a bra with it has caused major problems for this mama of two! Thanks for this awesome post! Laura, I feel like your posts really show how much looking at problems from creative angles can turn out such great results!

  • Oh my goodness. I have just automatically given up on all clothing that has no room for a bra, scowling at my screen and lamenting the clueless people who would ever invent such a cute but useless item. Those chicken cutlet things other girls wear aren’t supportive enough for me, but perhaps something like this would be, depending on the dress … thank you!

  • OMG YOU ARE AMAZING. With my D/DD “girls” strapless bras are usually useless for me anyways so THIS IS GREAT

  • I definitely fall under the “Oh, dear Lord, YES!” category. Thanks for this. I have been considering this for years and never knew where to start. You don’t happen to have any tips on how to add an underwire to a swimsuit do you?

    • Hmm, I think it would basically be the same principle. I mean, you wash bras so they are made to get wet, right? You just may have to be careful with finding the right swimsuit that has a sturdy enough inner layer to sew the bra onto since the spandex type swimsuit material may rip if you poke enough holes into it unlike a normal cotton weave material—I’m sure it can be done though!

      Laura 🙂

  • Laura, you are a genius! And also, both outfits are perfection on you!

  • As a woman of a certain age, ahem, things are starting to travel south and require more support than ever. This is BRILLIANT! It has opened up a whole range of clothing that I’m able to wear again – please excuse me, I have to go shopping now!

  • I’m definitely on Team “Oh, dear Lord, YES!” with this post! What a great idea! Now maybe I can actually buy and wear those adorable low back/backless dresses and rompers I’ve been eyeing wistfully, thinking they would never be for me. However, I never learned to sew, so I think I’ll be taking my pieces to my local tailor to have them do it for me.

  • This is amazing! I hate how so many styles these days are nearly impossible to wear a bra with. There is no way I can get away with that! I love this idea and even though it seems so obvious, is something I never even considered. Thanks for sharing!

  • It’s incomprehensible that those cutesy backless/strapless deals don’t even have a lining on top! Dear fashion designers: just because I don’t “need” a bra doesn’t mean I want my girls saying hi to everyone, UGH.

    • OMG I completely agree! especially now, in the UK it seems to be the fashion for women to wear no bra but even though I’m young and don’t need to wear one for that extra lift i don’t want my girls on show…poking through!!! I actually would be mortified if people saw my nipples! Something i’m just not comfortable with.

      I will def need to modify my sewing skills but this page has been so helpful and given me hope!

  • OMG! Why didn’t I think of this? There are so many outfits I have said “Hell No” to because there was no support for my D chest. I detest wearing strapless bras because they often slide down and I look so lady-like as I try to be inconspicuous and hoist them up.
    Thank You! Thank You! Thank You for sharing this tip!!!

  • Great idea! For those of us who aren’t crafty, my secret weapon is Nippies Skin. I learned about them through a Bachelor contestant of all people, as they always wear cute clothes and backless dresses with no bra lines. I’ve converted all my lady friends!

    • Shouldn’t be any different! If you feel the cups are very delicately sewn in onto delicate fabric maybe hand wash, but otherwise you should be ok


  • Fab fab idea! And where is your candy stripe jumpsuit from please 🙂 happy day!

  • Brilliant! Such a great idea for all the cute outfits out there thanks <3

  • What great tips! I have always wondered why clothing manufacturers don’t have these built in with backless and strappy clothes….

  • The style of this dress is very novel and I like it very much, but I also see the same style on other websites, so I wonder where to buy it. Can you give me some advice?

  • Can I just tell you how much better my life will be because of this? I am planning for a tropical vacation and just went through dozens of my old bras, trying to find what works with each sundress and strappy top I’m bringing… It was exhausting. I found my stash of bikini top pads, and thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to just add something to each article I’m packing? ” Who wants to deal with complicated bra planning on vacation, anyway?! Looking forward to customizing my clothing with both cups and old underwire bras so I can throw ’em on and enjoy my time in the sun!

  • Hi! Yours is the first tutorial I chose and I am glad I did. I am excited to try this! Thank you and be well 🙂

  • I’m upcycling an old shirt and I’m making the back lace up, so this will be perfect, but how do you hid the stitching lines?

  • Hey! I’m really interested in this idea. I just wanted to see if you had advice for me as I have multiple tank tops (bought online) that are amazing but the bust just doesn’t fit me. Is there a way to keep the same tops and just make the cups bigger, or shall I just recycle the material and start from scratch?

    Any advice would be great!!!
    Thanks 🙂

  • Hello Laura

    I know it’s been about three years since you created this but I’m hoping you can help. I’ve been reviewing your really helpful tutorial. I am having a challenge as I’m trying to use the method under more support and I have someone who is about a 34C and when I put in the bra it’s it’s not giving her much support.

    I cut off the straps of the lightly padded bra, left about 1.5 of the sidesvand connected the middle with a small strap as it fastened in the middle and that fastener was cut off.

    It is not holding her up well. I’m wondering if something different needs to be done as this is a lighter-medium weight stretch knit I am trying to attach it to. I saw your dress was probably a medium weight cotton. I would appreciate any input /advice


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