Pattern Spotlight: Adding a Zipper to the Sweet Sixteen Bralette


I suppose it turns out that, when I find a pattern I like, I still can’t leave well enough alone.

This is the Sweet Sixteen Bralette Pattern, with a few alterations:

– zipper in front (back still has hooks, so that the band size adjusts)

– no rings for front strap attachment, they’re just sewn on

– there are rings on the back at the strap attachment point

– bottom band changed from fold over elastic/lace treatment to allow for 1-inch-wide elastic (the elastic is narrowed under the cups)

One change I wish I had made: I could have used underwire channeling along the cup/band seam. I don’t want to add underwires, but if I added that, it would have made the elastic more secure where I cut it and provided even more stability to the band.

When you add a zipper to anything there are a lot of ways to do it. Do you want the zipper tape completely exposed? Do you want the back of the zipper tape covered, if it’s not exposed to the front? Do you want a zipper guard?

I’ve made, loved, and worn my Greenstyle Endurance Sports Bras for a long time, so I decided to basically use the zipper technique from that pattern. For it to work, the front edge of the bralette has to be finished (with fold over elastic, for example). So, here are the steps I used for making this alteration.

Step 1: Cut down the center front (maybe)

If you’re testing your bralette for size, you might want to baste the center front and try it on before removing anything for the zipper. In this case, I’d made this size before and it fit well, so I didn’t do that. I removed the seam allowance, plus half the total width of the zipper teeth on each side of the center front. For this zipper, that meant slicing off 1/2 an inch, total, from each side.

Step 1.5: Stabilize

If you’re worried that the slightly stretchy nature of the bralette fabric will make it hard to sew it to a non-stretchy zipper, you could stabilize those front edges with either a fusible or sewn-in stabilizer such as stay tape.

Step 2: Finish the edge

I used fold over elastic. You could also use a binding or anything else that doesn’t require the edge to turn down or over.

Step 3: Measure for your zipper length and zipper guard

If you are finicky, you may want to measure the pattern piece to get your zipper length, remembering to take into account if you have folded the bottom band edge or used fold over elastic for the bottom band edge. If you’re less finicky, measure the edge you just finished.

Most zippers will need to be shortened to work. Separating zippers have to be shortened from the top. I haven’t tried these amazing locking zippers from bra-makers supply, but I will as soon as I run out of zippers. If you want a front-closing bra without a zipper that separates, I don’t understand your life.

If I remember correctly, my zipper needed to be 9 inches long, so I cut my zipper guard 11 inches long. This is so that it has just enough room to wrap around the top and the bottom of the zipper. I cut my guard from a relatively thick knit fabric that doesn’t curl and doesn’t fray, so there were no edges to finish on the guard. I curved the edges of the guard by just cutting it freehand, but you can leave it straight across or cut it on the diagonal.

Step 4: Baste the zipper guard to one side of the zipper tape

Use either machine basting or washaway wonder tape. Important note: Don’t baste the guard into its final position, yet. Simply center the zipper on the guard and baste it, flat. Don’t fold the top and bottom edges over. They need to fold over later.

Step 5: Install the zipper

If you’re feeling confident, you can fold the ends of the zipper guard into their final position and get all of this stitching done in one fell swoop. If not, simply sew in the zipper and then stitch the zipper guard ends by hand or machine.

That’s it! Enjoy your zip-front bralette!

Extra note: As I was stuffing the bralette for this photo (my dress form is a  b cup and the bralette is really, really, not a b cup), I noticed that, when it wasn’t stuffed enough, the front seam looked very wavy and lumpy. So, if that’s happened when you’ve made a bralette, you may want to try sizing down on the cup.