When I look at all the cute bra fashions online and in magazines or catalogues, a lot of them have what is referred to as “wide set straps”. Look at the bra on the dress form below. This is a bra with wide set straps. The straps are set more toward the shoulders than it is to the centre front. Would someone have a problem keeping these straps up? Very likely, and especially if you have narrow or sloping shoulders.

Here are drawings of the three most common bra backs with wide set straps. From left to right the T-back straps, the strap scoop and a front closing bra (with no hooks and eyes in the back). Even on someone with normal or square shoulders, the wide set straps are perched precariously on the edge.

Here are the same three bras on someone with sloping shoulders. Now we can see the problem. There is not a chance in h*** that these straps will stay on the shoulders for more than a few minutes. Add to the mix –  the moving, bending, lifting and stretching that our arms and shoulders do during the day, these straps will become more than a nuisance very quickly.

What’s a girl to do? After all, the wide set front straps are soooo sexy. In the front, they frame the face, and have a youthful look to them.

There is a solution. More than one, actually. You can keep your sexy wide set straps in the front and make alterations to the back. How can you do that? if you are sewing your own bras, the answer is easy. the alterations are made to the back pattern piece.

The first type of back if the T-back, so named because the straps join to the fabric in the back band at (more of less) a right angle. This is a very common bra back, especially since it is easy to produce. Often there is a small loop of strap elastic where the bra band joins the strap.

This type of strap is easy to move. The pink line is where the strap normally attaches.

All you have to do is move it closer to the centre back. Yes, moving it toward the centre back will help keep the straps on your shoulders. The distance to the beginning of the strap could be 1 1/2″ or 37 mm. Could it be a little more? Of course, but remember, that every bit you move it out will be compounded by the stretch of the fabric in the back band, so even 1 1/2″ (37 mm) won’t end of that close when the tension is applied to the bra band. I find 1 1/2″ to be a good distance for someone with sloping shoulders. it’s my go-to measurement for this adjustment.

Next we have the scoop back. You can see how far the scoop is toward the side seam (the straight line) This back would certainly be problematic. Correct it by continuing the line along the centre back (where the hooks and eyes would go)

Now continue the line along the top edge of the bra back. Continue this line until it is (you guessed it) 1 1/2″ (37 mm) from the first line you drew.

Now draw a curve from the point where the original hook and eye met the scoop and connect it to the end of the second line you drew, like so…

The revised bra back is ready to be cut out and sewn up!

Lastly, if you have a front closing bra with no hook and eye at all, here’s a different type of solution. It’s a bit more drafting but rest assured, these straps will NEVER fall off your shoulders. I promise!

Draw a line right in the centre of the bra back. If your pattern piece is one half of the pattern, intended to be cut out of the fabric on the fold, you may want to trace off the other side of the pattern, in order to draft this back. It is way easier to see the shape if the back is in one piece.

Now here is where the art meets the engineering. Your task will be to draw an extended Y-strap in the centre of the pattern piece. The extension does not have to be very tall, maybe a couple of inches (5 cm). Make sure the little arms of the Y are wide enough for you to sew elastic on, and tall enough to thread through a ring.

Here what the finished Y-back looks like with the rings sewn in place. 

Yes, it looks like a mini racer back (sort of) but the advantages are many

  • the straps will never fall off your shoulders. Honest, never.
  • having the straps sit close to centre back will allow you to wear tanks and tops with cut away  backs without your straps showing (Lordy, I hate seeing that)
  • having the straps sit close to the centre back tends to put the front straps in on an angle toward the neck, which has a positive effect on the cleavage, similar to a halter top (and we all know how cleavage enhancing a halter is!)
8 replies
  1. Beverly Johnson
    Beverly Johnson says:

    Often, you do need to change the length of the back to accommodate the front opening. You can assume that the hooks and eyes at their loosest setting take up 2" (5 cm) of space across the back. Theoretically then, you should add 1" (2.5 cm) to the back pattern piece to make up for the extra width you lose by not having the hooks and eyes. However if you always wear the hooks at the tightest setting, adding 1" might make the band a bit too loose. As always, the fabric you use will make a difference too. A fabric such as power net is always firmer than regular spandex, so you may have to add more than 1" (2.5 cm). If you can do a test run, that is always the best way to tell for sure.

  2. tinthimble
    tinthimble says:

    Hi Beverly & thank you for this post. ALL bras are wide set for my daughter and I. Is it necessary to adjust the band length with this adaptation? If I am starting with a regular bra & changing it to a front close/racerback style what happens to the adjustability of the hooks & eyes? Thanks

  3. Beverly Johnson
    Beverly Johnson says:

    Not always. This post was to show that the front straps can be wider set, if you just move the position of the back strap over. In another post, I'll explain how to move the front strap. Thanks for your comments!

  4. Beverly Johnson
    Beverly Johnson says:

    Thanks for your comments! The #1 complaint from women concerning their bras is the straps falling off. Yest, as a sewer, it is very easy to fix. I hope you make lots of beautiful bra straps that stay in place even when you move!

  5. Nhi
    Nhi says:

    Thank you so much for this post. My bra straps are constantly falling off. On RTW bras I try to pull them tighter but that only works if umm.. I don't move. I've only sewn one bra, the Anita, and really need to get back to sewing a whole drawer full. I'm so excited to try these techniques out.

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Would you also need to move the front bra strap inward? I have been just to keep the straps from not only falling off the side but to keep them from rolling in on the neck side. Thank you.

  7. Lyndle
    Lyndle says:

    This is great. This is my number one reason for wanting to learn to sew bras. My shoulder straps always fall off. All day. Thank you for this post!


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