• No Products in the Cart



debating. The subject up for discussion was elastic and if you can believe it, women weren’t the ones were fighting over the stretchy notion – it was men! There is a trend in men’s swimsuits for a revival of a well-cut and a well-fitted pair of swim trunks and while there are many designers fighting to get on top, two stood out to me because of their stance on the nature of the waistband – Orlebar Brown and Solid and Striped. Orlebar was launched in 2007 and when creating the line, owner Adam Brown looked to traditional patterns used to make men’s tailored suits, which involves 17 different pattern pieces for a single pair. On one side of the fighting ring is Orlebar, who doesn’t use elastic in his waistbands because according to him, “As a man in his forties with his clothes off in public, I want to feel confident and I want as much help as I can get. An elastic waist pushing into my stomach is not flattering.” On the other side of the ring is Solid and Stripe and the owner of the company, Isaac Ross, claims, “The problem with a fixed waistband is that they’re either a little too big or a little too small. There are a lot of different ‘mediums.’ You have to figure out a way that it can be fitted.”

This was particularly interesting to me because with each set of undies I make, the less and less I stretch the elastic. And it’s for the same reason that Brown states – I want to feel good when wearing my underthings and when I have something digging into my skin, well, you know how that feels. No bueno. When I first starting sewing undergarments, I reduced the length of the elastic the amount ALL the textbooks said – 10-15%. Then I read Beverly’s manual and started looking at my own RTW underwear and it was evident from both that elastic isn’t stretched close to what textbooks advise. If undergarments are going to stretch out when you wear them, what’s the point of making them smaller when they’re flat (or not worn)? The purpose of elastic when it comes to lingerie is to finish the edges in a way that will allow them to stretch out with the fabric when worn. If that’s the case, why not sew it flat except in those places that need extra tightness (i.e. at the underarm). Does anyone else have an opinion on this?



  1. Reply

    The Lingerie Lesbian

    Yeah, such a good point! I think that tight elastic on waist bands can be very unpleasant, but twice as bad is tight leg hole elastic. I tend not to stretch the much these days when I’m using a stretch fabric, because I know it will do the job of gripping for me. It’s only when I am making something ruffled that I stretch!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Ahhh… so your comment made me think of a new rule –
      If the fabric is stretchy, then don’t stretch elastic (because the fabric will stretch) but if the fabric is woven, stretch the elastic (because the fabric will need the shirring to “expand”). What do you think?

      • Reply

        The Lingerie Lesbian

        I like this rule– I’ll go with it for now and see what happens!

  2. Reply

    Natasha Estrada

    It seems logical to put stretch where you need it and eliminate it where you don’t. If I was knitting a bra thats exactly what I would do.

  3. Reply

    Rebecca Howard

    The last 3 pairs of undies I made (in my quest for the perfect shape) had virtually no stretch in the waist, and only the tiniest stretch around the legs. This is despite me thinking when I started on this quest that I needed to have tighter waistband elastic than RTW because they were always slipping down. I thinking getting the shape right is the important bit, not using elastic to make a bad shape fit. I’m happy to say those last 3pairs are fantastic. No tugging or hiking at all for the whole day! Bliss:)

    • Reply

      Rebecca Howard

      And another thing;) the bras I make now? I don’t stretch the elastic at the base of the band either. Much much more comfortable and the powernet in the band gives all the support necessary. I don’t feel as though I’m being strangled now.

      • Reply

        Maddie Flanigan

        I agree – getting the shape right is key.

  4. Reply

    Robin Denning

    Oh I know what you mean about elastic! I never follow the instructions anymore because every case is different. Now I stretch the elastic, and stretch the fabric, and THEN decide how much to use. And, like you, I compare to RTW to use in the comparison.
    You post such interesting pictures!

  5. Reply

    Ronja Zigler

    I am all about the drawstring! You can be one of a dozen different “medium”s and still have a garment fit you without the cutting in of the flesh that you get from elastic. I find it quite fantastic.


  6. Reply


    Lovely pictures and cool thoughts, Maddie! There was a very good post on patternschool.com about elastic tension–sadly, the site seems to be down. There was a lot about physics of elastic, mostly in swimwear with rubber elastic. He wrote that in swimwear manufacturing they only reduce elastic by somewhere around 3%. Every elastic gets fed at a consistent tension but not nearly as much as home sewing instructions often suggest. If a stretch pattern doesn’t fit after that, then the problem is with the pattern fit, not the elastic tension. Anyway, lots of lightbulbs went off and this got me experimenting. I was thinking of posting a bit about my experiments, too. Elastic has a mind of its own, and I like being friends with it, not fighting it!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      That is interesting but along the lines of what I’m slowly discovering. The shape is the most important thing and I’ve realized that mostly with my undie patterns. The curve of the leg opening from the front of the crotch, back, and to the side of the leg determines whether that undie will be riding up your tush everyday. This weekend, I drafted and made 5 patterns until I got the right fit (thank goodness it only takes 10 mins to make a pattern alteration and sew another sample). The elastic shouldn’t be used as a tool to correct a fit problem. If the shape is right, you just need to slightly tug at the elastic when sewing. Slightly is the key word.

Leave a Reply