Nathalie Bodysuit Hack: Shelf Bra

Nathalie Bodysuit Hack: Shelf Bra

This hack comes to you courtesy of @yorkiemouse who, on launch day, asked if a shelf bra could be added to this pattern for those who don't necessarily want to wear a bra with such a close fitted garment, but also absolutely need some kind of support. And I was like, that's such a brilliant hack! I must get to work on it ASAP!

So I did!

In this blog post, you will find step-by-step instructions to create your very own shelf-bra/ built-in bra for any knit top pattern in your stash (minus, say, a really intricate cross-cross top of sorts!)

I will be using the Rowan Top to demo the measurement portion of this project & the Nathalie Top to demo the sewing portion on this hack.

Of course, all of our bodies are super unique, especially our bosoms, so feel free to make a sample of your entire garment before cutting it out of your finest fabric. It'll also help nail anything that feels a bit daunting.


  • Knit Top Pattern
  • 3/4" (1.91 cm) Wide Elastic
  • Tracing Paper
  • Jersey/ Stretch/ Ballpoint Needle
  • Clear Elastic or Twill Tape (Optional)
  • Pins
  • Marking Tool
  • Measuring Tape or Ruler
  • Iron & Ironing Board
  • Scissors
  • Snacks
  • Coffee or Tea

Let's Get Started!

For this tutorial, I won't be able to go through ALL Of the steps in constructing your garment because, well, there are just too many options to cover base don what everyone reading might be working on!

Instead, I will take you through my process of sewing up the Nathalie Top without a Ruffle back and with the new shelf bra hack. Hopefully by following along, you will be able to pick up any tid bits that might best relate to your own project!

I will begin by showing you how to draft a shelf-bra from your own measurements and knit pattern pieces first. It's super simple and only requires on measurement, so there is no need to feel worried!

Drafting Your Own Shelf Bra Pattern Pieces

It's really quick & easy to draft your own shelf-bra pattern pieces for just about any knit garment which makes this hack not only quick to pull off but also super helpful to add to any project where you want a bit more support. 

First we are going to grab a measuring tape and take one measurement. Place your measuring tape on you High Point Shoulder (HPS) which is right at your shoulder point. Bring your tape measure down, over the fullest part of your chest and then stop where you would like your shelf bra to hit when complete.


With that measurement in mind (or written down someplace safe) take out your front & back pattern pieces. On the front of your pattern piece, we are going to take our tape measure and again go to the HPS bringing the tape measure down and over the apex of the pattern, stopping once you have reached your original measurement + whatever the shoulder seam allowance might be.

Make a little mark in a different pen color.

Unroll your tracing paper on top of your original pattern piece. Go ahead and trace all around the top half of your front pattern piece (neckline, shoulder seam, side seam, etc). Make sure to transfer your grainline and any notches from your original pattern to this traced piece.

With a ruler, draw a line parallel to the colored mark you dashed onto your original pattern piece.

Add another line approximately 3/4" (1.91 cm) below the line you just drew.

You now have the front half of your shelf bra pattern pieces! To tackle to back half we are going to measure thing a bit differently.

Place your tape measure at the front underarm of your new shelf bra pattern piece and measure from the underarm point down to the hem edge. Keep that measurement in your mind or someplace close by.

Sorry this image is a bit out of focus!

Repeat the same process of tracing the top half of your back pattern piece (neckline, shoulder seam, side seam, etc). Make sure to transfer your grainline and any notches from your original pattern to this traced piece.

Now, on your traced pattern, measure from the underarm to the same measurement that you obtained from the front pattern piece.

Extend that point all the way to your Center Back (CB) line.

Voila! You now have all the pieces you will need to sew up a shelf-bra! Feel free to cut out your new pattern pieces along with your original pieces in a fabric of your choosing and let's start sewing!

Sewing a Shelf-Bra

Sewing a shelf bra is pretty easy, especially with knit garments. At least, that is what I have found. I will demonstrate with the Nathalie.

First, I sewed all of my darts.

I then trimmed and pressed those seams open to keep the bulk to a minimum.

Next, I sewed the shoulder seams of both my main bodice and my shelf-bra together.

I trimmed my seams to, again, help reduce bulk.

Then came the side seams- I went ahead and sewed up both for my main bodice and for my shelf bra. For the Nathalie, this is different than the instructions suggest for the sleeves. When adding a shelf bra, it's best to put the shelf bra into the top before adding the sleeves. It gives the smoothest, easiest finish all around.

Before we put the shelf-bra into the actual top, we should probably add the elastic band around the bottom edge.

First, try on your shelf bra- this will help determine where the elastic will reside.

Wrap your elastic around your rib cage, roughly 3/4" (1.91 cm) higher than the hem of your shelf bra currently sits. Make sure that your elastic is pulled snugly, but not too tight, and that there is about 1/2" (1.3 cm) overlap.

Cut your elastic to the proper length, remove the shelf bra, and get ready to start sewing!

Place your elastic band around the bottom hem of your shelf bra on the wrong side of your fabric. You'll want to overlap the elastic band at the side seam (either one) by about 1/2" (1.3 cm).

Find the midway point of your elastic and pin it to the other side seam. Make sure that you haven't accidentally twisted your elastic throughout this process (something I do all. the. time.).

Starting at the elastic overlap and using a zig-zag stitch, sew a few stitches to lock your elastic into place.

Then, pull your elastic from the point where it is pinned until it lies flat against your fabric and continue sewing.

You will continue this process until you reach the start of your stitches.

Annnddd one more time we go! Fold your shelf bra hem up so that you no longer see the elastic, only the stitches you sewed to hold it in place. Go ahead and sew all around the bottom hem of your shelf bra just as you did in the last step.

Whew, I think we all deserve a quick stretch break and possibly even a cookie for accomplishing that task!

Alrighty, I hope you had a nice little break and are ready to finish this beaut up!

With wrong sides (WS) together, pin your shelf-bra to your bodice together at the neck and arm holes. Baste in place.

You have OFFICIALLY inserted a proper shelf bra into your knit garment! All that is left is to add some finishing touches.

You can add on your neckband as usual, making sure to really grade your seams before edge stitching them down.

If you are working with a pattern that doesn't have sleeves, simply finish off your armholes in the same was as you generally would with your pattern. For those doing the Nathalie, all you have to do is add your sleeves in the round.

Then all that is left is a sleeve hem and a bodice hem (or doing all the things needed to a bodysuit) and you are  DONE!

I hope you are feeling mighty impressed with yourself and oh-so-proud of inserting your very own shelf bra into your pattern! You can even tack cups to the inside of your shelf-bra if you want to (I believe that's a thing, right?).

But the main thing is that now you won't be bound to wear a bra with this particular garment if you don't want to, and I hope that feels as amazing for you as it does for me (I'm not a fan of most bras....)

Let me know how your sewing goes and feel free to tag me in your newly hacked make using #UTPatternHack or #UTNathalieHack . Bonne Couture!




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