• Jenni Beth

RP Talia Tunic - Hacking a Shelf Bra


I was recently decided to sew up a Talia Tunic by Rebecca Page. This pattern is super-cute with gathering detailing at the front and back of the bodice. Perfect for lighter-weight, "drapey" fabrics. But I didn't want to have to wear a bra underneath my tunic. So I hacked a shelf bra. Here is how I did it :)


Step One - Cut out the "bra" pattern.

I started by measuring the "front binding" piece against the front of the tunic (starting at the top of the triangular part of the pattern and going towards the center front). I marked where it ended and drew a straight line down from my mark. It ended up being about 2 inches from the center front on my size small tunic. Then I looked at the pattern and estimated approximately where I thought the waist was and drew a line a little above that (allowing for the elastic on the shelf bra to be turned over in its construction). For my small tunic, I drew a line approximately 7 inches down from my new center front mark. For the back bra piece, I drew a line down from the gathering mark (one inch from center back). And I matched the length of the size seam on the front to the back. This was 6 inches on my bra front (the side seam is about an inch lower than the center front). When all the lines were drawn, I cut out my bra pattern pieces.


Step Two - Cut out the bra fabric and sew up the side seams.

I used techsheen fabric for the shelf bra to allow for both support and breathability. I made sure to cut the pattern pieces on the fold. And then I sewed up the side seams with my serger. Then I measured some 3/4 inch elastic around my underbust (if you want to use a wider elastic, just cut your bra piece slightly taller). How long your elastic is will depend a lot of which elastic you choose. For this one, I cut my elastic a couple inches shorter than the circumference of the bra pieces at the bottom. Then I overlapped the elastic about an inch and used a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine to sew the ends together into a loop.


Step Three - Attaching the underbust elastic.

Once I had the elastic sewn into a loop, I quartered it and the bottom of my bra piece, clipped them together with the elastic on the wrong side, and used my serger to stitch the elastic on, stretching the elastic, but not the bra. Then I flipped the bra and elastic to the wrong side and topstitched it. I used a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine, but I could have used my coverstitch just as easily. Honestly, I didn't feel like threading my coverstitch...my sewing machine was already threaded!


Step Four - gathering the bodice piece and attaching it to the bra.

After sewing up the side seams as instructed in the pattern, I sewed two lines of gathering stitches to the front and back bodice, as directed in the tutorial. I matched up the bra and the bodice at the top of the shoulder triangles and at the center front. I made sure the wrong side of the bra is next to the wrong side of the bodice. Then I pulled the bobbin threads of the gathering stitches until the bra and bodice front matched up. I evened out the gathers and clipped it with quite a few clips. Then I ran a basting stitch along the front all along the front neckline.

Then I did the exact same thing in back, except I clipped the side seams and center back before pulling on the bobbing threads. I adjusted the gathers, clipped, and basted. This last picture shows a little bit of what the gathers look like against the shelf bra.


Step Five - finish the binding, according the pattern instructions.

The rest of the construction is per the pattern tutorial. Here is the finished top turned inside out so you can see the bra with the binding attaching it to the top at the front neckline and all along the back. Notice that the serged edges of the bra are in-between the bra and the bodice. So when I wear it, I cannot feel the seam allowances against my skin. The elastic has also been turned away from my body underneath the shelf bra.


The Results

I think this one turned out pretty cute! I couldn't resist sewing up a matching pair of Rebecca Page Basic Underwear to go with it. I used one-inch FOE on both the bra and the underwear (this option is included in both sets of instructions).


This one was a pretty quick sew, and I know I will get a ton of use out of it, to wear under layers this winter, and then by itself next summer.

Here are the pattern links one more time:

Rebecca Page Talia Tunic

Rebecca Page Basic Underwear


This post contains various affiliate links. Purchasing patterns using these links does not cost my readers more, but the designer does provide me with a small commission from any sales. The commission helps to fund my fabric costs, and is very appreciated.

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Why "Sewing and the Trivium"

The Story

Classical educators like to divide education into developmental stages called the Trivium. These are called "Grammar," "Logic," and "Rhetoric." Grammar refers to the first steps of learning anything: learning the vocabulary of the subject being studied and memorizing facts about that vocabulary. Classically speaking, this corresponds to the elementary years of learning - years when students never seem to grow tired of astounding the adults around them with fact after fact about things they are interested in. Have you experienced talking to a six year old who is really into dinosaurs? enough said...

Adults also begin learning with the grammar of a subject. Each subject has its own unique terminology and facts that need to be mastered before one can explore the more complicated applications of that subject. Sewing is no different. What is a french seam? What kinds of knit fabrics are better for different applications? What is a dolman sleeve or a raglan top? These are grammar queries.

In classical education, logic refers to the action of logically processing the grammar facts students have learned, or are learning. The student who is particularly suited to this type of thought is the middle-school scholar - the student who wants to argue his or her way through the world and "be right" about all the things. This pattern of thought includes bringing different ideas together, comparing and contrasting them, analyzing what an authority figure says about an argument, and deciding whether different arguments are consistent with each other. In the sewing world, logical questions include things like, "How is knit fabric different than woven fabric?" and "Why does this pattern ask for a particular fabric type?" as well as tasks such as mashing two patterns together or changing the sleeve/length/placket from how the pattern was designed.

The final part of the classical trivium, rhetoric, is when a student makes an argument of his or her own by developing a "thesis" or main point and then laying it out for someone else in writing or speech. Typically, students are ready for formal rhetoric in their high school years - years that they are very concerned about what they look like to other people and gain an interest in learning to craft a message in a way that will be most effective for their purposes. Examples of rhetoric in sewing would be fully-formed tutorials or sew-alongs - or even the writing of a blog post itself. Anything that is explaining previously thought-out/tried-out projects can count as rhetoric. 

My goal on this blog is to lay out my sews and thoughts using this framework. And that is why I chose this title.