Tribal Top Directions

How to Convert a Regular Bra into a Tribal Top

1. Begin with a bra with sturdy cups. It doesn’t matter what color it is or if it is new. You may want to use a bra that is a cup size too big because sometimes the cups shrink when covering and decorating.

2. Make a pattern for the side bands. Take into account your seam allowance, which is usually 5/8”. You will want to make it a little shorter than the band because of the ties used to create the x-back. Make sure you remember how it attaches and which side is the top.

3. Cut off the straps and side bands. Leave a little fabric left over on the sides because it will make it a lot easier to attach the new bands.

4. To make the cups a little sturdier, iron heavy fusible interfacing to the exterior of the cups. (You can use scraps or cut new pieces for it.)

5. Cut 4 pieces of fabric for the new side bands. (You can use whatever kind of fabric you like, but I prefer to use cotton or a poly-cotton blend. Lycra or other shiny, synthetic fabrics don’t look as nice for Tribal tops.) Cut four of interfacing too.

6. Attach the fusible interfacing to the fabric. You need 2 of each direction.

7. Cover the band between the cups with a small piece of fabric. A triangle piece works nicely.

 Start by stitching the edge down by hand.

Wrap the fabric around and sew in place.

Make sure the whole middle section is covered neatly.

8. To begin coving the cups, take a large piece of fabric and pin it to one of the cups. Cut around the fabric leaving extra. It works best for me to go from corner to corner with the pins.

Cover the other cup.

Leave at least an inch of extra fabric around the edges.

9. Begin sewing at the center band because it would be very difficult to line it up later. Tuck the extra fabric underneath at first and hand sew in place.

10. Hand sew along the bottom edges of the cups. Turn the fabric underneath itself and sew on the inside of the cups.

11. Once the bottom edge is sewn in place, you may need to adjust your pins. Move them to the outside edges so you’ll have an easy time sewing that part next. Don’t pull the fabric too hard because it might distort the shape of the cups.
12. Sew the edges by hand next, but don’t sew the parts where the bands will attach. Turn the fabric under itself so there are no edges that could fray.

13. Realign the pins on the top edge of the cups. You will have at least one dart. Try to place the darts evenly so the cups will remain symmetrical. I put the darts on the top edge because the upper edge decoration will conceal them.

14. Sew the top edge down on the inside of the cups and turn the edges underneath themselves.

15. Remove the pins and sew the darts.

16. Sew the bands together with right sides together. Line them up with the cups and ring you plan to use to see if they will fit. Mark any adjustment you need to make.

17. Make any adjustments as necessary, trim the edges, and finish with a zigzag stitch.

18. Turn the bands right side out, press, and zigzag the small ends.

19. Press the openings underneath themselves by about ½”.

20. Pin the bands to the sides of the cups. Make sure they are on right side up. Don’t pin through all 4 layers. Try to put the pins only through the outer layer of the new band and the extra fabric on the side that is covering the cups.

21. Pin on the insides too. Try to only pin through the inner layer of the band and the bra’s original band fabric stub. If you pin through all 4 layers, it will not look very nice when you try to sew it.

22. Use a sewing machine to attach the bands to the cups.

Sew more than one time because everything needs to be firmly attached.

23. To make the loops that will hold the rings, cut two rectangles of fabric and interfacing. The rectangles need to be more than twice as wide as the interior of the loops. They should be about 3” long. Fuse them together.

24. Fold the rectangles in half and press.

See how wide you need these loops to be, and then press the extra parts inside of the rectangles. Make sure they will fit inside of the rings.

25. Sew the loops closed on the open edge. Zigzag the edges.

26. If you are using D-rings, keep in mind that they like to spin around in the fabric. To help hold them in place, you may want to hand sew them down and/or glue them in place. First, put the D-rings in place on the bands and on the middle of the rectangles. Hand sew them in place.

If you are very concerned, you can glue them down with fabric glue as well. Clamp the fabric around the rings.

27. Carefully sew as close to the rings as you can with your sewing machine. Go back and forth to make sure it will hold.

28. Attach the little loops to the cups.

Sew back and forth to make sure that the rings on the top will stay in place.

29. There are a few ways to make the straps that will tie the top together. One way is to cut two very long pieces of fabric that are more than twice as wide as the rings. (You can use different fabric for the straps than the rest of the top if you want. Just make sure that the fabric has some stick to it so the top will stay tied! Cotton and natural fibers work very well. You don’t want to use anything smooth, such as satin.)

30. Fold the strips in half the long way and press.

Figure out what width will look best with your rings and then press the two edges towards the inside of the straps.

31. Make sure the short edges are tucked inside, and then sew the straps with a machine.

32. Machine sew the ribbons to the rings on the top of the cups. Make sure your straps are secure.

When you wear your top, you will run the straps through the opposite rings creating the x-back.

33. Add lining to the inside of your cups to help keep your costume nicer longer. (An old t-shirt works well for lining.) Cut two pieces of fabric bigger than the cups.

34. Trim the lining down as necessary and hand sew the lining to the inside of the cups. Use long stitches because you may need to change the lining later and this will make it easier. You may also line the inside of the bands if you are concerned about damage.

35. Try on your top to make sure that it fits!

Make sure the laces in the back are a length you like.

36. Decorate your top.