Sewing: Vintage Bikini


I felt heartbroken when I tried on a much anticipated swimsuit order and there was a 1 inch gap between my little girls and the bralette cups that were marked at size “A”. It’s frustrating not being able to find something that fits. I’m happy with my body, but my body’s small “features” are hard to fit. Sometimes I think it would be easier to just augment my body so I can actually buy a swimsuit and feel feminine in it. Of course that’s ridiculous. Sewing is way cheaper than plastic surgery. And I should embrace my body the way it is. I love this NY times article all about the small-chested.


One of the things I haven’t tackled with my sewing machine is the bathing suit. I haven’t been interested or confident enough to even think about it until I was on a complete sewing high in LA with some crazy talented ladies. Justine was actually the one to give me the boost I needed to take this on. We were in Michael Levine and I was asking her about swimwear and she showed me the “good stuff”. I couldn’t back down.

It’s fitting that I’m showcasing this swimsuit in her sewing the trends series, is it not?


I’m in love with the vintage bikini, the one that shows only a couple of inches of stomach. I’m in love with the bralette trend as well. The bralette isn’t a kind of look that I would  wear on a day-to-day basis, but it’s perfect for swimwear. You can see all of my swim inspiration here.


This bathing suit cost just over $10 for materials. About $400 in my time, though. I often get asked if I’ll ever open an etsy shop and sell my sewn creations. I always say no. I’m the sole breadwinner now, and I couldn’t charge enough for my sewn creations to make ends meet. I would love to work with a clothing company to create a limited line of clothing. And maybe someday I’ll be part of the design process, but never the manufacturing process.

If this swimsuit basically cost me $410 in materials and time, why did I do it then? Why not just commission a girl like Bev to make one for me? It boils down to happiness. I love a challenge. We all need challenges to feel happy. Besides this being great blog content, I pushed myself so much farther on this project than any other one I’ve done to date. Drafting up that top, and sewing muslin after muslin took a lot of discipline. And that discipline paid off big time.

The bottoms fit me like a glove. Everything is fully lined. Do you see how smooth those bottoms are? The lining makes such a big difference.


I drafted everything from scratch. I had a ton (like 5 yards) of lining fabric, so I could mess up as much as I wanted on the muslins. It took 4 muslins to get the bottoms just perfect. 1 for the top. I totally winged the top based on a bra I was planning on using for support. When I fitted the muslin, it fit me perfectly so I opted for soft cup inserts instead.

I took the flat shapes I wanted for the bralette, and with the slash and spread method, I made them into pattern pieces that would form perfectly around my girls. It’s nothing short of a miracle that this fit on the first try. That NEVER happens.


I did mess up on the waistband of the bottoms, but it wasn’t too bad. They were really high waisted, so instead of unpicking the waistband, I just cut off the old one and put on a new one. Surprisingly not much time or material was wasted here.


I still can’t believe I made this swimsuit! It fits better than any swimsuit I’ve ever worn. We’ll see how it does at the pool today.

Outfit Details:

  • swimsuit: handmade
  • sunglasses: c/o BYUTV
  • shoes: Ruche (seychelles)


I’ll see if I can come up with a tutorial on how to draft your own vintage bikini, but it’s kind of daunting to think of all of the steps I would have to explain.

I have found similar patterns available for download. Burdastyle has one and so does Oh Lulu.


The bottoms were easy enough with basically two pieces and a band. I just drafted them up from a pair of swim bottoms that fit me well enough, then I tweaked and tweaked until they were perfect.


I’m glad I used a print for the top. If you look closely you can tell where I wasn’t perfectly precise with the bralette, but it’s masked by the pattern. I thought I would need boning to keep the top in place, but so far it hasn’t been necessary. I can always add it on afterward.


You can see here the lining. Seriously, if you’re going to sew your own swimming suit, I can’t stress a high-quality lining enough! It makes all the difference!

Here’s the schedule for the Sewing the Trends series. There are some remarkable sewers in the line up, I’m thrilled to be part of it. Be sure to check them all out.

Fabric provided by Michael Levine’s


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    1. maddie says:

      You did a fantastic job! Seriously. Stretch fabrics are hard to sew, well, not really, but they are a dream to fit. Because of the stretch, they fit much easier than a woven. Question – what is the lining? It doesn’t look like power mesh.

      • Melissa says:

        The lining is a swim fabric that I found at a discount shop. It’s very stretchy and incredibly soft. I’m just now finding out that it takes some time to dry, perhaps more so than a normal lining would. But I love the coverage that it gives. I’m not afraid of people seeing things I don’t want seen.

    2. Mandie says:

      I love it! You did a fabulous job. It’s a darling suit. :)

    3. Meghan Clark says:

      You make this look and sound so easy though im sure it probably wasnt! I love the suit so much!

    4. Kayla says:

      You are a rock star. I am blown away.

    5. Justine says:

      Melissa. this is such a great design! How about making a pattern to sell? I know it’s so much work but you are so talented girl, and I will buy it! I hear you on sewing for money. Its just WAY too much work. I love designing too but not the sewing part!

    6. ashley says:

      great sunnies you babe! also, just got those shoes in tan from top shop–in love!

    7. Mie @ SewingLike Mad says:

      Melissa you are AMAZING! I would probably rather have my arms broken than show a bikini on my blog BUT I don’t look like you in bikini! You look fantastic, really!! And so great with the lining. That for sure makes a difference! Great job!!

    8. Celeste says:

      It looks awesome! Those fabrics are perfect. And the lining seriously makes a difference!

      Your swimsuit reminded me of this blog, by a local lady. She doesn’t post every day, but she has a shop and teaches classes at Yellow Bird. Her blog is a treasure of good tips! Worth a read:

      Enjoy the pool!

    9. Kate says:

      That swimsuit looks fantastic! I love the retro style and the way the pattern and colored fabric compliment each other. Amazing!

    10. Teresa says:

      This is amazing! I told my husband the other day that I want to try and make a swimsuit and he thought I was crazy! This is proof that it is doable and can look great!

    11. Congratulations on a wonderful swim suit! I love this inspiring series at Justines! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

    12. Olga Becker says:

      WOW! It fits you perfectly! Great job!

    13. Kristin H says:

      Lovely fit, fabric and execution.

      Go hit up Yellowbird fabrics, next time you are in SLC. The owner is an old roommate of mine – Amy is crazy talented and super nice. Tell her I sent ya!

    14. Heidi says:

      Well done! I was so hoping you would say it was a piece of cake. I’ve been wanting to make my own swimsuit considering I have a similar problem with the top fitting. Aah, guess I’ll just buy another one. ;)
      Thanks for linking that article, I snagged a few links from it so I can hopefully find a properly fitting bra for once in my life.

    15. Haylee says:

      LOVE. So freaking cute Melissa, and it fits you like a glove. Good to know about the importance of the lining- I actually wasn’t aware that lining made much of a difference in swimwear so if I ever make my own swimsuit (not likely because I’m intimidated and I just bought this suit from J Crew (
      which I’m obsessed with so I’m good for a while :) but it’s good to know, you know just in case.

    16. Merche says:

      What a great swimsuit! I can´t believe it is your first…and no pattern! You are really talented. And agree with Justine: I´ll buy the pattern!

    17. Wow! You’ve outdone yourself here. It looks so pro, you’ve really inspired me to give this vintage bustier thing a go, sometime. Love love love it!

    18. jennx says:

      This is so crazy. I made the Ohhh Lulu Ginger out of the same fabric purchased from Michael Levine’s. I used purple as my contrast color though.
      Your suit looks great!

    19. Melissa says:

      This is uh-mazing!

    20. Melissa says:

      Oh this fabric is just AWESOME! Amazing job. Love it!

    21. MrsAlwaysForever says:

      You did a fantastic job! No one would know it wan’t a high end designer. And the patterned fabric is so pretty! Bravo!!!

    22. jenny in oz says:

      Congratulations, great job and lovely result.

    23. oh that is so so flattering and fits you perfectly. awesome job friend!

    24. Julia says:

      I love everything about you in your vintage bikini. You’re beautiful.

    25. Bonny says:

      This is way awesome! You did such a great job!

    26. Wow! I’m impressed. Super cute. I can’t sew (other than a hem or a button) and I’m always envious of those than can! Great job.

    27. Delia says:

      I love this Melissa! You did an awesome job. So inspirational.

    28. Sig!s says:

      “Sewing is way cheaper than plastic surgery”. Ha! Brilliant. As is the bikini. Always wanted to try one, maybe you’ve convinced me to do so…

    29. Shannon says:

      Absolutely AMAZING!!! (I really, really need a bathing suit :) )

    30. nancy says:

      Love the print but don’t see it at LowPrice, is it gone?? You did an excellent job on this suit , congrats!

    31. Sydnie says:

      This is amazing! I can’t believe you just whipped a suit out. I have been wanting to make a swimming suit for literally YEARS but the thing that intimidates me most is the lining. Maybe you could tell us a bit more about that? Like, what it’s even called? Also, how do you get invited to fabric weekend? It sounds like a dream!

      • Melissa says:

        I was in a very special, motivated mood. It was certainly a daunting task but taking everything one step at a time sure made a difference. I cut and sewed the lining exactly how I sewed the exterior. For the bottoms, I pinned them wrong sides together and sewed on the waist and leg bands. For the top, I pinned them right sides together and sewed up the top edge. Turned it right side out, sewed the soft cups between the two layers then added a band at the bottom. I kept it very simple. Hopefully that helps you!

    32. ShaeWC says:

      This is seriously beautiful! And you look great in it!

    33. ira lee says:

      love this suit!!! you have the cutest little body too!!! good for you!

    34. Lindsay says:

      So cute! I absolutely love it! Unfortunately, I am too well-endowed to ever pull off a bralette. :)

      • jennx says:

        You could totally do it with the Ohh Lulu Ginger pattern. I have another comment with a link to my suit, I’m a 34DDD and with the right bra cups inside it fits great.

    35. I love the suit, just like everyone else here. But- Oh no! What happened to Chris’s job to make you the sole breadwinner?

    36. What a lovely bikini! Damn I wish I could find such fun bathing-suit fabric in Belgium. They only sell ulgy ones here :(

    37. Michelle says:

      I am clicking over from Justine’s blog, and I have to say — I’m blown away!! The suit – it’s awesome!! I never saw the NY Times article to which you’ve linked, and now I’m lost in a world I didn’t know existed! I’ve never had a bra or bathing suit that fit my tiny “ladies” — thank you SO MUCH for the inspiration to remedy that!

    38. Carla says:

      I love everything about your swimsuit…color, style, fit. And it’s so complimentary to your coloring. You have beautiful porcelain skin. Thank you for sharing your adventure!

    39. Elizabeth says:

      You’re such a great seamstress! I think I’m going to attempt a swimsuit this summer. Did you use any elastic thread? Did you serge everything?

      • Melissa says:

        I didn’t use any elastic, just serged everything. I made it all really form fitted so as it stretches in the water, it still covers what it needs to.

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