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How To Make a Bikini

Making a bikini allows you to create a bathing suit catered to your shape and style.

Making a bikini allows the wearer to express themselves through their swimwear. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Making a bikini allows the wearer to express themselves through their swimwear.

How to Make a Bikini

Learning how to make a bikini is a way to ensure the swimsuit fits just right. Now more than 60 years old, the bikini is ubiquitous among beach-going women and girls. Just one of several types of two-piece bathing suits, the bikini typically involves low-cut bottoms and a top that is either triangle-, halter- or bandeau-shaped. Triangle and halter tops are usually tied behind the back and around the neck, while bandeau tops are tied behind the back only and have no straps over the shoulder or around the neck. Many women prefer bikinis with short or skirt bottoms rather than the typical bikini cut.

Making a bikini can be a fun summer project, whether the goal is to make a fashion statement or just be a little thriftier. People with little sewing experience may want to stick with a bandeau style top and bottoms with tie closures to avoid extensive sewing. Those with a little more sewing experience can try a more elaborate design that includes embellishments like beads or embroidery.

Determining the Measurements

To find the right fit for a bikini top, inhale all the way and then exhale halfway before taking the following bust measurements:

  • Around the chest just below the breasts
  • Around the bust where the chest is fullest
  • From the center of one breast to the other
  • From the center of the breast to the top of the mid-shoulder

For the bottoms, measurements should be taken around the waist where the swimsuit will fall (not necessarily the narrowest part of the waist), the fullest part of the hips and backside and the crotch length between the legs from the waist front to waist back.

Choosing a Style

Suggestions for choosing a bikini for a specific body type incorporate both the print of the fabric and the shape of the bikini. Life Tools for Women suggests a darker colored or solid fabric for a more slimming look. A colorful top can also draw attention away from a heavy lower body. Busty women may prefer a halter top with more coverage and a secure fit, while women with smaller chests can accentuate their shape with a triangle top or a bandeau top with creative cut-outs. High-cut bottoms elongate the legs, while lower cut shorts- or tight miniskirt-style bottoms can control the hips and upper thigh.

Getting a Pattern

Swimsuit patterns can be purchased in fabric stores or from online pattern retailers. All sewing patterns typically come with a number of variations on a basic pattern, so swimsuit patterns will offer several top and bottom styles to choose from in a single package. Once a pattern is cut out for use, however, it may be difficult to use the pattern for a different style variation.

Patterns bought in a fabric store or online are typically made of a light-weight tissue paper cut out to fit a specific clothing size based on body measurements. Patterns downloaded online, however, must be printed on paper that may be more difficult to work with than traditional sewing pattern paper.

Most patterns require a sewing machine, but are an easy first project for new sewers because of the small amount of fabric and basic shapes used. A free pattern for a simple, twist-and-tie swimsuit at Martha Stewart can be made without a sewing machine.

Buying the Fabric and Materials

The traditional materials used for swimsuits are lined spandex or Lycra, but environmentally friendly crafters can use organic cotton or a bamboo blend when making a bikini. Body measurements and some spatial planning are needed to determine the exact amount of fabric needed, but typically no more than one yard of fabric is needed to make a single swimsuit. Lining is recommended in the swimsuit bottom and top for both light and dark color swimsuits. One advantage of learning how to make a bikini is being able to make a reversible bikini with two custom-selected fabrics, in which case one fabric will serve as the lining for the other.

Additional materials, such as padding for cups, fasteners and clasps, elastic and cord are available at local fabric stores. Swimsuit-Style suggests using polyester or texturized nylon thread for the best results, and using a contrast color thread for a creative touch.

Making the Bikini Top

A basic triangle top bikini can be assembled using two triangle cutouts sewn to fit body measurements and elastic cord to connect between the triangles and to tie behind the neck and back. Alternatively, the triangles can have a loop of fabric at the bottom for passing the elastic cord through, so that the distance between the two triangles is adjustable.

A halter top bikini is similar to the triangle top, but the two triangular panels will be elongated to include the neck straps and will be sewn into the band that goes around the chest. Halter-style tops can either tie around the neck and back or use a clasp closure sewn into the straps.

A bandeau top is the simplest design to sew and can be made either with darts to fit the shape of the chest or with a single band of stretchy fabric. A no-sew bikini can be made without a sewing machine by using tie closures on a bandeau top and on the sides of the bikini bottom in place of a seam, but a hem added along all edges will help keep the material from unraveling.

Making the Bikini Bottom

The Pattern School offers detailed guidelines for creating custom bottoms for a homemade swimsuit project in a number of styles. Most styles of bottom are variations on a basic bikini brief style, which is assembled from a front and back panel. Bikini bottoms can either be sewn together into a single piece, or they can be tied together at the sides rather than sewn. For more security and a string-bikini look, bikini bottoms can be sewn together completely at the sides and then embellished with a tie attached around the strip of fabric at the hip.

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