How to sew your 80’s swimsuit without a pattern

Are you feeling that delightful  80’s|90’s vibe going over fashion? When I came across that colorful fabric, half Pollock half Katy Perry inspired, I finally fulfilled a longtime wish: to create my own lingerie. This week, I am teaching you how to create your own version of a home-made bathing suit using only an old version as a guide… Ready to jump in?

Mirror, mirror on the beach…

Hunting for new fabrics at my all time favorite shop in SF (Fabric Outlet), I was feeling quite unsatisfied until I stumbled on this “color stained” fabric. Not sure whether I liked it or hated it, this is what it made me think of:

On the left, embroidery by french artist Rebecca Robertson, center is a Pollock painting, on the right the unique style of Katy Perry and at the bottom an unknown but somehow cool pair of sunglasses

Sure I could have posed on a beach with sand in my hair and waves over my feet. But first water is kind of cold in NorCal and second what would be the fun in that? Before telling you how I created the beast, let’s have a look at the finished product. Oh and I chose places I am least likely to wear a swimsuit again…

Why yoga pants when a teeny bikini could suffice?
With my friends the torture machines squad
Clean a BBQ Pinterest style 
Cleaning a BBQ in real life
Oh Dear, what about my delicate fair (beauty spotted) skin?
Bring on your paresse side, even in a hotel lobby
You might be a princess but you won’t escape your trash duty!

Urban jungle shower

5 steps tutorial

On the left, the original bikini, washed out by too many trips to the water. On the right the almost finished new version.

Dissatisfied with the bikini patterns I came across, I decided to start simple. I had this swimsuit waiting for ages in the my drawer. It fitted me perfectly but had lost the bright colors of its youth. A little sacrifice later and it was reborn and ready to serve again. And I am pretty sure you keep one of those somewhere at home. The ones too good to throw away and too damaged to wear…

Step 1 – scavenge away

Patiently (very patiently) use your seam ripper to dismantle the layers composing the swimsuit.

You’ll be amazed by the amount of tiny pieces it can contain…

While you do it, take notes or photos of how everything goes together because you will later do the same in reverse with the new fabric.

Teeny tiny seam allowance

Step 2 – copy the pieces obtained

Copy the pieces on paper or directly on the new fabric if you feel confident enough. Don’t forget to add a bit of seam allowance.

A photo of copying the bottom part

Once you have your pattern, cut, cut, cut in the new fabric.

Unless you plan on wearing this in a porn movie any time soon, I would advice lining the bottom, to avoid see through effect.

Step 3 – putting it back together

I only kept the cups from the original model as they were still in good condition. You can change those if you wish but be carefull to find the exact same fit.

Use tons of pins to make sure you have a good fit
This is what the prototype looked like before sewing.

I would recommend to try on the bathing suit as you sew to make sure the fit is still good. Plus if you’re like me working in your living room, it will make your direct neighbors very happy ^^.

I let out the pins as I went but I confess it was rather easy to sew, even without an actual stretch needle. Brother machines can be trusted to do the job! But go slow, to avoid breaking anything.

Tips: on all zones that won’t move much (like cups) a discreet straight stitch will work well.

the top bra finalised. The white part is a little square of stronger, non-stretch, fabric linking both cups. That way the swimsuit is sturdier.
On the side, I created gathering, pretty much like you on regular fabric.

You then add the back straps:

Step 4 – sewing the panties

I was very much afraid of sewing elastic for the first time. It sounded quite dreary when I looked at tutorials. I am more used to sewing cotton and it was my first real elastic on elastic fabric test and… it went fine really! Best thing with sewing is just to test your limits by yourself.  Nothing like field work to learn new trick!

The trick is to pull gently on the elastic while keeping the fabric flat. That way you get support on the high thighs.

Not that hard in the end. You can pink the raw edges if you want. I decided to add an extra strip of fabric at the top of the panties to give it a vintage flare. That’s also quite handy to refrain unwanted love handles from popping out

adding straps
I used other straps I already had as a model

Step 5 – 1,2,3 gloat

Technical details

The most useful videos I found on the subject:

Reversible Bikini Bottoms

How to transfer an existing swimsuit to make a new one

properly sew an elastic


Total cost: 20$

  • 1 yard (1/2 should work too) of swimming fabric
  • 1 yard of stretch black lining fabric
  • 1 old bathing suit
  • pen + paper
  • 2 times your high thigh measurement of swimming elastic (about 1/2 an inch wide or less)
  • normal thread, scissors

Oh and by the way, the sunglass I am wearing on the photoshoot are from one of my clients (remember, PR person by day, Blogger\seamstress by night). They are a young french eyewear startup currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo. What I find appealing is that you can “build” different pairs by mix/matching different parts together. Being an aficionado of DIY projects of all stripes that’s a match made in heaven. They’re also super light and have quality lenses. Tried looking at a sunset through the brown tinted lenses and it had a nice “instagram filter” effect. If you want a box of 2 pairs with an extra discount,  click here.

And no, I am not about to turn this blog into a giant ad for diverse accessories, I just really like those glasses, even if I work for them too. It’s not incompatible, it’s even a good thing most of the time ^^.

Since creating my very first bathing suit, I wore it 3 to 4 times and I am thrilled with it! The dark and bright colors works well with a pale skin like mine and the thickness of the fabric gives it a nice quality touch.

Do you want to create one too now?

Within the next weeks I’ll show you my other bathing suit, a sexy little black thing that made my hubby blush when he saw me in it ;-).

Sew you soon!

La bise


3 comments Add yours
  1. You are so adorable, I will never ever do this, but damn girl I will totally help you sew this for me!!! We so need to get a date for a get together. This is stupid crazy. I have this fear that we will not see you and you will move back to France! Carrie and Dane and the kids are moving in with us on July 9 or 10 for maybe five months as they completely gut their house and redo everything. Yikes!!! We may have to take a trip to Paris and stay with your mom and dad for a long vacation to stay sane.

    1. ah ah ah don’t worry, we are not back to France yet 😉 and yes we will manage to meet again ;-). Oh the parents would love to have you I am sure of that 😀

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