Bra Fitting for People with Pectus Carinatum

Pectus Carinatum, or pigeon chest, is a chest shape where the breastbone is pronounced from the rib cage creating an egg shaped chest where the point of the egg is about where your bridge for your bra sits. It is often described as a “deformity” and considered “abnormal.” It is a chest shape and I will not describe it using those words again. It exists in the world, is common. It can be caused by breathing problems, such as emphysema, or rare diseases, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is my case.

You can’t really tell that I have this chest shape until you see me without a bra or feel my rib cage. The usual suggestion to hide this chest shape, if it causes no physical distress, for women is to get a breast augmentation and have larger breasts to disguise the difference. For men, as long as there is no physical distress, they are often told to do weight lifting to have chest muscles that disguise the shape. I’ve always had a large chest since I was very young so my chest shape is often ignored unless the health professional is looking for it. Interestingly, the doctors that noticed it also talked to me about EDS before I was diagnosed, especially when they saw my range of motion. It wasn’t until I got diagnosed and realized that maybe this chest shape was causing all of my major bra fitting problems: bridge not sitting flat against my chest or the apex splaying toward my sides.

Using the image from the Fashion Incubator, you can see how an egg shaped chest does this:

No matter what I tried, these issues were not going away and I wasn’t able to think outside the “normal” box. The “normal” box is where most bra patterns are drafted. In fact, this was all confirmed recently by Erin’s Love to Sew podcast interview where she talked about how bra patterns are drafted for a pretty narrow range of chest and bust shapes and there isn’t a lot of specialization for different shapes.

I found a Fashion Incubator article on the Wacoal Style #65547 bra, which is drafted for egg-shaped chests. The post outlines a long list of things that help the bra fit egg-shaped chests. I’ll summarize a bit:

  1. Straps closer together in front and back
  2. Fullness closer to the bridge than normal
  3. Narrow bridge
  4. Taller bridge

A taller bridge doesn’t actually work for my particular chest shape. My chest protrusion actually decreases about where the bra band sits meaning that the chest protrusion has a pretty large angle from the band up to the centre between my breasts. No matter what I do, the bridge could never sit flat because I do not have a flat chest area there. Instead of a taller bridge, I need a shorter bridge to get a better fit and a wire that does not angle forward poking out in various pictures, like it does below:

I also have the wonderful luck of having shoulders and ribs that like to go out of place if I try to use a back closure. For me, a front closure is much much better.

I needed to change a few things in my bra pattern to accomodate these issues.

  1. I needed a front closure, but I also needed an adjustable back closure for days where I am swollen due to my chronic illness.
  2. I needed more fullness in my cups since I have gained weight since I last made a bra.
  3. I needed a lower bridge and probably needed to cut the bra wires to fit it.

My muslin was an incredible success. Made here in a basic cotton fabric so the cups are wrinkly since the fabric won’t stretch a bit like duoplex does:

Obviously, the wires poke up since they are too long, but I have good coverage in the cup and with elastic on the edges of the cups, I will feel pretty secure in the bra. The cups fit much better than before. My wire size has not really changed.

I decided to make the bra using my duoplex fabric.

Since making these changes, I do see that the apex isn’t quite as forward as it could be. I will move my straps a bit closer to the bridge to maybe help get my apex closer to the centre and not splay to my sides. I will also try to move the lower cup seam a bit to the centre as well so the fullness is shifted a bit. I also decided to split the bottom 2 cup pieces into 3 to see how that distributes the fullness. I also think that the shape will look a bit better like that. Additionally, I added a slight bit more to the upper cup where the elastic is attached as well as a bit more in the lower cup.

I have to say, though, that this bra is as close to perfect and comfortable as I have gotten in my entire bramaking journey.

I’m pretty pleased with the bra in terms of sewing. What a difference a machine makes. My Singer is way more capable of handing the materials and maintaining control. It’s not 100% perfect. I mean, what is? But it is way way better than my last bra in terms of sewing.

Materials are duoplex, firm powernet, lace, elastics and hook and eye closures.

I am in a lingerie making kick lately along with wanting to make all the pjs. I’m working on a bralette pattern that will hopefully work and I am tweaking my underwear pattern to have panels that will work well with lace or powernet.

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17 thoughts on “Bra Fitting for People with Pectus Carinatum

  1. This was very interesting! I have Pectus excavatum. But not the extreme case the internet/google shows- LOL! Its kind of the opposite problem you have. Not very noticeable once I developed breasts other than it separates my breasts more. I never thought about how that would fit into my inability to find a good fitting bra!
    You have enlightened me! Thank You!
    Your solutions to solve your construction are genius!! Plus what awesome bras!!

  2. What bralette pattern are you working with? That’s a definite hole in my wardrobe that I’ve been wanting to fill for a long time, but being large-busted, I’ve struggled with even finding a reasonable starting point.

  3. Holy smokes this was informative! I’ve always known my sternum and chest were different , but never thought to associate with the bridge never fitting flat. I would read how a proper fitting bra should should fit flat against the chest, but in the approximately 45 yrs of bra wearing that never happened so I just went with close enough. I find this answers a huge puzzle for me. Just recently became interested in bra making thanks to you. Now I’m really inspired! Thank you!

    • Thanks, Suzanne. I’m glad you found the post useful! I figured that it might be helpful for other people starting their bramaking journey, too. 🙂 I hope it helps you figure out a good fit as you start bra making 🙂

  4. Andie, you are just so brilliant! I don’t have what you’ve described (well I don’t think so) but…. I have huge problems with bras fitting in the right places, despite being professionally measured. The front doesn’t lie flat to my chest, getting worse since tremendous weight loss. Straps fall off or dig in and if not leaving welts round my body then my bras pop open. After reading what you’ve written I’m going to talk to my doctor about these problems and I’m not going to be fobbed off. Having had large breasts for what feels like my whole life. Age 12 22″ waist and 36 D breasts and now 61 and 42DD – 46 D it’s time to get sorted.
    Lucy

    • Thanks, Lucy. Bra fitting is a tough thing, especially when you factor in weight fluctuations and chronic illnesses. I hope you find a good fit in bras. There is also nothing wrong with going with a soft bra or without. There is often a lot of stigma against that, but honestly if it is between comfort and discomfort….comfort wins every time.

  5. Oooh, this is so interesting! I didn’t really know about Pectus Carinatum before this, but I can see how it would require a different bra shape. Your bra is also really pretty! I love the sparkly star/moon buttons 😀

  6. This is why we sew! Your star bra looks great, and it fits so well! I know you have tweaks to make, but that front band looks excellent! Reading your description of your rib cage shape, I could almost feel the discomfort of an ill fitting bra, I’m sure it’s a great feeling physically and mentally to have a good fit – happy lingerie sewing!

  7. Pingback: Bra Sewing, Swimsuit Sewing, Vacation Sewing | Sew Pretty in Pink

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