Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rockabilly Tuesday: Retro Halter Top (with Tutorial)

(So excited to share this, for some ridiculous reason...)

Since I've primarily been a 'taker' of the internet craft community, using numerous tutorials and free patterns over the years (and immensely grateful for those who shared their skills and knowledge), I decided it was my turn to give for once. So here's a little tutorial on making a Rockabilly Halter Top. It's a bit rough/unrefined, for it's basically just me doing what I do (winging it) only documenting it along the way.

So... there's one major issue I have with halter tops. Okay, there's actually a couple. One, they hurt my neck, which makes me wonder at how very well endowed ladies like the style, when I find I have to tie them quite tightly in order to get proper support... which actually brings me to the primary issue. A lack of support. I never go bra-less, even when there's supposed 'built-in' bras in shirts and dresses (shelf bras? Please! Might as well just be all out there). Ahem. Anyway. And I don't even own a strapless bra... they are equally useless in my opinion. But solution for the halter! Build it around one of my old bras! (I knew I kept that ratty thing for a reason!)




  • Fabric (about 1 yard)
  • interfacing (for lighter weight fabric)
  • contrast fabric/bias tape
  • Old bra (to be sacrificed to the cause of having a nicely supportive halter top)
  • scissors
  • measuring tape
  • ruler, cutting mat, and rotary cutter (optional)
  • thread
  • pins
  • "pattern" (I required a calculator and pencils to make this draft)
  • iron and board
  • bias-tape maker (optional)



You want one with cups that are still in tact, without underwire poking through or stitching coming apart (it's the cups that we're reusing).

Remove straps and trim close to cups. I've left the center front in tact because I like the fit of this bra, and it's good guide for spacing.

(And bonus, mine just happens to match my fabric perfectly! Not that it will ever be seen...)


This piece is drafted to fit a 36D bra (more or less, some alterations were needed, as outlined below in the sewing directions).
Halter Top Piece Part 1

Halter Top Piece Part 2
I don't have capabilities to scan to pdf, sorry. These are two 8.5in x 11in pieces of paper. (And they are pieced together as below.)

This is the basic shape you want. Just measure across one cup/breast from the side of the cup to the center/sternum and add seam allowance for the body of the piece. And then extend for the tie/center bow. Measure the length of the cup from where it joined the strap to the bottom edge to get the height of the piece at its widest point. It should taper somewhat to the center front of the bodice.
Halter Top Piece (Taped together)


(I use a rotary cutter, ruler and mat for the strips of fabric, since I  already have the tools from quilting.)
  • 4 of the bodice pattern from the fabric (or 2 from fabric and 2 from lining)
  • 3 strips of 4.5 inch wide out of fabric (1 for band, 2 for straps)
    • This will give you a finished width of about 1 3/4 inches 
    • I used 42" wide fabric, and since my underbust is 36, this will be plenty for the band (I am using fasteners rather than tying it, and ties will require extra length, possibly two pieces).
  • 1 strip of contrast for binding (2 inches wide for a finished width of 1/2")


If you desire, depending on the weight of your fabric, you may wish to interface the band and the straps. I opted to use lightweight fusing interfacing on the band only. We'll see how it sits in the finished product.


Center Front seam from dot to bottom edge

1. With right sides together, sew Center front seams (1/2" seam) of bodice and lining pieces. Clip at angle to dot. Press open.
Press Seam Open

2. Pin right side of lining to outside of bra cups, smoothing fabric over form of cup and leaving at least 1/2" for seam allowance around cups.(Notice there is a bunch of excess on outside, simply due to not extremely accurate pattern drafting.)

Pin cups to lining piece
Sew cups to lining (be sure to avoid underwire or crunch! there goes your needle).
Stitch along edge of cups but watch out for underwire!
3. With right sides together, pin ties together (make sure right side of bodice goes with right side of lining, and left side with left side). Stitch 1/4" seam to dot on top edge of bodice. Clip to dot.

Pin Ties and Stitch
Turn ties and press.
Front Ties Finished

4. With wrong sides together, pin lining and bodice along top edge and bottom edge. Baste within seam line (seam allowance is 1/2", so just under 1/2" away from raw edges).
Baste Raw Edges of Bodice and Lining together

5. Baste edges of front to back close to edge of cups. Trim excess fabric so that 1/2" seam allowance remains (sorry, guys, the drafting was a wing-it sort of deal, so my pattern is not precisely to shape even if you have the same bra size I used).
Stitch seam close to cups, Trim 1/2 away

6. Make bias tape/binding with strip of contrast fabric (I was lucky enough to have this amethyst silkessence fabric that matches the dark stripes in my plaid perfectly... woo! for massive fabric stash!). (Or just buy a package of bias tape, if you want to be like that). Cutting on the bias works better (the fabric will stretch rather than pucker and twist and piss you off), but I find actually using bias cut fabric (cut on the diagonal) a waste of fabric, so I just cut a strip off and run it through my beloved bias-tape maker with iron to press it. Fold it in half, leaving one side larger than the other.
Handy-Dandy Bias-Tape Gizmo!
7. Trim the upper edge of the bodice close to the basting stitches. Apply your bias tape to the upper edge of the bodice, by sandwiching the fabric in the bias tape fold, with the larger side of the bias tape on the lining/inside of the bodice. Stitch close to the edge of the tape from the front side of the bodice (since the back side of the bias tape is larger, you do not have to worry so much about it being caught in the stitching). Tuck end of bias tape under at center front of bodice for a finished edge.
Stitch close to edge of bias tape
Finished Contrast Trim!

8. Fold strap in half lengthwise, with right sides together. Press. Repeat with other strap.

9. Unfolding part of strap and placing right sides togther and aligning edge of strap with bottom of top, pin strap to outer edge of top. Stitch, keeping the basting stitches on the seam allowance side (so they won't show on the finished garment).
Pin Right sides of straps to outer edges of top, sew!

10. With right sides together, stitch strap closed, starting at point where you stopped stitching the strap to the bodice. Finish off end of tie by pivoting near corner.

Finish straps, picking up stitching line where left off at top of bodice (pin)
Trim corner.
Finish end of strap. Clip corner.

Turn strap and Press. Repeat for other strap.

11. Turn under seam allowance of strap on inside of top.
Turn under seam allowance on inside of bodice to finish strap.

Slip stitch closed or pin and top stitch in the ditch on the machine.

'Stitch in the Ditch' means sinking the stitches right into that seam
Repeat for other strap.
Almost Done!

12. Apply interfacing to band. (Sew together pieces, if using more than one for band.) With right sides together, fold band in half and press. Unfold.
I like fusible lightweight pellon because it's easy. Just iron, no sewing and puckering!

13. With right sides together and raw edges even, and matching centers, pin band to bottom edge of top. Stitch.
Pin Right Side of Band to bottom of Bodice. Sew!

14. If tying band in the back, finish Band same as with straps. If using fasteners, you can leave the ends of the band open because they will likely have to be trimmed to fit.
Finish Band by picking up stitch line where left off (at pin)
Fold under seam allowance on inside and pin. From right side/outside, stitch in ditch.

15. Tie Bow.

Try on, tying halter straps at back of neck and adjusting. Mark fit at center back. Trim excess fabric. Fold under and finish edges. Sew in hook'n'eye (recommend heavy duty pant/skirt ones).
Heavy duty fastener, and Voila! Ready to Rock it!

16. Boogie, Baby!


ROCKABILLY SONG OF THE WEEK: I've Been Everywhere by Johnny Cash

COVETED ITEM OF THE WEEK: I think I found new dress inspiration with Living Dead Souls brand of awesome punk-rockabilly-goth style! Especially this and this, and this. Oh! And definitely this!

ROCKABILLY SLANG OF THE WEEK:  "I'm Booted." (Def: I'm hip or I understand.)


Previous Rockabilly Tuesday Posts:


  1. Love it! Beautiful piece, with clear instructions. Thanks.

  2. Ooo thats very sexy! It looks marvelous on you and thanks for the tutorial! I am a female of, er, 'epic' proportions as well so this helps, lol.

  3. Super hot! I love the idea of using a bra as a base to make this properly supportive.

  4. The first halter tutorial I can see myself wearing. I have different body issues that make halters uncomfortable (shoulder and neck pain that makes normal pressure painful), but this should keep the garment from digging in by equalizing the pressure that's providing support