So you're 15 and find bras uncomfortable - what do you do?
Well, if you're Bea Uprichard you get out your sewing machine and you make your own bralettes, which are so damn cool that you sell them to all your friends!
I had the pleasure of meeting Bea and chatting about her halterneck bralettes, currently taking Depop by storm. Bea's friend, and one of her first customers, Dandy, joined us for a photo sesh.
LD: Why did you start to make the bralettes? What gave you the idea?
BU: I started making my bralettes in the Summer when I realised that despite the fact that I make a lot of my other clothes, I had never attempted to create a comfy alternative to bras.
LD: How do you make them - talk me through!
BU: There are five separate pieces of material, which I sew together (with a sewing machine) to create the basic halterneck shape, and then I attach a bra fastener and some lacy trims. It takes me about two hours to make one.
LD: Where do you source the material? How do you choose it? What's important to you about the fabric?
BU: I get the material from an Indian Fabric Shop in Lewes where I live. The owner travels to India to get responsibly sourced fabric and chooses everything himself. I choose what I think will stand out against simple clothes layered on top or underneath. To me it's really important that my fabrics are ethically sourced and high quality - in sharp contrast to the disposability of products from famed clothing chains. I think clothes should last longer. That's why I choose my material based on style as opposed to the current trend, so that they won't go out of fashion.
LD: What do you like to wear?
BU: Hmmm...quite boyish, vintage clothes. You'll often see me out wearing my brother's skate shoes, or cool graphic t-shirts. I also make my own clothes which means I can wear clothes I really love that fit properly, rather than being confined to clothing designed and made cheaply by shops. I almost always start with a vintage pattern before altering it to get the right collar or length or whatever. That's why I've loved making bralettes - because I've always found bras uncomfortable, and being able to make my own meant getting the perfect fit!
LD: Do you wear a bra? If so, when and why? When and where did you get your first one?
BU: I do wear a bra, because I'm still at school and school uniform, for various reasons (like the slightly see-through shirts), is only compatible with a bra. Although I also think that although bras are uncomfortable, they do offer more support than a bralette, and sometimes give me more confidence than I'd have without one. Naturally my first bra was from M&S, just before secondary school, when I found out that some of my friends had started wearing them.
LD: Do you like the clothes available to girls your age?
BU: No! I think good quality, reasonably-priced teenage clothes are really hard to find! I also hate the way a lot of teenagers buy branded clothing, without considering what they like to wear personally - they just show off how much money they spend through buying brands. I am probably a bit too opinionated about this, because I have learnt to love the clothes I make and have realised the advantages of properly made clothing. We should be able to dress for ourselves, rather than to show off for big brands like a walking advertisement!
LD: Do you feel any pressure on you to dress or look a certain way?
BU: Lately I think I've grown not to care as much about what other people think, but earlier on I was really aware of whether I looked 'cool' or 'fashionable'. I do still feel a lot of pressure to look pretty and slim, and I hate the way girls my age are influenced by others to have a big chest and bum, of which I have neither! I don't think there's anyone I know not conscious of how they look...
LD: Who are the women/young women you look up to? Either famous or not. For each one, what is it about them you admire?
BU: The person I most look up to is my Mum who owns a shop in Lewes ("The Seamstress"), and also sells her hand-made clothing range "Dolly" designed by her. I admire her ability to create real and 'timeless' clothing, and to manage to come up with a whole new style all her own. I also admire my Godmother Emma (a graphic and textile designer) and her husband Gray (a photographer) for their inspiring creative license. I don't really look up to anyone famous!
LD: Are you happy with the way you look? Is there anything you'd change? Is it the same/different for your friends would you say?
BU: I am mostly, though I wouldn't mind looking a bit more 'feminine' - I don't think I wear enough skirts and blouses! However, I really don't think I would feel like me if I wore too much tight or floral clothing. I have my own style whether I like it or not! My friends would disagree, and say that I still look like a girl... so I shouldn't worry.
LD: Who buys your bralettes?
BU: Mostly people my age who are looking for a cute item to wear under tops, or on its own in Summer. I don't think I'd go so far as to say my bralettes can completely replace bras, as they don't have the support that those with bigger chests are used to. But I do make them in two different sizes.
LD: Where do you sell them?
BU: I started off advertising them on Instagram and Facebook, where I sold four to some eager friends. I then discovered Depop - an Ebay but for fashion. I put them up on there, and was subsequently featured twice by the people who run it, and have now sold some more to complete strangers!
LD: What feedback have you had from customers or friends?
BU: My customers seem to completely love them, and really appreciate the time and effort I put into them. And my friends are being really supportive of my little business venture.
LD: Do you think you'll go into fashion design or business in the future?
BU: It's something I've thought about, and when I was 12 I was intent on being a fashion designer, but I think I've grown out of the idea. I don't do textiles at school, and have chosen Fine Art to do at college, so no, I don't see myself in the fashion industry in the future. Definitely some type of design, but not fashion.
LD: Thanks Bea - and I love the bralettes - pretty, soft, stylish and lymph-friendly. I'll be snapping some up faster than you can say Generation De-Bra!!
Karen Dobres, Chief Freedom Fighter