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How to add a Ruched Piece to a Sports Bra

Hi! I’m Cyndi from and I am going to show you how to take a top, like a sports bra, that you already have and add some mesh or other fabric onto it giving it just a little bit of a different, unique look. There are so many looks that could be obtained with just a little piece of material. Our cover costume is two-toned which is made just by using a different color. But, there are many other looks you could create. You could use a matching color that would simply create a change in texture. A difference in material can also make a big difference. You could use mesh, Lycra, or even lace. This technique is super simple and super fun! If you are looking for something to kind of jazz up that top a little bit, this video might be just the one for you!

The way to get this look is to gather up, or some call it ruche, the material that is sewn over one side of the sports bra. It does not matter whether you call it gathering or ruching. It only matters that you know the look you are trying to achieve. It is a really cute, sweet look that softens up a costume and gives it a lot of texture. I am going to complete this particular project using a corresponding mesh. If you do not have access to, or do not want to use the same color, you can use a coordinating or contrasting color.


  1. Sports Bra
  2. Stretchy Material of Your Choice
  3. Matching Thread
  4. Needles
  5. Pins
  6. Scissors
  7. Rhinestones or Appliqués Optional


  1. Choosing Your Materials

The first step is to choose the material that you will use to complete this project. You will only need a very small piece of material. It only needs to be big enough to cover one side of the sports bra with extra material around it to allow for the gathering or ruching. You may want to make use of that scrap of material that you already have, do not need and is big enough to completely cover the area that you want to cover plus the extra needed. Our cover costume uses a coordinating mesh to get that two-toned look.

Next, decide if you want to use an appliqué or rhinestones, particularly at the center of the sports bra or along the straps or wherever you prefer. One of the deciding factors may be whether the bottom of the costume has appliqués or rhinestones. If so, you would want to use appliqués or rhinestones that match.

  1. Tracing Around the Bra

This technique is really easy to do. To begin with, pin the fabric to the sports bra in strategic places – where the strap meets the top of the shoulder, where the two cups would come together in the center, at the bottom of the sports bra, the underarms, and the center back. You should gently stretch the material across the cup to the middle of the back. It is best if you do this while the bra is being worn because the material will then stretch the proper amount to cover the bra cup. Even gentle stretching of the material around an empty bra cup would most likely cause the cup to collapse or be misshapen. Also, if it is being worn, it is best to use safety pins instead of straight pins to pin the material to the bra at those strategic spots. Safety pins will keep the material from moving when the sports bra is taken off and they will prevent the wearer from being stuck by a straight pin.

Now that the material is pinned to the bra at strategic points, I am going to trace the outside of the bra on the fabric. I am starting at the center back, up along the top to the strap, down the neckline, the front center, underneath the bra and all the way around the back. You can usually kind of feel the bra under the material as you trace around it and that will help you mark the material in the proper spots. With that in mind, I can pretty much tell if you have gone too close to or too far from the bra.

  1. Creating the Interim Pattern

Next, I will unpin the material and lay it flat on the table and cut the material around the markings – not on the markings but actually adding that little extra room that will be needed for the seam allowance that you want to use. You may want a small allowance of ¼ inch or a little larger – up to ½ inch. (Note: When making a garment from a commercial pattern, the standard allowance is 5/8 of an inch.) For this project, I am going to use a ½ inch seam allowance. It will save one step to just cut it with that extra material, that way we know that we have already got out seam allowance in the pattern and all edges have the allowance built in.

We want the material that we are actually going to use on the sports bra to be ruched, or gathered, all the way around to the back. In order to make the final pattern piece large enough to allow for this gathering, or ruching, I am going to cut this interim pattern piece into strips. Starting from what would be the center of the sports bra and about, at least, an inch from the bottom, I am going to cut the fabric piece from what would be the center of the bra towards the back of the pattern piece cutting it into several strips. My last cut will end up about, or at least, an inch from the top. The reason for starting at least an inch from the bottom and ending at least an inch from the top is to allow for the seam allowance. The width of the strips is not important. They may be anywhere from a little more than a quarter of an inch wide to about a half  inch wide. This will create the ability to allow enough room on the final pattern piece so that you will be able to ruche it or gather it. Ultimately, we want more gathers in the front than in the back. You can measure the distance between these strips exactly if you want, but you really do not have to. In this case, we want to gather it more in the front so on some of the slices, I am not going to cut quite all the way through. We do not want to gather on the top edge of the interim pattern piece because that will be the front and back neckline, so do not slice the fabric once you reach the neckline. The slices should be right to left only.

  1. Creating the Final Pattern

Next, I am going to lay these pieces down on the material I will use for the final pattern piece with about a ½ inch space in between each of them. The space could be a little more or a little less depending on how many gathers you want. To have more gathers in the center of the bra, you will want the distance between the slices to be greater on the side that would be center front of the bra and the distance between them to be less in the back.  Now that I have laid these strips with the distance between them that I want, I am going to just go ahead and free hand cut around the interim pattern piece. You might want to mark around the outside of the pieces, or at least pin the strips in place. It all depends on your comfort level, which will pretty much be dependent on your experience. This will give you your final pattern piece.

  1. Cutting the Fabric You Have Chosen

Now that you have your final pattern piece, cut the material that you will ruche, or gather. If you are only going to use this technique this one time only, you can skip making a final pattern piece and just pin the cut up interim pattern pieces on the material you want to ruche, or gather, and cut it. This will save you the step of making a final pattern piece.

  1. Pinning and Sewing the Material to the Sports Bra

Now that I have cut the material, I am going to pin it along the top (the neckline) to the strap tucking the seam allowance over the top and inside of the bra. When I get to the strap, I will fold the seam allowance of the material under so that it is between the material and the bra. This gives a clean, finished edge here. I am then going to pin it around the armhole to the center back, again tucking the material inside the bra. At this point, I will probably go ahead and sew the part that I just pinned.  I prefer to hand stitch the material to the sports bra because that will allow me to hide the stitches. If you use a sewing machine, you will end up with topstitching on the bra.

When I get to the center back of the sports bra, I am going to turn the seam allowance in so that it is between the material and the sports bra like I did over the strap. This will give it a nice, clean, finished look.

  1. Ruching, or Gathering

Since I have sewn the top edge of the material to the sports Bra, I am going to turn the seam allowance under on the center front and either gather the front or create cute little pleats down the center front. So what we have here is a few cute little pleats going all the way up and down. You would then do the same thing on the edge that will be the back. Make sure the little pleats, or gathers, go the same direction and then just hand stitch them in place from behind the sports bra being careful to not sew through to the front of the bra. If the stitches do not go all the way through the bra, the stitches will not show. Just stitch the material through the back of the bra as much as possible in a little whipstitch going all the way around the bra’s cup.

The last step is to fold the bottom seam allowance under the bra and stitch it into place again trying to keep the stitches from going through to the front.

  1. Practice Run

If you wish, you could do a practice run by using a sheet or extra material. That would let you visualize exactly how many little pleats you will have and what it will look like. If you want more gathers, it is super easy to do. You can easily double or triple the gathers or pleats by making the space between the strips wider. If you prefer, you can just cut the practice piece in strips and adding space between the new strips. It is important to remember, though, to not add extra in the width from right to left because we know that measurement is correct. You may want the length (top to bottom) to be longer, but not the width (front to back) of it. Then you can proceed pinning it to the top as described above.

  1. Tips When Hand Stitching

When I am hand stitching with stretchy fabric, I like to knot the thread every few inches so that if the thread should break, it will be a very small area affected and the project will not fall apart completely. Also, make sure that every time you come to an edge of the bra, you fold the material under to create a nice clean, finished look.  If you accidentally create a stitch that shows through or causes a little imperfection on the front of the bra, you can put rhinestones or appliqués on the spot. Even if you do not have any imperfections in your sewing, you may want to sew appliqués along the center seam, the back seam or both. You will notice on the costume at the beginning of this tutorial that there are matching appliqués on the top and the bottom, along with other embellishments.

So if you are looking to put a little ruching on your top, this just might be the video for you.  Have fun and enjoy your “project!”

I know it looks complicate when you see it on an outfit, but it is really just this easy. I know I say that a lot, but it really is. If you just take a chance, you will be amazed at what you can do.

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