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Meet the Maker: Norma Loehr

Today we have the pleasure of getting to know Norma Loehr, the maker behind Orange Lingerie and author of Demystifying Bra Fitting and Construction. Norma's love of beautiful, well fitting undergarments led her to leave her life on Wall Street to open her custom lingerie company. Norma also has a passion for teaching, which is so fortunate for us, because she now shares her extensive knowledge of lingerie construction and fit with other sewists!  

Norma Loehr sits at a table in front of a window onto downtown, a dressform behind her and she is cutting paper with scissors.

Norma will be here for a two day workshop this June, teaching students how to fit and sew their own custom underwire bra using her Marlborough Bra pattern. It filled up so quickly we've added a second session, so snag a spot if you can! 

 Side view of a Norma Loehr looking down and measuring a dressform, the dressform wears a bright, floral underwire bra. The background is a window onto a downtown cityscape.

How long have you been sewing? Do you remember the very first bra you ever made?
I started sewing when I was around 8 years old. I got an early start making my own lingerie at age 11 when I decided to make all my own underwear.

When I made my first bra in 2009 (10 years ago!), there were not many places to get supplies. Like a lot of other sewists at that time, I used a kit and pattern from Bra-makers Supply. The bra itself was a light beige bra that I made using a tricot fabric and the basic “Pin Up Girls” pattern. I remember struggling trying to work out how the underwire casing was attached. In the end, while the bra looked pretty for a basic beige, it did not fit at all! Regardless of the fit, I was hooked!

Hands placing the underwire casing onto an unfinished, handmade bra. The bra is color-blocked vibrant yellow and white and is laying on a bright aqua cutting mat.

What do you find most rewarding about making your own lingerie?
Not only does making bras seem like sewing magic but it is also one of those rare sewing projects where you can have a finished object in just over an hour and if it fits, it will be worn, regardless of whether it is stitched perfectly, is in fashion or matches other items in your wardrobe.

Close up of a dress form with a vibrant aqua and peach floral underwire bra.

Also, because so much of lingerie is worn under garments or is for relaxing at home, I also feel like I can be more creative in terms of use of color and prints. While a floral print dress is not my clothing style, I really love a great floral print bra and underwear set!

What's a sewing tool you can't live without?
Lingerie requires precision so I need good measuring tools. I always carry a C-Thru B-50 (6”) ruler that has 1/16” markings. I also have various measuring tools like rulers on rollers and flex curve rulers scattered around the studio so they are always in reach. While I am trying to move to metric measurements to simplify measurement math, old habits die hard!

Close up of hands and sewing pattern lieces and tools. The pattern pieces are small, for bra-making

What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t really have a typical day at the studio, every day has its own set of activities and the work varies widely depending on what we are working on.

If we are working on a new pattern the days are filled with repeated cutting, sewing and fitting to test the fit and refine the new style. If we are preparing for a product launch, the days are filled with a lot of writing, proofing and editing along with a steady stream of back and forth with our graphic designer.

Close up of a woman's hands adjusting the straps of a white, lacy underwire bra on a dress form.

What does your creative space look like?
I recently moved from a small space in Downtown Boston into artist studios in a former rum distillery, so the new space is now less bright, glossy and high rise style and more, earthy, woody and visual arts oriented. The new larger space has allowed me to bring in a studio assistant and to start considering some new business opportunities!

Close up of a woman's hands with a ruler and pencil, making adjustments to a sewing pattern piece for a bra. An unfinished, lacy bra lays on the table nearby.

Do you have any advice for sewists who are interested in making lingerie, but are perhaps hesitant to take the plunge?
Attend one of my weekend workshops! You can find all the workshop dates on our site, including the two bra making workshops in June at Fancy Tiger Crafts. After each one of my workshops I hear students say that making a bra was far less difficult than they thought it would be.

 Black lace strapless corset style bra on a white dress form

The thing to keep in mind is that while a bra does indeed look complicated to make, like other sewing projects, it means following a series of steps to lead to a finished garment. It turns out that taken individually, the steps of making a bra are not complicated at all! They are just combined in a way that may not be familiar. I always say that if you can sew a button-down shirt, you can most certainly sew a bra!

A still from Norma's bra-making video course, she stands behind a cutting table with some sewing tools, a dress form wears a floral bra next to her

Because I know a lot of sewists are worried about bra fitting, I created an online video course to help improve bra fit for all bra makers. I took my experience with custom bra making and hundreds of hands on fittings with my students to create a step-by-step process to fit bras.

Detail of white bra with sparse, multicolor polka dots, on a dress form

What's next for Orange Lingerie as a brand?
Our mission is to help every sewist discover and embrace their power to make their own beautiful and professional looking lingerie. To further advance that mission we just released our first online video course “How to Fit a Custom Bra” and given the enthusiastic response we have already started planning another. I am really excited about using video to continue to further our mission.

Norma Loehr sitting on the edge of a white chair, she has just tossed an armful of about 20 bras above her head and she is smiling looking up

Of course, we also have more lingerie sewing patterns in the works! My goal for our sewing pattern collection is to enable sewists to create an entire wardrobe of handmade lingerie using our sewing patterns.

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