I'd had the opportunity to try a belted pad, and while I thought the shape and fit were good, one thing it seemed to me was that it needed elastic to not only make it more underwear-like and snug fitting, but because I found having to undo a hook and eye everytime I wanted to go to the toilet was a bit tedious.
I was discussing this with the pad maker, and we were discussing the use of reclaimed materials. So then I had the thought of using an old bra for the elastic straps to form the side straps of a belted pad holder, since they are not only elastic but have adjusters to lengthen and shorten the strap. Which means that this idea could be made into pad belts to donate, and it can adjust to fit different sized women.
I finally got around to testing my idea and making one up (without really planning it - just making it up as I went along - amazingly I think it worked!), and I found that with the right bra, it is possible to make a belted pad holder with only 1 bra and nothing else!
Now this mannequin I have is *very* small, but you get the idea... on an actual person the back is narrower... though the size of the belt depends on the size bra you're using - the larger the bra, the larger the belt will be.
Essentially what we are going to be doing is using the bra straps to go around the waist/hip. The cups are cut and sewn together to become the back (where your bottom goes), and the meshy part that goes around your chest becomes the part that goes between your legs. So everything is elasticised and seems to fit nice and snug, like underpants. This method does leave some fairly unsightly seams however, so if you want something a little prettier, you might like to use the bra for it's straps only, and make the centre part out of something else, but using the bra has the advantage of everything already having elastic in it.
Now.. I will say at this point I have tried the belt on, but not actually used it... so I'm only assuming this idea works as a functional pad belt... I can't see why it wouldn't work, but I take no responsibility if things don't end up being as planned!
I used a non-underwire, E cup bra (That's Australian sized, not sure what it is elsewhere)... you'd probably want something in these larger sizes as you have more fabric to play with. Your bra needs to have the elastic in good condition still (no point making it with a bra that is on it's last gasps - unless you're testing the design). You'll want something that looks like this...where the elastic for the shoulder straps goes right from the front of the bra to the back closure. A more rigid cup bra probably won't work - these lacy ones are probably best. You can always remove underwires if your bra has them
Mine has an odd orange stain on it, so just ignore that...
|Start by taking your bra, and unpicking the elastic strap from where it joins onto the part that runs around your chest. Do this on both sides.
When you get down to where the hook and eye part is, just cut through the centre of that, so your elastic strap has one hook/eye attached. This bra fabric shouldn't fray, but you can hand sew around any raw edges to secure it if you like.
Assuming all went well, you'll now have something that looks like this:
|Now.... This bra I'm using has a piece of boning/stabilising where the lacy stuff meets the stretchy side stuff... I actually wanted to take advantage of that to use, to keep the pad belt sitting nicely... but you can choose to not use that bit if your bra has it.... What you want to do now is cut halfway between where the cups end and that join between what is the front and the sizes of the bra.
So I chopped mine here:
Now you want to cut the cup .... straight down as it's shown in the picture. Do that on both sides... this will form the back/bottom part of your belt. What we're doing here is using where the shoulder strap joins the cup as being the side of the pad belt.... and where you cut the side of the bra (where it goes around the chest) will become the part that goes down between your legs. But to do this symmetrically you have to use half of one cup and half the other, then sew them up.
|Cups are, obviously, curved/domed... so your pad belt will have a curve to it, but that's ok because so do bottoms (usually)... you can cut this roughly and adjust it as you sew it up if you need to.
As it happens, I cut mine on a wrong angle, so I ended up having to trim some off as I sewed it - the purple line shows where I probably should have cut it.
Now sew those 2 halves together - adjusting to make it as flat as possible as you need to. You should end up with something starting to resemble the back of a pair of underpants. Now take the piece of bra-side that you cut off before and make sure your sewn together cup part is the same width as that cut off part... adjust your seam if necessary....
Because now you're going to sew that one of those cut off parts back on.... yes, you're sort of sewing it back onto where it was, but we had to cut it off so we could make the back symmetrical.
Now... see how what was the side of the bra tapers off to where the hook/eye is (where you had unpicked the shoulder strap) - cut that off to a square edge. You'll want to keep those hooks/eyes, so don't lose them. Do that on both pieces, and then sew the remaining piece of the bra-side on... so that the end that had joined the lacy part of the bra is at the opposite end to where you are sewing.
|Clear as mud? - looking at the photo should show you what I'm talking about.
I've also adjusted the back a bit flatter too, which got rid of that peak in the middle, which looked cool but would probably just flop over in use.
Hopefully you'll now have something that looks like this! Almost finished!!!
All that remains to do is to put the hook/eyes on the top edge - where you'd cut... and you'll have your pad belt.
So (again, excuse the mysterious orange stain - I wonder if it's henna?)... what you want to do is trim off the excess lacy stuff (you can hand sew to stop anything unravelling), and sew on the hook and eye. Make sure you do it the right way. You won't need the adjustability of 2 eyes, so you can cut them down if you like. - in fact.... Since you have the adjustment and elastic from the bra straps, you could just cut off the hook/eye from the bra straps and sew the ends onto the front of the holder part... since you'll probably not have to ever undo it.. (you can just take it on/off like underpants) but the option is yours.
You end up with some seams in the crotch area - but hopefully you'll have pads covering those. I used an overlockler/serger, so the seams are quite prominent, but if you are sewing it on a sewing machine you could overlap the fabric and sew it down to make a flat seam (since this fabric shouldn't fray).... or if that bothers you, then don't use a bra to make the fabric part (because it does take a lot of piecing together) and use a single piece of fabric, just attach the elastic shoulder straps and use those to make the sides adjustable.
... So.. I hope that's helpful for someone...
(I have more patterns and guides here - http://www.clothpads.org/DIYpads