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History of the Modern Bra

Posted on 13 November 2016

Predecessors to the current bra included corsets, girdles, the “bust bodice” similar to a modern day bandeau, and everything in between. It's no wonder women have a negative relationship with bras! But the turn of the 20th century ushered in a new wave of fashion, comfort, and the modern bra. (Insert hands clapping and raising)

Kate Winslet gets stitched into a corset during the 1997 film Titanic, set in 1912.

In 1889, a French woman named Herminie Cadolle was accredited with inventing the predecessor to the modern day bra. Her creation came from the idea of splitting a corset into two pieces: a cinched girdle to slim the stomach, and a piece that went over the breasts, offering support through shoulder straps. By the early 1900s, the top portion of her invention, the Soutien-Gorge, was being sold separately with moderate success. This was a great first step, but still, work needed to be done!

In 1910, a crafty teen socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob created a garment out of two silk handkerchiefs and a spool of pink ribbon, that would eventually become the modern bra. Can we get an AMEN!
Her invention was created out of the desire to avoid another night out in an intense whalebone corset, which she described as a "boxlike armour of whalebone and pink cordage." Her creation caught the attention of other young New York socialites, and she soon got a monetary offer for one of her ingenious creations. In 1914, she patented the “Backless Brassiere,” and ran a small production shop starting in 1922. Eventually Jacob sold her business to The Warner Brothers Corset Company for $1,500 (the modern day equivalent of about $21,000).

By the 1930s, the word “brassiere” had been shortened to “bra,” its slang term. The garment was appearing in the closets of more sophisticated women, as well as the college crowd. In 1932, S.H. Camp and Company created a new way of categorizing the garment for women’s size and shape, in a rank from A to D. By the late 1930s, this was the standard for bra sizing used by most of the major lingerie stores and catalogs.

 

Marilyn Monroe sporting the once-stylish bullet bra under her sweater.

In the the 1950s, the style of the bra branched out beyond function and flattery, into different styles for different looks. The cone-shaped bullet bra appeared, and was quickly popularized by screen sirens Marilyn Monroe and Lana Turner. This trendy new look allowed women to make their breasts appear a full cup size larger. This era also welcomed a wave of bras designed for younger pre-teen girls, replacing the former standard of a non-supportive camisole. Finally, women of all ages had the proper comfortable support of the modern day bra!
Now, for over a century, the modern day bra has allowed women the freedom of comfort and movement, and the ability to accentuate our natural shape and size. This sensational garment was invented by women and for women, in lieu of the oppressive centuries-long corset standard.

 

 

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