Yes, you read that right, with only two pieces of handkerchief. Bras have become a staple in womens’ closet most of the time, but do you know the origin of the almighty creation? From metal, wood or whalebone sewn into a half body sized undergarment to a one piece cloth with soft and comfy paddings. You will be surprised at how bras have come so far until the modern day. Let’s dive into the life history of bras with this article!
Before Bras Were Invented, There Were Corsets
What Is A Corset?
Corsets were majorly embraced by the women in France during the 16th century (early 1500s). Most of them were hoping to achieve this “perfect” female figure where the body is in an inverted cone shape. Their natural busts were flattened and pushed upwards as if they were on the verge of falling out from their dresses. And so corsets were made with long pieces of wood or whalebone (yes, bones of whales) were sewn into a case that will wrap around womens’ bodies tightly. As painful as it sounds, they were popular among women for emphasizing their body curves during that period of time.
Corsets Were Split Into Two
It was until the 19th century (early 1800s) that the French designer — Herminie Cadolle made a groundbreaking modification to split the corset into two, creating two separate undergarments; the upper part that supports the breasts by straps and the lower part that shapes the waist. It was known as corselet gorge which translates as “the well being”. The motive behind the design was actually driven by the health risks that resulted from high constriction of the waist.
The Groundbreaking Inventor — Mary Phelps Jacobs
Mary Phelps Jacob was a New York City socialite, and she invented the first modern bra by just using two silk handkerchiefs and a ribbon in 1914. While getting dressed for a Manhattan ball party in 1913, she became frustrated when her tight fitting corset kept popping out of her party dress and so she decided to create something that is more comfortable.
They both did some quick sewing and born was the first modern bra in the world. Her friends at the ball were amazed at how she can dance freely without the corset, and she went on and demonstrated her quick invention and they were obviously impressed.
The garment feels a lot sleeker than a corset sewn with whale bones. Soon, she filed for a patent and named it as “brassiere”, officially becoming a garment on November 13, 1914. In her patent application, she explained:
The Modern Bras Era
1920s: Bras With Different Sizes
It is beyond common to see bras with different sizes and cups nowadays, but this wasn’t the case back then. During the beginning of World War I, women were discouraged from purchasing boned corsets that are made of metal as the US needs to stock up more metal for war production. Around the same time, it was also when women started to be welcomed into the workforce, and corsets are not the best attire to wear to work. Bra manufacturers started to see the potential of the garment in the market; and the mass production of bras of different sizes to cater more women began.
1940s : Torpedo/ The Bullet Bra
Undergarments now have become a necessity for women who enlist in the military. Manufacturers had started to produce bras with different materials, colours, shapes and patterns. Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe, Patti Page and Lana Turner had popularized the iconic bullet-shaped bra in the US.
1970s : Sports Bra
As women become more active and more involved in fitness, the bra that provides better support during vigorous movement like exercise is invented — sports bra. However, they were known as “Jogbra” at that time.
From restrictive corsets, breast bands to the modern day bras; we certainly have come a long way until the present day where we get a variety types of bras: nursing bras for moms, push-up bras that gives a fuller look or the strapless bra that gives you the chance for some shoulder bearing tops. Who knows what’s next? Follow us on Pinterest to keep yourself updated!