Early corsets of the 16th century consisted of paste-stiffened linen and a primitive busk at the front but later included iron supports at the side and back. The Bra in America illustrated ed. While girdles gave way to pantyhose, the bra continued to evolve. Although there were a number of voices warning about the considerable health risks of corsets, health professions were generally muted, and women ignored "unfashionable" advice. Erotik in der Römischen Kunst in German.
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Man was I wrong, they are so comfortable. Women in Classical Greece  are often depicted loosely draped in diaphanous garments , or with one breast exposed.
Women wore an apodesmos Greek: A belt could also be fastened over a simple tunic-like garment or undergarment, just below the breasts or over the breasts. When the apodesmos was worn under the breasts, it accentuated them.
Another word for a breast-band or belt was strophion Gr: In view of its association with the love goddess, this type of garment probably had an erotic connotation because of its effect to accentuate the breast. In Sparta, women usually wore the chiton completely open on the left side.
Women in ancient Rome adopted a form of the Greek apodesme , known as the strophium or mamillare. Since the Romans regarded large breasts as comical, or characteristic of aging or unattractive women,  young girls wore breast bands fascia secured tightly in the belief that doing so would prevent overly large, sagging breasts.
The so-called "bikini girls" mosaic from the Villa Romana del Casale 4th century AD shows women performing gymnastic or dance routines while wearing a garment similar to a strapless bra and briefs. Sometimes in the most sexually explicit Roman paintings, the breasts are kept covered by the strophium. The settings in which the paintings are found indicate that the women depicted may be prostitutes. In China , a loose silk bodice tied at the waist and tied or looped around the neck called the dudou lit.
In Europe, in the Middle Ages it was exceptional for women to restrict or support their breasts and if they did, they probably used something like a cloth binder, as is suggested in descriptions of the time [ citation needed ]. A widely quoted statement is that an edict of Strasbourg in the Holy Roman Empire , dated states, "No woman will support the bust by the disposition of a blouse or by tightened dress. Four lace-decorated bras were found among 3, textile fragments during a renovation project in an Austrian castle.
Generally, in the Middle Ages the breasts were minimized in dresses with straight bodices, full skirts and high necklines, designed primarily for function rather than emphasis on form. Late medieval dresses are fitted precisely and snugly to the body and function as breast support. Depictions of women in 14th- and 15th-century art show a high, rounded breast silhouette on women old and young, full-busted and small. This look is not possible without support. The 15th-century ideal form was small-breasted and full-figured, symbolizing abundance of fertility.
By the time of the Renaissance , décolletage became very fashionable. There was some status to firm breasts in upper class women, who did not breast feed.
Infants were given to wet nurses to breast feed, since nursing was considered bad if a woman wanted to maintain an ideal form. She was reported to have prohibited wide waists at court in the s, legend suggesting she made them wear steel framework corsets. Elaborate constraints placed on women's figures over the years were not universal. Corsetry made it virtually impossible to work, so simpler functional garments were worn by women who worked inside or outside the home.
Support for the breasts was often provided by a simple tie under the breast line, in the bodice. Early corsets of the 16th century consisted of paste-stiffened linen and a primitive busk at the front but later included iron supports at the side and back. The emphasis now was on form, with compression of the breasts forcing them upwards to the point of almost spilling out, so a considerable part of the breast was exposed.
The ideal form was a flat torso, which inevitably pushed the breasts upwards and out. The labouring class by contrast wore a simple front-lacing cotte. During the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars , any garment associated with the aristocracy was frowned upon, including those with visible décolletage. The breasts were often supported by a tie below the bust, and extant bust-support garments ranged from soft stays to wrap-front items similar to sports bras.
In , the court and the corset returned. Empire fashion originated during the Directoire period, popularized by women such as Joséphine de Beauharnais. During this era, "fashion-conscious women In the Victorian era , despite contemporary ideas about morality, women's clothing was paradoxically designed to emphasize both the breasts and hips by tightlacing the waist. Victorian women were encumbered with many layers of clothing, including a chemise with a drawstring neckline, usually drawers , then the corset and corset cover, the under petticoat , the hoop skirt, the over petticoat, and finally the dress.
According to the social expectations of the times, even the lowest-cut evening gown should dip no lower than three finger breadths below the clavicles. By the Edwardian era , with some increase in women's physical activities, the corset started to retreat southward again, becoming more like a girdle and accompanied by the appearance of a separate upper garment, the Bust Bodice , or BB. For those who instead wore a one-piece undershift unionsuit , this separated into the camisole and drawers.
These were not designed for support but merely coverage. Women's dress emphasized an "S" shape, with an indrawn stomach giving prominence to the posterior and bust. In the late 19th century and early 20th century the bosom could still be displayed.
The evolution of the bra from the corset was driven by two parallel movements: Although there were a number of voices warning about the considerable health risks of corsets, health professions were generally muted, and women ignored "unfashionable" advice. The health professions concentrated more on psychosomatic complaints, which were in fact probably related to corsetry.
Ill health was considered synonymous with femininity, and a pale and sickly demeanor was normative. Fictional heroines often died from tuberculosis, or "consumption. Corsets were supposed to provide both physical and moral support. Some physicians ignored colleagues who felt corsets were a medical necessity because of women's biology and the needs of civilized order. The physicians who raised the alarm pointed to nausea, bowel disturbances, eating disorders, breathlessness, flushing, fainting, and gynecological problems.
Bed rest was a common prescription for the "weaker sex," which of course implied relief from corsetry. Women's interest in sport, particularly bicycling, forced a rethinking, and women's groups called for "emancipation garments. Not surprisingly, corsetieres fought back, embellishing their products to be frilly and feminine in the s. Advertising took on overtones of erotic imagery, even if in practice they acted as a deterrent to sexuality, especially when they started appearing in men's magazines, stressing cleavage and bare arms then taboo.
Dolls assumed the corseted image, implanting an image of the "ideal" female form. Corsets certainly reinforced the image of a weaker sex, unable to defend themselves, and also made it a challenge to disrobe. In practice, early bras made little market penetration.
They were expensive, and only educated wealthy reformers wore them to any extent. American women who made important contributions included Amelia Bloomer — "When you find a burden in belief or apparel, cast it off"  and Dr. Mary Edwards Walker — There are considerable differences of opinion as to who "invented" the modern brassière or bra.
Patent dates indicate some of the landmark developments; a large number of patents for bra-like devices were granted in the 19th century. However, what is regarded as the world's oldest push-up bra was discovered in storage at the Science Museum in London. Designed to enhance cleavage, the bra is said to be from the early 19th century. A bra-like device  that gave a symmetrical rotundity to the wearer's breasts was patented in by Henry S.
Lesher of Brooklyn, New York. In , a "corset substitute" was patented by Luman L. Chapman of Camden, New Jersey. Historians refer to it as a "proto-bra.
In , dressmaker Olivia Flynt was granted four patents covering the "true Corset" or "Flynt Waist. Reformers stimulated demand for and probably purchased these early garments on "hygienic" grounds because of their concerns about the corset. Initially Flynt's garments were only available by mail order, but they eventually appeared in department and clothing stores and catalogues. Her designs won a bronze medal at the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association in , at the Cotton Centennial Exposition in Atlanta in —5, and at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in According to Life magazine, in Herminie Cadolle of France invented the first modern bra.
Her garment effectively cut the traditional corset in two: The lower part was a corset for the waist and the upper part supported the breasts with shoulder straps.
Her description reads "designed to sustain the bosom and supported by the shoulders. The company, still family-owned, claims today that Herminie "freed women by inventing the first Bra. She also introduced the use of "rubber thread" or elastic. In , Marie Tucek received a U. This invention more closely resembled the modern bra known today, and was a precursor to the underwire bra.
Home-sewn garments competed with factory-made, ready-to-wear garments. The bra was at first an alternative to the corset, as a negligée or at-home wear, or worn by women with medical issues stemming from corsets.
After the straight-fronted corset became fashionable in the early 20th century, a bra or "bust supporter" became a necessity for full-busted women because the straight-fronted corset did not offer as much support and containment as the Victorian styles. Early bras were either wrap-around bodices or boned, close-fitting camisoles both worn over the corset.
They were designed to hold the bust in and down against the corset, which provided upward support. Advertising of the times, typically in periodicals, stressed the advantages of bras in health and comfort over corsets and portrayed garments with shoulder supports in a mono-bosom style and with limited adaptability.
Their major appeal was to those for whom lung function and mobility were priorities, rather than outer appearance. The first modern bra was patented by the German Christine Hardt in From there the bra was adopted by women in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In , Mary Phelps Jacob known later in life as Caresse Crosby , a year-old New York socialite, purchased a sheer evening gown for a debutante ball.
At that time, the only acceptable undergarment was a corset stiffened with whalebone. Mary had large breasts and found that the whalebone visibly poked out around her plunging neckline and from under the sheer fabric. Dissatisfied with this arrangement, she worked with her maid to fashion two silk handkerchiefs together with some pink ribbon and cord.
When she received a request for one from a stranger, who offered a dollar for her efforts, she realized that her device could turn into a viable business. On November 3, , the U. Patent Office issued the first U. Crosby managed to secure a few orders from department stores, but her business never took off. Her husband Harry Crosby discouraged her from pursuing the business and persuaded her to close it. Warner manufactured the "Crosby" bra for a while, but it did not become a popular style and eventually was discontinued.
Bras became more common and widely promoted over the course of the s, aided by the continuing trend towards lighter, shorter corsets that offered increasingly less bust support and containment. In at the beginning of the U. War Industries Board asked women to stop buying corsets to free up metal for war production. This was said to have saved some 28, tons of metal, enough to build two battleships.
It has been said that the bra took off the way it did in large part because of World War I, which shook up gender roles by putting many women to work in factories and uniforms for the first time. The war also influenced social attitudes toward women and helped to liberate them from corsets.
But women were already moving into the retail and clerical sectors. Thus the bra emerged from something that was once discreetly tucked into the back pages of women's magazines in the s, to prominent display in department stores such as Sears, Roebuck, and Montgomery Ward by Advertising was now promoting the shaping of the bust to contemporary fashion demands, and sales reflected this.
As the corset became shorter during the later s, it provided less support to the bust. By the corset started at the waist, and bust containment yielded entirely to the bra. A low, sloping bustline became more fashionable.
Brassieres from the late s and early s were merely slightly shaped bandeaus bandeaux style, holding the bust in and down by means of a clip attached to the corset. This culminated in the "boyish" silhouette of the Flapper era of the s, with little bust definition. The term which in the mids referred to preteen and early-teenage girls was adopted by the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in the s for their younger adult customers.
The androgynous figure then in style downplayed women's natural curves through the use of a bandeau bra, which flattened breasts. It was relatively easy for small-busted women to conform to the flat-chested look of the Flapper era.
Women with larger breasts tried products like the popular Symington Side Lacer that, when laced at the sides, pulled and helped to flatten women's chests. Yet some "bras" of the early s were little more than camisoles. She and her husband William Rosenthal, along with shop owner Enid Bissett, changed the look of women's fashion. They noticed that a bra that fit one woman did not fit another woman with the same bra size.
Their innovation was designed to make their dresses look better on the wearer by increasing the shaping of the bandeau bra to enhance and support women's breasts. They named the company Maiden Form , a deliberate contrast with the name of a competitor, "Boyishform Company. In , William Rosenthal, the president of Maiden Form , filed patents for nursing, full-figured, and the first seamed uplift bra.
These fashion changes coincided with health professionals beginning to link breast care and comfort to motherhood and lactation, and campaigned against breast flattening. The emphasis shifted from minimizing the breasts to uplifting and accenting them.
Women, especially the younger set, welcomed the bra as a modern garment. While manufacturing was beginning to become more organized, homemade bras and bandeaux were still quite popular, usually made of white cotton, but they were little more than bust bodices with some separation.
The word "brassiere" was gradually shortened to "bra" in the s. According to a survey by Harper's Bazaar , "bra" was the most commonly used expression for the garment among college women. In October , the S. Camp and Company correlated the size and pendulousness of a woman's breasts to letters of the alphabet, A through D.
Camp's advertising featured letter-labeled profiles of breasts in the February issue of Corset and Underwear Review. In , Warner began to feature cup sizing in its products. Catalog companies continued to use the designations Small, Medium and Large through the s.
As with other women's products, consumer adoption was encouraged by successful advertising and marketing campaigns. Saleswomen played a key role, helping clients find the right garment, as did the changing role of women in society.
Much of this marketing was aimed at young women. Bras rapidly became a major industry over the s, with improvements in fiber technology, fabrics, colours, patterns, and options, and did much better than the retail industry in general.
Innovations included Warners' use of elastic, the adjustable strap, the sized cup, and padded bras for smaller-breasted women.
In the US production moved outside of New York and Chicago, and advertising started to exploit Hollywood glamour and become more specialised. Department stores developed fitting areas, and customers, stores and manufacturers all benefited. Manufacturers even arranged fitting training courses for saleswomen. International sales started to form an increasing part of the U.
Prices started to make bras available to a wider market, and home-made competition dwindled. The culturally preferred silhouette among Western women during the s was a pointy bust, which further increased demand for a forming garment. The Second World War had a major impact on clothing. In the United States, military women were enlisted for the first time in the lower ranks and were fitted with uniform underwear.
Willson Goggles, a Pennsylvania firm that manufactured safety equipment for manual workers, is believed to have introduced the plastic "SAF-T-BRA", designed to protect women on the factory floor. Military terminology crept into product marketing, as represented by the highly structured, conically pointed Torpedo or Bullet bra , designed for "maximum projection". The bullet bra was worn by the Sweater Girl , a busty and wholesome "girl next door" whose tight-fitting outergarments accentuated her artificially enhanced curves.
Underwire began to be used in bra construction. Actresses like Jane Russell appeared in photographs wearing the new bras that emphasized the "lift and separate" design, which influenced later bra design. Hughes created the bra on the basis of bridge building. After seeing Jane Russell and her bust in the movie, women sought to recreate the look on their own chests. The war presented unique challenges for industry. Women's occupations shifted dramatically, with far more employed outside the home and in industry.
Severe material shortages limited design choices. Advertising, promotion, and consumerism were limited but started to appear directed at minorities e. Many manufacturers only survived by making tents and parachutes in addition to bras. American industry was now freed from European influences, particularly French, and it became more distinctive. Again there was concern about the use of badly needed steel in corsets and the British Government carried out a survey of women's usage of underwear in This showed that "on average, women owned 1.
Following the Second World War, material availability, production and marketing, and demand for a greater variety of consumer goods, including bras. The baby boom specifically created a demand for maternity and nursing bras , and television provided new promotional opportunities.
Manufacturers responded with new fabrics, colours, patterns, styles, padding and elasticity. Hollywood fashion and glamour influenced women's fashion choices including bras like the cone-shaped, spiral-stitched bullet bra popularized by actresses like Patti Page , Marilyn Monroe , and Lana Turner , who was nicknamed the " Sweater Girl ". Bras for pre-teen and girls entering puberty were first marketed during the s. The s reflected increasing interest in quality and fashion.
Maternity and mastectomy bras began to find a new respectability, and the increasing use of washing machines created a need for products that were more durable. While girdles gave way to pantyhose, the bra continued to evolve.
Marketing campaigns like those for the "Snoozable" and "Sweet Dreams"  promoted wearing a bra 24 hours a day. In at the feminist Miss America protest , protestors symbolically threw a number of feminine products into a "Freedom Trash Can. A local news story in the Atlantic City Press erroneously reported that "the bras, girdles, falsies, curlers, and copies of popular women's magazines burned in the 'Freedom Trash Can'".
Feminism and "bra-burning" became linked in popular culture. Dow has suggested that the association between feminism and bra-burning was encouraged by individuals who opposed the feminist movement. This might lead individuals to believe, as she wrote in her article "Feminism, Miss America, and Media Mythology," that the women were merely trying to be "trendy, and to attract men.
This view may have supported the efforts of opponents to feminism and their desire to invalidate the movement. On June 4, , Rudy Gernreich 's single-piece, topless monokini swimsuit received worldwide media attention.
In the process, he has ripped out the boning and wiring that made American swimsuits seagoing corsets. Gernreich followed that in October with the "No Bra", a soft-cup, light-weight, seamless, sheer nylon and elastic tricot bra in sizes 32 to 36, A and B cups, manufactured by Exquisite Form.
His minimalist bra was a revolutionary departure from the heavy, torpedo-shaped bras of the s, initiating a trend toward more natural shapes and soft, sheer fabrics. It has 54 design elements that lift and support the bustline while creating a deep plunge and push-together effect. Germaine Greer 's book The Female Eunuch became associated with the anti-bra movement because she pointed out how restrictive and uncomfortable a bra could be.
In the s, like other garment makers, bra manufacturers moved production offshore. The contemporary bra also reflects advances in manufacturing and availability of fabric types and colours, enabling it to be transformed from a utilitarian item to a fashion statement, countering the negative attitudes some women had about bras.
Designers have also incorporated numerous devices to produce varying shapes, cleavage, and to give women bras they could wear with open-back dresses, off-the-shoulder dresses, plunging necklines, and the like. Throughout the s fashion led the way in the look and feel of bras.
Western TV shows featured classy, powerful, and well-formed ladies, usually donning low cut tops to show an enhanced chest with an equally classy matching bra. The onset of classy and stylish Teddy suits also encompassed this decade and sales of silicone increased the need for bigger and more supportive bras. Models and celebrities all donned fashionable and extravagant bras, showing these off at red carpets events become the norm.
In contrast, feminist Susan Brownmiller in her book Femininity took the position that women without bras shock and anger men because men "implicitly think that they own breasts and that only they should remove bras.
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