A History of the Bra: Supporting Women since the 1800s | Western Cape Boudoir Photographer

A History of the Bra: Supporting Women since the 1800s | Western Cape Boudoir Photographer

A History of the Bra: Supporting Women since the 1800s | Western Cape Boudoir Photographer

A History of the Bra: Supporting Women since the 1800s

For women all around the world, putting on a bra is a natural part of their everyday routine. From plus size bras and sports bras to strapless bras and push-up bras, we have come to rely on this iconic fashion item to give us the support, comfort and confidence we need to get through the day.

How did the bra come to be? The evolution of the bra is an uplifting story that can be said to follow the socio-economic status of women throughout history. From being considered a symbol of oppression to becoming a source of inspiration and empowerment for women everywhere.

We’ve captured some of the most important moments in bra history to show just how this must-have fashion accessory as we know it today came to be.

Before the Bra

Looking as far back as the Victorian era, women would squeeze themselves into corsets made with metal frames in order to shape their figure to what was considered ideal at the time: a voluptuous bosom with a narrower waist and rounded hips.

It wasn’t until World War 1, when metal shortages and the need for women to enter the workforce rendered the corset impractical, that the brassier started to become the undergarment of choice.

1859: The first bra-like prototype was patented by a man named Henry Lesher. However, the bra was not intended for support, but rather to give symmetrical rotundity with two shields that absorb perspiration and built-in inflatable pads.

1866: The first bra, made from wire and silk, is introduced in Great Britain.

1907: The word ‘brassiere’ (which was once a military term for ‘arm protector’) makes its first appearance in US Vogue.

1910: Mary Phelps Jacobs invents the first modern day bra crafted from two silk handkerchiefs, pink ribbon and a cord.

1911: The word ‘brassiere’ is recognised by the Oxford English Dictionary.

1920s: This period marked an age where curves were out and a more ‘boyish’ silhouette was preferred – which was achieved by a bandeau-style bra created to flatten the breasts.

1922: Ida Rosenthal and her husband William create the Maidenform brassiere, focussing more on the fit and shape to accentuate a women’s form.

1930: The brassiere becomes commonly referred to as the ‘bra’.

1940s: During World War II, the need for protection was critical for women working in factories. Enter the first bullet and torpedo style bras – which later became popular in retro fashion to give the appearance of a bigger cup size (think Madonna).

1964: The push up WonderBra is invented by Louise Poirier for Canadadelle lingerie company.

1968: Feminists burn their bras in protest for the first time on the Atlantic City boardwalk as an act of defiance against the Miss America Pageant which was seen as a symbol of oppression against women.

1977: Victoria’s Secret is founded in San Francisco with the intention of creating a comfortable environment for men to purchase lingerie for their wives and girlfriends.

2007: The bra celebrates its 100th anniversary!

2011: As the average bra size increases, a new cup size is introduced. In 1996, the average bra size was a 34B. Since then, it has gone up three cup sizes and one band size to a 36DD to cater for the fuller figure.

(re posted with permission from Simply Gorgeous)

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