Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The History of The Modern Bra

Almost all women wear bras, but few know the origins and evolutions of bras as we know them. Read on for a brief primer of the evolution of bras.

The history of bras actually begins in the early 14th century. Wall paintings of ancient Minoan female athletes depict them wearing what we would call a bandeau today. The long thin strips offered support while these athletes competed in athletic feats. Find the modern equivalent with our Coobie Comfort Strapless Bandeau Padded Bra.

In the early 1500s, undergarments for women entered an era they would remain in for four centuries: the era of the corsets. Each corset was built to help women achieve the most desired shape of the time. Waists were cinched while the tops were more open, creating a v shape from a woman’s torso. The entire design was typically held together by whale bone or an equally stiff supportive material, and then women would lace these corsets in the back. Luckily, today corsets are made from much more comfortable materials, and create a more hourglass shape for women. Also today, many corsets are worn for decorative purposes or in burlesque settings, as opposed to their original uses as purely undergarments. One modern take on the corset is our Shirley of Hollywood Leopard-Print Cotton Sateen Corset.

As more and more negative effects of early restrictive corsets became apparent, the women’s undergarment industry began to seek out more health conscious designs. With this aim, the girdle was born in the Edwardian era. Created by Madame Gaches-Sarraute in Paris, the girdle was essentially a backwards corset, lacing in the front instead of the back. The design created an S-Shape in women’s figures, and instead of putting downward pressure on a woman’s internal organs like a corset, the girdle supported and raised the abdomen. At the same time, it allowed the hips to jut back, creating a new look to match the new fashions of Edwardian times.

The first vestiges of what we now imagine a bra as began in Paris in the late 1800s. Herminie Cadolle cut a corset into two parts, and supported the upper half with straps. In the early 1900’s, mass production of bras begins. At this point in time, most bras were still made in the material that corsets were made of, producing a less than comfortable fit. In 1910, Mary Phelps Jacob solved this problem with a bra made of silk handkerchiefs and ribbons.

After this, the evolution of bras took off, the shapes evolving to fit the trends at the time. In the 20’s this was boyish bandeaus to compress the chest to work with the slim flapper look. In 1932, cup sizes were invented, creating the sizing system that we still use today. After 1940, torpedo style bras came into popularity after the shape was credited with offering extra protection for women working in factories. This style prevailed through the 50’s until 1960, when the pushup bra gained prevalence. In the 70’s, the first sports bra was invented to keep up with the growing popularity of fitness. The advent of the 2000’s brought many bra designs as we know them today. Strapless, one strap, racerback, and others gained popularity throughout the 2010’s as well.

Next time you wear your bra, you’ll be armed with the knowledge of its lineage – and appreciate its transformation.

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