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Moments In Bra History

Though women (and a few good men) have been wrapping up their ta-tas since ancient Greece, it wasn't until ...


The first bra prototype was patented by Henry Lesher of New York to give a symmetrical rotundity.

The garment had shields to absorb perspiration and inflatable pads built in when one breast was larger than the other. 

This undergarment, however was not intended for breast support.

The patent contains the diagram and description of the garment.

First Bra Henry Lesher 1859   First Bra Henry Lesher 1859


Manufacturers George Frost and George Phelps patented the 'Union Under-Flannel', a no bones, no eyelets, and no laces or pulleys under-outfit, a loose union-suit. 

During this period, corsets were lengthened to produce the fashionable figure type, the top of the corset dropped low, often not supporting or covering the breasts.

As added support, fabric undergarments called bust bodices were worn over the corset to cover and shape the breasts (by pushing them together but not separating them), somewhat similar to the modern brassiere.



The first bra appeared in Great Britain in 1866 made of wire and silk.

In 1887, prudish British designers patented the gear meant to amend the shape of women's breasts with No 7338 on May 20, 1887 in Great Britain.

The garment looked very much like two tea-strainers by sight and to the touch.

Soon it was manufactured in United States, where could be found for 75 cents in Stokes Thomson & Co. from Philadelphia, but wasn’t very popular due to its awfully uncomfortable fit.


French corset-maker Herminie Cadolle invented the first modern bra, two-piece undergarment called le bien-être (the well-being).

The lower part was a corset for the waist and the upper supported the breasts by means of shoulder straps.

Each breast was placed in a separate cup.

Cadolle changed breast support to the shoulders down.


Austrian industrialist Hugo Schindler invented new bra prototype to replace fashionable but uncomfortable corsets by something more practical, but was unaware he’s not the first one in the field.

That time news were not transmitted as fast as nowadays.

He patented his creation as a bust support with imperial patent No. 62641


Marie Tucek patented the breast supporter – the first garment similar to the modern-day bra that used shoulder straps and a hook-and-eye closure to support breasts in separate fabric pockets.


Christine Hardt from Dresden patented the bodice for women as chest carrier on September 5, 1899.

Miss Hardt improved unpractical men’s innovations and provided more comfort.

The imperial patent No. 110888 specify that "the bodice can be separated from its adjustable carrier for washing".

The adjustable carriers, by which the bodice could be separated, were however still completely normal man suspenders. The piece didn’t look like a bikini, but the beginning was made.


The upper half of Well-Being devised by Herminie Cadolle was being sold separately as a soutien-gorge (literally, "support for the throat", but gorge in old French meant breast), the name by which bras are still known in France.

She was also first to use cloth incorporating rubber (elastic) thread. 

Herminie became a fitter of bras to queens, princesses, dancers, and actresses. Among her customers was also Mata Hari.

Cadolle's lingerie company is still running today.


The word brassiere first appears in US Vogue. 


In Paris, a couturier named Paul Poiret has opened his fashion house. His revolutionary dress styles will persuade a generation of women to ditch the corset.

Parisian couturier Paul Poiret took the first and far-reaching step of freeing women from their corsets, and designing clothes for women's natural body shape.

The Paris Chamber of Commerce was so worried by the possible aftermath of this move for the corset makers that they sent a delegation to beg him to change his mind. He of course refused.


The word brassiere enters the Oxford English Dictionary. 


German corset-maker from Stuttgart, Sigmund Lindauer designed a first soft brassiere having few claspers and hard details that turned out to be very convenient for both women and men.

During the Lindauers’ honeymoon when he lost his patience trying to fight these countless ribbons, clasps, hooks and eye-lets, he came to the conclusion that something had to be done to undo his bride’s undergarment easier. His invention was also patented.


New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob fashioned her own corset replacement.

Dissatisfied with the idea of having to wear a heavy corset underneath a new sheer evening gown she just bought for a social event Mary and her maid, Marie, devised a backless bra made from two handkerchiefs, some ribbon and cord.

Amazingly she started getting orders for it that very night.

Her friends were sold on this innovative idea and encouraged Mary to apply for a patent for her “Backless Brassiere” design.


Mary Phelps Jacob was granted patent on November 3 for her Backless Brassiere and began producing brassieres under the name Caresse Crosby. 

This "brassiere" was very lightweight, soft, and separated the breasts naturally.

Unlike Marie Tucek's 1893 design, Jacob's garment did not have cups to support the breasts, but flattened them instead.

It was the most practical and comfortable bra so far and gained huge popularity among women tired of tight corsets.

Within a short time, Mary lost interest in the garment business and sold her patent to Warner Brothers Corset Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for $1,500. Warner reportedly made over 15 million dollars over the next 30 years from the patent.

Mary Phelps Jacob Bra 1914   Mary Phelps Jacob Bra 1914

World War I forces women into the work-force.

Many women begin working in factories and wearing uniforms, making the use of daily corset wear a problem. 


The U.S. War Industries Board called on women to stop buying corsets to reduce the consumption of metal.

It conserved up to 28,000 tons of metal!

Enough to build two battleships.


By the end of the 1920s corsetry companies began to manufacture brassieres that were boned and stitched into different cup sizes.

After creating the first bra in 1902 Warners Bras introduced a tight, chest-flattening bra to keep with the flapper lifestyle.


Russian-born U.S. dressmaker and businesswoman Ida with her husband William Rosenthal and Enid Bissett begin making and selling Maiden Form (later Maidenform) brassieres.

The Maidenform bra and Maidenform support undergarments originated as an accessory to improve the fit of the dresses they offered.

It became so popular that company began to sell it separately.

William Rosenthal filed a patent for a brassiere designed to support the bust in a natural position, the prototype for the modern-seamed uplift brassiere we have today.

Maidenform bra was a major improvement.

They used cups that supported and conformed to the breasts, rather than downplaying them as had been the style known as the Boyish Form


While the first bras had simply flattened the bosom in accordance with the current fashion of the day, the first commercial success of a shaped bra was the Kestos brassiere.

Fashioned from two triangular pieces of fabric, had elastic shoulders, a crossover back, and fastening buttons at the front to create two distinct cups.

Soon became the No. 1 preference for women searching for supportive undergarment.


Ida and William Rosenthal invented the modern system of sizing bras by cup size, created bust size categories (different cup sizes for different women) and their 1926 patent became the prototype of the modern support bra.

They developed bras for every stage of women's life, from puberty to maturity.

Maidenform was the first company selling maternity bras.

Maidenform Bra 1927   Maidenform Bra 1927

In the 1930s, "brassiere" gradually came to be shortened to "bra".

In the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec, both soutien-gorge and brassière are used interchangeably.


Invention of nylon and elastic fibers caused a revolution in lingerie business. 

Warner produced the first popular all-elastic bra to show off a woman's curves.


Warners Bras created the cup sizing system (A to D), which became the commonly used system by all manufacturers throughout the world.

Lana Turner, They Won't Forget


Lana Turner's form-fitting attire in “They Won't Forget” revealed advanced bra technology and earned her the nickname the “Sweater Girl”.

She wore a cone-shaped bra to accentuate her bustline.

This new image turned her into one of the most recognizable pin-up symbols.


 the outlaw poster Jane RusselWhile filming The Outlaw, director Howard Hughes felt that the camera did not do justice to Jane Russell's large bust.

He employed his engineering skills to design a new cantilevered underwire bra to emphasize her assets.

Hughes added rods of curved structural steel that were sewn into the brassiere below each breast.

The rods were connected to the bra's shoulder straps.

The arrangement allowed the breasts to be pulled upward and made it possible to move the shoulder straps away from the neck.

The design allowed for any amount of bosom to be freely exposed.

As Miss Russell, the queen of sweater girls, explained in her 1985 autobiography, the "ridiculous" contraption hurt so much that she wore it only a few minutes.

Then she secretly slipped back into her old bra, tightened the shoulder straps, and returned to the set.

The famed cone bra, so-called first push-up bra is in on display in a Hollywood museum.


Common undergarment materials (cotton, rubber, silk and steel) were in short supply, so manufacturers turned to synthetic fabrics.


Ida and William Rosenthal patented the bra strap fastener that allowed for the adjustment of the bra straps, and once adjusted, will remain in that fixed position.

The feature has become standard for brassieres.

During this time, Maidenform was also known for its racy newspaper ads featuring Maidenform bras and Maidenform support undergarments.

The slogans adopted by the company I dreamed I was . . in my Maidenform bra was so popular that it ran for over 20 years.


Louis Reard first bikini swimsuits1946


The first bikini swimwear is introduced in Paris. 

Invented by engineer Louis Reard, and named after the Bikini Atoll (site of a nuclear weapons test), because the bathing suits would cause a burst of excitement, like the bomb.





Frederick Mellinger known as Mr. Frederick began to specialize in figure-enhancing foundations and accessories. He designed the first push-up bra, dubbed the Rising Star

His pointed, cone-stitched bras were sold under brand name Missiles. In the sixties, the Cadillac bra was launched and became the company's best seller. Other innovations included the front-hook bra and bras with shoulder pads. 

By the 70s, when women were burning bras outside Frederick's store, he had enough media sense to proclaim in public that the law of gravity will win out.

Fanny pads, girdles, sky-high heeled shoes, hosiery, wigs, false eyelashes, he provided even head pads to achieve the illusion of height–anything necessary to achieve Frederick’s figure balancing act. Mellinger stated that his goal was to offer the most alluring, body-hugging, figure-enhancing outer fashions … always aimed at men

The original flagship store was a landmark on Hollywood Boulevard in California.

The company is known as Frederic’s of Hollywood.


Maidenform introduced the pointy Chansonette bra, the biggest seller of the 1950s.

The introduction of Chansonette, commonly known as the bullet bra coincided with the beginning of the Dream campaign and became the first American brassiere advertised in a Russian trade journal. 

The Dream campaign ran from 1949 through 1969 and revolutionized intimate apparel advertising by featuring women in their bras acting out fantasies of independence in public places.

Maidenform Chansonette Bra    Maidenform Chansonette Bra  

The Bikini Girl Brigitte Bardot introduced increasingly lower-waistline bikinis and strapless, underwired “barely there” bras.

The Bardot neckline, named after her is a wide open neck that exposes both shoulders.

After the movie And God Created Woman (Et Dieu… créa la femme) from 1956  BB was called "sex kitten" and condemned by the US Catholic League of Decency. The film pushed the boundaries of the representation of sexuality in American cinema, making Bardot an overnight sensation. "She is every man's idea of the girl he'd like to meet in Paris" said the film-critic Ivon Addams in 1955.

Fashion history has shown that by the 1950s glamour was what women wanted the most.

They had been deprived in the war and then they’d seen the Hollywood stars with uplifts that almost reached their necks.

During this time bras has been revolutionized by the use of nylon that made them lighter, prettier and easier to wash.

Bra history has changed for the better.


Merry widow, a short, strapless corset with half-cups and long garters was made by Maidenform to coincide with the 1952 film The Merry Widow.


LYCRA® fiber was invented by a team of DuPont scientists, originally as a replacement for rubber in corsetry.

Joe Shiver improved spandex, a synthetic elastic fiber which has the ability to stretch and return to its original shape.

Lycra became immense success for swimwear, foundations, hosiery, activewear and other wears.

The addition of this stretchy manmade fiber makes bras even more comfortable and closer to the body without sagging, bagging or losing its shape.


Louise Poirier Canadian designer invented WonderBra Push Up Plunge Bra for Canadelle lingerie company.

WonderBra is the first underwired bra with side padding designed to uplift and separate the bust.

It consists of 54 elements that succeed in lifting and supporting the bustline while creating a deep plunge and push-together effect. 

Since its creation, the basic design and construction of the Wonderbra - and its intended effect - have remained the same.

The One And Only WonderBra.


Rudi Gernreich No Bra BraControversial designer Rudi Gernreich, scandalous inventor of 1964's topless bathing suit, or monokini, pubikini, and later the thong swimsuit, turned his attention to the bra. 

He came up with "No-Bra Bra" made of sheer and stretchy netting fabric with no underwires or padding that was pulled on over the head.

The no-bra was quite similar to the original bra of the 20’s.

Both the 20’s and the 60’s celebrated the stick-like flat breasts figure.

Like most of Gernreich's creations, it created a brief stir and then quietly disappeared.

This strong advocate of unisex clothing, shaving models’ heads and bodies completely bald, was the first in designing clothes using vinyl and plastic.

Triumph Doreen Bra1967

Triumph’s Doreen brassiere, a cross-your-heart style, wireless and supportive bra conquered the world. Later Triumph transformed the Doreen bra into a more rounded style. It's not modern and it's not sexy, but although it has evolved, the “Doreen” brassiere is still selling today in its traditional short, long and cuff-length versions. Unlikely as it seems, this prosaically named style is a global best-seller. 



Bra burning protest of the 1968 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. 

Bra Burning Protest during Miss America Pageant 1968

As an act of rampant female emancipation and sexual revolution feminists planned to burn their bras, the bondage symbol to demonstrate the new-found liberation and "attack the male chauvinism, commercialization of beauty, racism and oppression of women symbolized by the Pageant". 

"Freedom trash can" filled with beauty accouterments, such as bras, girdles, high heels, makeup and hairspray was however not set alight due to the lack of fire permit.


Hinda Miller and Lisa Lindahl created the first sports bra by sewing two jockstraps together and calling it the Jogbra.

Now a generic name like Kleenex, Rollerblade, and Scotch tape, Jogbra has been honored by its placement in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Museum.

Sportsbras are recognized as having as big role as Title IX in increasing women’s participation in sports and fitness.


Victoria's Secret was founded in San Francisco after Stanford MBA Roy Raymond realized men might be more comfortable shopping for their wives or girlfriends via catalogue.

He felt embarrassed trying to purchase lingerie for his wife in public and awkward department store environment. 

Raymond opened the first store at Stanford Shopping Center, and quickly followed it with a mail order catalog and three other stores.

The stores were meant to create a comfortable environment for men, with wood paneled walls, Victorian details, and helpful sales staff.

Instead of racks of bras and panties in every size, there were single styles, paired together, and mounted on the wall in frames.

Men could browse for styles and then sales staff would help estimate the appropriate size.

The company gained notoriety in the early 1990s when it began to use supermodels in advertising and fashion shows.


Madonna golden corset by Jean Paul GaultierMadonna golden corset by Jean Paul Gaultier


Madonna's bullet bra became a sensation of her Blond Ambition tour.

A golden, pointy cone bra designed by Jean Paul Gaultier and based on an antique breastplate worn by Italian soldiers was later sold for £14,100 at the auction.

Madonna made this daring design famous and took underwear onto the streets.





Wonderbra hello boys Eva HerzigovaWonderBra, though first trademarked in 1935, is reintroduced to a huge comeback. 

Company was founded by Sam and Sara Stein in 1927.

Bali's best-known product has been the WonderBra, underwired bra designed to “lift and separate” the bust.


The Bali Brassiere Company launched the WonderBra in the US. 

By 1994, the bra's Hello Boys ad campaign featuring Eva Herzigova gazing down at her bosom, gives the line a huge profile.


Bioform Bras - The First Miracle of the Millennium 2000

Charnos invested heavily in designing a new uplift bra suited to all sizes, especially for those with fuller cup sizes, such as G cups that uplifts and contours the breasts so well that it immediately takes ten years off a sideways sagging bust. 

Charnos launched the Bioform bra which features a revolutionary, mould-breaking new design by Seymour Powell. Dubbed as the ultimate innovation for women with larger busts it took two men, both conventionally taught, to design and develop the Bioform bra.

Instead of an under-wire it contains a moulded wing made from reinforced polypropylene all housed within a body-forming Elastomer® cup. "The bottom half contains a plastic spoon bit" gushed the enthusiastic lingerie saleswoman. The bra claims to offer an impressive uplift without pinching under the armpit or leaving indents on your rib cage unlike conventional under-wired versions.

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