Breasts are nothing new. They are an ubiquitous part of female anatomy. However, for years, supporting and caring for our chests has been an uphill battle. There have been so many wild devices designed to support, restrain, and cover up the girls, and it is a more recent development that we are finally reaching a point where a woman can slip into a bra that fits the body she was born with. How did we come this far, and what did women have to deal with before these modern innovations? Let’s have a look at the history of the bra in brief.
The History of the Bra
The modern-day bra is truly a unique marvel. If you’ve ever wondered how long designers have to work to create the supportive, comfortable, and versatile undergarments we use today, it is not a simple science. Bras have to be several things: a fashion statement, a practical garment, and they have to suit the feminine figure. Women come in all shapes and sizes, so that’s not an easy task to undertake.
We practically live in our bras. While some may go without them, most women need a little help hoisting the ta-tas to give the back, neck, and shoulders some relief. However, the bra of today is a far cry from what women had to use years ago.
The Early Years
Before ancient Greek and Roman times, it’s unclear how women would support their breasts. Ancient Grecian art rarely depicts the female figures sporting anything at all. However, as time progresses, there is some evidence that they did wear a girdle to hold down their chests.
As we moved into the Middle Ages, women wore very simple garments like long-line bras. They include straps, linen cups, and fastenings. Other designs included “breast bags” sewn directly into garments. Of course, it’s hard to speculate since social status dictated the type of support women would be able to have. It wouldn’t be much longer until breasts would go from unbridled and free to incredibly crushed.
The Era of the Corset
As soon as Queen Catherine de Medici sported a corset in 1533, breasts would experience some prolonged turn restraint. Corsets boomed as they not only lifted breasts but they also flattened figures. As expected, this invention was incredibly popular. Unfortunately, they were difficult to lace, extremely uncomfortable, and limited movement. Also, if you were a distinguished woman of high society, you had to wear one.
The earliest corset pushed breasts up and together, but crushed everything else with the tight lacing. Women experienced severe health issues from constant nausea, fainting, and body deformation. The garments underwent several design changes that had them separated into two pieces for better movement, which paved the way for today’s bras.
Breaking into the 19th Century
The first official bra was invented in 1869 by Herminie Cadolle. A simplified corset, this new “brassier” was designed with shoulder straps for more support. Plus, the split design made it way more comfortable and practical than the corset. Goodbye broken ribs and difficulty breathing, hello extra support and way more comfort.
As time progressed, so did the way women look at fashion. Plus, it didn’t hurt that the high demand for metal during World War I saw the corset’s decline. Not only did designers try to innovate on the new bra design, but other types were making an appearance.
Modern Women need Modern Bras
While splitting the corset was a brilliant idea, other designers innovated the design into some of the modern bras we have today. The backless bra and the bandeau tread came about in the 1910s and 1920s. The goal was to flatten the breasts for a flatter look for that iconic flapper style.
The 1930s saw a dedication to cup size to better fit women on an individual scale, so women had more options than the base model. Designers were starting to consider the variety of the feminine figure. Bras were becoming a significant part of the industry, and that took the design out of the home and into the manufacturer's warehouse.
Breaking the Mold
The bra saw rapid development as the world moved toward modernization. Lingerie was given a sexy twist with the invention of the push-up bra in the late 1940s, but it also saw a focus on durability and extra support. With more women joining the war effort or heading to work in the throes of World War II, women needed a bra that would hold up against all-day stress.
New fabrics, colors, shapes, and patterns emerged, and the iconic “bullet bra” surged in popularity. Hollywood starlets popularized these designs. However, closer to the 1960s, a surge of feminism saw women forgoing bras altogether. Finally, the 1970s changed what a bra was “supposed” to be. Designs began to emerge, focusing less on what a woman needed to look like and worked with the unique body shape she was given. No more corsets, chest-flattening, or cone designs would dictate how the feminine figure should look.
During this time, the Wonderbra was created, but it wouldn’t hit peak popularity until the 1990s. This design boosted the girls and offered a tantalizing look with the support and comfort women needed. Also, women would get the sports bra they needed (Glamorise invited the first sports bra in 1975), and Lisa Lindahl and Polly Smith invented the “jock” bra.
Throughout the 1980s and 90s, the focus was on creating new designs to fit all bodies for various roles, from athletic to every day. But not all of it was for the better. In addition to improving the bra design, marketing also pushed several more fashion options than function. Pushing into the early 2000s, lacy lingerie and sexy appeal dominated the market. Thankfully, the next era would see a leap in bra innovation.
Bras of Today
Riding on the coattails of the fancy lingerie movement, bra designers reached a point where comfort didn’t have to be sacrificed for sexy. Why not have both, and why not for all women? The previous sexy designs were all the rage; however, women with larger chests were left out in the cold.
Bra cup sizes and band sizes were expanded as far as the KK cup and full-figured women could shop for both sexy and supportive bras. Plus, with the addition of memory foam, bras can conform to any shape. The modern bra has certainly come a long way.
Finding Your Fit Today
With so many options available today, from bralettes to full-cup bras, it’s hard to believe that everything started with breast bags. The bra is a modern marvel that offers comfort and support to women of all shapes and sizes, and it is still evolving. Who knows what the next decade will bring to the designer table?