The History of the Bra
Major lingerie innovations this decade include the introduction of flexiwire to maternity bras and the increasing sophistication of sports bras.
One hundred years ago, women were wearing corsets that caused a plethora of health problems but gave them tiny waists and confined their breasts. In 1914, the first bra was made out of two hankies and a long pink ribbon.
Women won the right to vote in the 1920s and they also threw out rigid corsets and chose bras that flattened them.
Seeking separation and support, women of the 1930s were indulged in luxurious silk, satin, taffeta and lace; screen sirens like Greta Garbo starred in beautiful lingerie, but cleavages were a no-no.
The pre-war era demanded strong, durable underwear for the women to do their duty in factories and bullet shaped bras with target stitching became the essential underwear for their changing lives.
The sweater era of the 1950s saw breasts receiving more attention than ever before. Curvaceous Hollywood divas Jayne Mansfield and Sophia Loren set the pace and less shapely women were given push-up and padded options.
Bras were seen as objects of oppression in the 1960s when women threw them away with their high heeled shoes. Feminists accused lingerie designers of ‘packaging breasts according to men’s, rather than women’s specifications.’
Sexy empowering 1970s saw women aspire to the lean toned body through roller skating and exercise fads and breasts were no longer the main attraction. Underwear became outerwear in the 1980s and women like Madonna became more daring.
In the 1990s women could flatten, flaunt or flatter – their bras no longer defined them.
This century, women’s options have exploded! Balconnet, half cup, full cup, strapless and many other styles come in a range of glorious fabrics and sizes. For years the largest cup was DD, which seemed to be pretty big, and now there are many gorgeous bras that go up to K cup. Estrogen is often cited as the culprit, but mainly it’s because women are being fitted properly now. It’s not unusual for a woman to wear a 14DD when she is really a 10FF.
Our favourite innovations this decade are the introduction of flexiwire to maternity bras and the sophistication of sports bras. Not only are beautiful fabrics being used for maternity bras, but now the breasts can be lifted and separated by soft plastic wires designed to flex and change position with a mother’s changing shape.
Today’s sports bras combine great design and high performance fabrics. They reduce the bounce significantly to help women avoid breast sag and give them confidence to reach peak performance. Losing weight and getting fitter has never been more attainable for shapely women. But, don’t even think about doing Zumba or Bootcamp without a properly fitted, supportive sports bra.
By Lin Windram.