Women’s relationship with the bra has so far been a tumultuous one. They’ve yet to decide if they love it or hate it. It’s as life-changing as much as it can be uncomfortable, and no matter how well-fitted it is, all women look forward to taking it off once they get back home.
As for men, its undoing is, to many, a mystery, and unlocking this task is a rite of passage to manhood.
The bra’s origin had begun with the corset – a close-fitting support for the chest that shaped women’s posture and waist size. Paul Poiret, alongside other innovator tailors, had declared war on this garment, and in 1907, the bra had made its first appearance in VOGUE Magazine. Designers introduced a new female shape with a very high waist under the breast.
In 1914, Mary Phelps Jacob – better known as Caresse Crosby – created the skeleton for the first contemporary bra. It was composed of a shoulder strap formed by handkerchiefs and baby headbands in order to separate the breast. In November 1931, Crosby obtained the patent to try to put her invention on the market, but it had been a failure.
During the Great War, men were on the battle front while women began working. They therefore required better freedom of motion and comfortable clothing: this is when the bra took its place on the market. During the first postwar period, thanks to female emancipation, fashion reduced the differences between man and woman, and in the 1920s, women wore short hair and trousers, and smoked cigarettes. The bra was converted into a strip that flattened the breast; it was the garconne style and Greta Garbo was its testimonial.
In the 1930s, stretch fabrics were discovered – batiste, latex muslin and nylon, but above all, rayon, the first synthetic fabric in history similar to silk but less expensive. Thanks to this, women on a budget could also afford to buy a bra.
Lycra was then discovered in the 50s, a soft faint fabric which was like a second skin, ensuring wearability and comfort.
In 1968, throughout the feminist movement, some women burned the bra as a symbol of protest. It was a demonstration of women’s liberation from the previous generations’ hindrances.
In 1970, France saw the first patterned and seamless bra brought onto the market. The 80s then marked the return of large breasts and Junoesque women, and in 1981, La Perla was the Italian firm that prevailed in France for its sophisticated underwear. In 1988, la Huit created the velvet bra, which Madonna wore as the main piece of her outfit at the start of her career.
The first half of the 90s is remembered for the extraordinary invention which allowed every woman to show off her decolletage – the Wonderbra, the bra of splendours. The push-up system allows you to go a size up, and they’ve now developed new innovative techniques to support the breast.
Silicons and adhesive bras have also been introduced for smaller sizes, and slowly, the industry is also catering for larger sizes and smaller backs.
So what’s your choice of bra?
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