Bras play an important role in our daily routines. They support us (quite literally) through life, but have you ever stopped to think about the origins of the modern lingerie in your wardrobe? Let’s take a step back in time to bra-beginnings and see just how far we’ve come.
Evolution of the bra
The 16th century saw the invention of the corset and a fitted silhouette. While this flattened the chest, it also provided shape and lift, setting the foundations for our modern bras today.
18th - Early 20th Century:
The first coined “bra” was created in 1869 by French designer Herminie Cadolle. This revolutionary garment was formed by splitting a corset into two parts, with adequate support for the full bust like never before.
This modern invention still couldn’t quell the corset rage, which lasted well into the Victorian era. The cinched look these corsets created was highly en vogue, despite offering little shape to the breasts (or room to breathe for that matter.)
The turn of the 20th century heralded the emergence of the girdle. Women universally had enough of restrictive corsets and swapped them out for this more comfortable wrapping of fabric. The age of the girdle was short-lived, making way for the over-due entrance of the modern bra as we know it.
Mary Phelps Jacob is acknowledged to have created the first modern bra design out of two silk handkerchiefs and ribbon, prioritising comfort and seamlessness under clothing for the first time ever. As lovers of silk lingerie here at Ayten Gasson, we can only thank Mary for paving the way for us!
This decade saw the emergence of the cup bra. Brassieries became a mass-production product, available to women like never before. Prior to this, bras had a “one size fits all approach”. Now the modern cup size system was adapted, so women had more choice, variety and comfort when it came to underwear.
During these decades, the bra saw massive evolution. The 1940s ushered in the “torpedo bra” that allowed for more support and padding for women who were part of the laborious WWII workforce. Times of peace saw bras refocus on aesthetics, with bombshells like Marilyn Monroe popularising the “bullet bra.”
1964 saw the bra receive an upgrade, with the push-up bra taking the world by storm, shortly followed in 1977 by the sports bra. Moving into the 21st century, bras of all shapes, sizes and silhouettes were becoming available in the commercial market like never before.
So where has the bra evolution left us in the present day? With the rise of working from home culture, comfortable bras have taken precedence like never before. Soft bralettes and bras have come full circle from their humble beginnings.
Tradition is everything to us and we take pride in utilising sewing skills that have helped to make modern lingerie what it is today. Shop our range of ethical silk bras and bralettes here.
Words by Alice Hartwell for Ayten Gasson