Lingerie has not always been sleek and stylish as it is today. Luxury lingerie has taken the best part of a century to evolve into what we know in the 21st century.
The bra started off as a simple sheath dress, lacking any support. And for many centuries this continued until the introduction of the corset in the 1500s. These aren’t exactly bras but are well wrapped within bra history. It was due to an Italian who was the Queen of France, Catherine De Medici. She hated wide waists at court. So, the corset gained more support for the support that it gave. A corset was initially designed to cover the breast. This soon changed and corsets became the foundation of chin pillows or breasts that were fully pumped up and out. French ladies loved it, as it helped them achieve, what was then, the ultimate figure.
1910’s – The Birth of the Modern Bra
The story goes that she set about creating this so to avoid wearing her corset to a debutante ball. It’s said that it was basically two handkerchiefs sewn together.
She went on to sell her bra patent to the Warner Brothers (the bra not movie makers), who made a fortune out of it for some 30 years after.
When the war began in 1914, many women jumped on the same bandwagon and set to work adjusting and bespoke their own bras. Straps would be detached, extended or the bra itself would be sewn into the inside of standard-issue army uniform.
1920-40’s bandeau and bra sizing and seamless bras
Even during the “modern-day” era of bra development and into the 1920s, bras were still not resembling anything like they look today. They appeared to take on a similar look of lingerie sets and other nightwear garments.
The ’20s saw the beginning of grouped bust size categories and cup sizes were created that mirrored a girl from puberty into maturity.
The world’s first seamless bras arrived in 1931. Now we can say that the shape and form of the 1930s bras were beginning to take on a look of something that we may recognise today. Cup sizing became an established thing and more care was beginning to be taken in the design and aesthetic look of the bra.
The ’30s was a busy period for bra makers, quality and comfort were becoming a thing. The arrival of the seamless bra, measurement charts and cup sizing charts all began in this decade.
1940’s bra shapes
Due to the way society rapidly changed throughout this decade, women’s bras had to be durable and comfortable. More and more women were working the land or in factories, some loose and flimsy would just not do.
The war had an indirect effect on the style and design of some bras, with the torpedo and conical shape of bras proving popular in lingerie shops.
1950-70’s bra glamour
Starved of glamour throughout the 40’s, the 1950s was all about making up for all the lost time. This thirst was not lost within the realms of lingerie fashion. Glamour was what women of the ’50s wanted and with new and established bra brands, all jockeying for position, their hunger was not to last.
New bra brands looked to take advantage of this new and wanting marketplace. Adverts appeared in glossy magazines of the time, some more garish than others.
The rise of Hollywood stars also had a stylish impact on the look, feel and design of bras throughout this decade. Acquiring a bigger cup size was encouraged, almost, by the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.
A revolutionary decade on many fronts and the bra was also touched by this serene time as the Wonderbra appeared on the scene. It was a Canadian lingerie company who originally designed it. The Wonderbra was the first of its kind to push and lift-up the bust line, at the same time.
The Hollywood influence was still strong going into the ’60s with several blockbusters featuring ladies looking fantastic in various bras.
It was full steam ahead for the world of bras, in the ’70s. Lingerie brands popped up and the first sports bra made an appearance.
Exercise and fitness were becoming a popular hobby, not just for professionally trained athletes. These brands soon saw the opportunity and it was “Jogbra” who first put out the sports bra, they were embraced and warmly welcomed.
Lingerie shopping was no longer just confined to the big department stores, it was Victoria’s Secret that first hit the high street as a unique lingerie retailer. Inspired by a husband who felt uncomfortable shopping for lingerie in a department store with his wife.
1980-2000 celeb and lingerie
The 80’s bra was an essential lingerie piece and ladies purchasing the most exotic were often the most body-conscious, so only the best would do.
Satin teddies, in lace and finely designed, were available without a bra. These intricate lingerie pieces would often come with an underwired cup formation, making for great bodysuits. It was no coincidence when you consider the high number of ladies opting for breast enhancing procedures. Sales of silicone throughout the 1980s hit a high.
Bra sales flourished throughout the decade, adverts and the marketing of bras hit record highs. Fashion houses marketed bras as sexy lingerie pieces and the audience was hooked. Sport and health were still popular and growth opportunities were prevalent in the sports bra arena, as many high street brands pushed into the marketplace.
Demand for bras is still huge, with the market demanding a minimalist feel without interference. The most popular bra is the moulded one-piece, seamless bra. Their pieces are extremely efficient in answering the majority of demands for a bra wearer, they are also a perfect palette for the bra designer.
Bras are now an everyday and prevalent factor in a woman’s life. But, the bra hasn’t gone without critics. It’s not uncommon to see fashion leaders exploring a bra-less look. Whether this leads to bras one day becoming extinct if a question for another time. For the moment, bras aid in several ways, and for women the attraction and desire for owning a well fitted and stylish bra will probably never go away.