What preceded the bra?
Before the bra was created, women were used to sporting corsets. Not only did corsets support their breasts, but they also slimmed the waist through their tight design. However, as time progressed women began to revolt against the corset. The corset created its own sense of medical problems for women which the development of bras seemed to solve.
Who created the first bra?
It is said that there were many patents for what could be categorized as a bra even in the 19th century. They began as corset replacements, solving the plethora of health and physical problems corsets caused for women. Some claim, the first bra was created by Herminie Cadolle through her lingerie company in France. She called it a “Corselet Gorge.” Essentially, this split the corset into two parts: one to support the breasts with shoulder straps and another to tighten the waist. Later on, around 1905, the top half was sold separately as well and trademarked as “soutien-gorge”.
Others say the first bra was made by a woman named Marie Tucek who patented the first brassiere in 1893. “Her device included separate pockets for the breasts and straps that went over the shoulder, which were fastened by hook-and-eye closures.” She filed this device in March 28, 1893. She called it a Breast Supporter in her Patent. She wanted her brassiere to fit the convenience of any woman who wanted to wear it
How did the bra gain popularity? What factors influenced its rise to fame?
The early 20th century was when the bra truly gained popularity, and many factors contributed to its rise to fame.
Sigmund Lindauer from Germany patented and developed a bra for mass production around 1913. It was mass produced by Mechanischen Trikotweberel Ludwig Maier und Cie.
Around the same time in the US, Mary Phelps Jacob unknowingly developed a bra using two silk handkerchiefs, pink ribbon, and cord in order to wear a sheer gown for a debutante ball. Her “bra” was far more comfortably than any corset she had ever worn. People were intrigued, and soon, interest flooded in from her friends and family. She patented her invention and sold her bras it under the name Caresse Crossby. Eventually, she sold her patent for 1500$ to the warner brothers who over 30 years made a 15 million business out of it.
Around the time the Bra was going into production, World War 1 started.
This event only helped the popularity of bras. The production of Corsets was banned/highly discouraged in order to save the metal used in making them. The US War Industries Board even asked women to stop buying these corsets. This freed up 28000 tons of metal. Additionally, with women working in factories and taking on more work, bras were a much more convenient option to wear under labor fitting clothes. The switch in gender roles from women taking on physical work truly helped integrate the bra into society.