How did the Bra come to be?

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.

Sex and Fashion: The Tension Is Real

Carrie Bradshaw sitting with Big in her pink Louboutin heels in the mesmerizing city lights of New York: Carrie and Big’s love story set the stage for Sex and the City. 

Carrie’s Louboutins

Sex and the City brought the opulent world of fashion to each house through a seemingly normal friend group. It is because of these fabulous 4 girls, Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte, that most of the country associates fashion with sex. Honestly, the complicated relationship between fashion and sex might be more complicated than Carrie and Big, and don’t worry it’s a steamy one.

Clothing has always been a means for being sexy. For centuries, women have used lingerie to be perceived as and feel sexy. It started off as corsets evolved to open-crotch panties and moved to garter belt sets; lingeries has a history that is essential to fashion. In the 1700s, whale bone corsets were the sexiest garments. Yes now they definitely wouldn’t be, but back then, they represented the ideal body type: pushed up breasts and a tiny waist. Obviously, still to this day, lingerie is made to emphasize the ideal body type. This can be super empowering for women, but at the same time, these pieces of clothing are made to appease a body type defined by men (but thats the topic for another day). As the 1900s began, Satin Slips and Crotchless Panties began to show up on the lingerie scene. Sexiness was not necessarily the tight corsets anymore but was more through loose garments constructed to be as invisible as possible. Then came the corseted slip dresses and the infamous conical brasserie by Gaultier. Swimwear has a sexiness to it as well. High school age girls obsess over finding the right bikini or one piece, and the same sentiment is shared by many other women regardless of their age. Ironically, the want to be sexy is held mostly by younger girls now whereas historically it was by middle aged women.

Herve Leger Bandage Dress

Honestly, there is an inherent sexiness to certain materials: leather, latex, and mesh are sexy regardless of how they were worm. A lot of these materials have been associated with BDSM in the past and speak to the essential influence of BDSM on the industry of fashion. BDSM, bondage discipline and sadomasochism, has been used to make fashion statements. Tight latex, scrappy bondage harness, spikes, and metal hardware all are trademarks of BDSM that have made their way into fashion. We see the Kardashian’s wearing latex, Rihanna wearing leather chokers with rings, and Vivienne Westwood’s Collections scream BDSM and a lot of other designer’s like Herve Leger (especially through his bandage dress) and YSL (through various collections) showcase the sexiness of BDSM. One designer that really had a hand in defining sex in fashion was Jean Paul Gaultier. His eccentric fashion designs breaking boundaries between genders still found a way to incorporate sex. Some of Madonnas and Lady Gaga’s most arousing and crazy outfits were designed by him.

Now, enough about women and sex, how has fashion sexualized men? Corsets were actually also made for men. In the same way for women, corsets were men were designed to push the ideal body type for men which consisted of a smaller waist and broad shoulders. Even now, you can find corsets for men from designer’s like Dion Lee (I own one and highly recommend).

Kardashians Wearing Latex

Yes, I agree that is super important to recognize how Fashion has played an important role in empowering sexuality and sex appeal. The evolution of clothing has really helped break down some stigmas surrounding sex. HOWEVER, it is equally important to recognize how some sexy clothing can be used to hypersexualize people. That is never okay, but it is inevitable in society.

Dion Lee Corseted Tank

Clearly, the love story between Fashion and Sex has a lot of tension, good and bad. And I’m sure that this relationship is far from over.

How classy are you?

Clothing has had a historical sense of pride in the human race. In Oriental China, systems of robe colors indicated social structure. The more ornate your robe the more wealthy you were considered. The Hausa community in Africa has used Turbans and layered clothing to portray wealth and status. In the western world, before the Industrial Revolution, nice clothing used to be considered prized possessions, and clothing has always had a way to showcase social and financial position through uniforms and quality. Quite literally, the pride we feel when wearing clothing directly correlates to concept of Class in the modern world.

Fashion and Class essentially go hand in hand with each other. With fashion having its roots in Consumerism and Capitalism, it is no surprise that society maintains this relationship between the two terms. When we look at what other people are wearing, when we shop at certain brands, when we indulge in Fashion per se, we fuel this idea that Fashion determines someone’s class.

When examining class, I like to look at it from two ways. Class in terms of Social Class being the first: looking at how fashion interacts with classifying people into lower, middle, and upper class. However, there’s a more individualistic approach to Class: examining the concept of classiness. What exactly makes us feel classy when we go out? What exactly makes us categorize someone else as looking classy?

Looking at our ourselves and determining if we fit our own view of being “classy” is largely dependent on the various identities we identify with. A lot of the time what is viewed as classy for one identity is definitely not seen as classy for another, and interestingly enough, we mostly see minorities playing with the concept of classiness in their dress. My favorite example of this is seen in the dress sense of African American Male celebrities. We see them wearing patterned tuxedos, bright colors, metallic shoes, etc. A lot of the times these decisions can incorrectly imply a feminine and/or queer undertone. But they view themselves as classy making society see them as such as a result. This is where the lines between our own perception of being class and society’s definition of class via fashion intersect.

Yes of course, there are symbols in society that imply class. The watch a man wears especially certain brands such as Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Phillipe suggest a sense of financial abundance. The size of a diamond on a woman’s engagement ring correlates to the same. These are all fashion accessories that people associate with class especially with society’s obsession around the “elite” and “upper class”. There is an eye around the opulence, which many TV shows exploit, in the lives of the upper class. Similarly, this forces many people to think that they need certain things to feel classy in the eyes of society. Inherently, these brands enforce a level of classism in society.

A lot of the times, the air around certain accessories label fashion as a shallow and surface industry. Personally, I wish there was an easy solution to stop classism perpetuated by brands in the industry, but as we live in a capitalistic society, it is inevitable.

Commonplace Cultural Appropriation

A big problem in the fashion industry is cultural appropriation. Where can we draw the line between borrowing fashion from different parts of the world and stealing cultural aspects without remorse?

Fashion is derived from the location it exists in. For example, what is considered fashionable in Asia is different from what is fashionable in Europe. It just goes to show how fashion is related to the beauty standard. Now fashion much like culture is traded, exchanged, and mixed. Looking at how fashion has evolved through ancient trading, the Silk Road, etc. can also be a testament to the evolution of culture. Honestly, cultural appropriation is a practice of time with Fashion and is quite inevitable.

The question regarding cultural appropriation is related to the double standard in the industry. I like to take the designer Jean Paul Gaultier as the perfect example. His absolutely gorgeous collections take inspiration from African, Indian, Chinese, and many other trends. He plays with the concept of Eastern Religions in his clothing which has always had recognition of a worldwide playing field.

JPG Hindu Top

Yes, it is great to see various cultures represented on such. grand scale, but JPG failed to officially give credit to his inspirations. In a sense, it’s like plagiarizing a culture. IT would be acceptable if he was able to give credit to the deserving regions.

The other question that Cultural Appropriation creates is regarding the success of native designers. Would an Indian brand receive the same recognition or applause for what Gaultier did? No. Would it receive the same platform? No. Clearly, cultural appropriation allows for the systematic oppression of the originations of fashion trends. Following on the same trend, the recognition of certain cultural fashion trend on western people can show another aspect of cultural appropriation.

The most prominent example of this is when we see box braids being more appreciated on white celebrities rather than black women and men. It is as though only an influential white figure can push different cultures’ trends. Another example of this is eastern fashion trends such as oriental gowns and Bindis. It is commonly viewed as unprofessional and backward when Asian women sport their traditional wear; however, when it is worn by celebrities in music videos and on red carpets, it is widely appreciated.

I think there is a lot to talk about when we entertain a conversation on Cultural Appropriation. Yes there are the ups of representation, but there are so many downs to the process. Hopefully in the future there will be basic guidelines to make this inevitable process more respectful of the primary cultures.

The Evolution of Style

The history of style shows fashion’s support of minorities and expression of one’s identity. It is quite amazing to see how fashion has developed with time especially when looking at it from a bird’s eye view. Taking in the beauty that is the history of fashion, however, can only be truly appreciated when we break the history up into smaller slices possibly even smaller than sets of generations.

The problem with looking at the past of fashion as a whole is that one will never be able to understand how a certain “movement” changed the lives of the people who started it. Fashion has a bad habit of normalizing in the sense that the industry often defines a new normal after the status quo has been defied. In the grand scheme, this might be a good thing but when we examine history it can be really difficult.

The way each slice of ten years reacts to big fashion changes during their time is different. For example, people born from 2000- 2009 interact and react to fashion’s gender fluid movement much different than those born from 1990-1999. This difference in reaction has been a constant for quite a while farther than when it was expected of girls to only wear skirts to school.

I think a lot of it has to do with how the identities of gender, sexuality, and age intersect when it comes to fashion. I think we can break life up into three categories: childhood, middle-age, and old-age. As children, we are taught certain “concepts” about gender and how it applies to our lives.

“Boys wear blue and Girls wear pink”

Children tend to feel the incessant need to push and enforce these concepts in their day to day lives. Often, this leads to them ridiculing their peers when someone tries to be different. When children see a fashion based movement, they are usually unable to comprehend it. As we grow older, most come to a phase of self-discovery and acceptance. This phase is also that of defiance where we push back against society’s expectations and pave the way to new ideas. This is the set of people that start movements in fashion such as the non-binary gender movement currently going on. Entering old-age constitutes the idea of tolerance and acceptance. Many people at this point in their lives should ask themselves how to adapt to the new movement’s ideas.

With all these different point of views, examining style can have a completely different angle when looking at different age demographics.

Does Fashion Enable People living with a Disability? Maybe?

Much like other industries, we see fashion expanding everyday. It grows in the scope of ideas, collections, and trends, but what about inclusivity? Fashion in the past and still to this day has tried its best to fit and cater to multiple body types– plus size, petite, etc. There is always still room to grow with Fashion’s idea of unity.

Recently, I was shopping for a cute pair of cargo pants as always struggling to find a size that will fit my tiny waist, and I took a minute to think about how Fashion affects people who live with disabilities. If it is hard for me to find clothing to cater to my body, how difficult is it for those the industry casually forgets.

Those living with disabilities already struggle to achieve their goals due to their disability. Their disability prevents them from the basics that many of us view as an expectation: finding work, clothing, relationships. It is a sad reality, and the fact that they further struggle to find clothing to fit their needs is preposterous. For many, clothing cultivates a good social, personal, and work dynamic.

For PLWD, they face problems finding clothing that remotely fits their situation. A lot of the time, this inability to find correct clothing can affect them in the workplace. Lacking access to proper apparel leads to separation from the group in a workplace, and going to alter certain clothing to fit your needs can be quite expensive.

Personally, I see these gaps in inclusivity as a big opportunity for innovation in the fashion industry. Creating clothing that can adapt to various types of disabilities will allow for the satisfaction for consumers who are willing to pay good money to find suitable clothing. There are a few companies out there actively trying to create clothing that suits PLWD.

The sector of “adaptive design” as it is called in Fashion has been growing, but I think there is still a lot to be tapped into. Brands such as Buck and Buck, Tommy Adaptive, and Target’s adaptive line all show the progress that this sector of the industry has made. You can find some more here. I think what really needs to be focused on is creating more outlets for personal style for those who are disabled. This sort of outlet can be healthy for self-image and allow more engagement (which will lead to innovation) in the industry.

I had never really taken the time to actually think about how Fashion still has bounds to grow with inclusivity not only racial and sexuality based but also still physically.


Kerri McBee-Black

Washington Post Article

Do We Live for Repurposed Jewelry?

I am a sucker for jewelry. I love, and I mean LOVE LOVE bracelets, necklaces, and especially rings. I day dream about my future Juste Un Clou ring from Cartier and constantly think about piercing my ears and buying Chanel huggy earrings. But the biggest turn off for me, is the price for designer jewelry! I can get the same thing custom done in India for a quarter of the price (maybe in real gold too). Though price doesn’t stop people from making jewelry investments, I was hoping to find a way to get fun designer jewelry for much less.

My favorite fashion pal is a sucker for all things vintage, and it was with her help I learned about small companies that create vintage designer jewelry. By reusing buttons, pins, and other items from vintage designer clothing, these brands make jewelry! Cute pendants, bracelets, earrings, and other gorgeous items that would cost you multiple hundreds dollars from the fashion hou ses themselves at the tip of your fingers. I was shocked, and it was a good kind of shock when I opened the link to that she sent me.

I was in jewelry heaven; the classic and sexy look of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, and YSL jewelry all for much less. As I got to shopping, I saw so many different pieces that I love and noticed that half the site was sold out. IF you liked something, pick it up because the jewelry sold like hot cakes. But then the usual thoughts of buying 2nd-hand crossed my mind. Is it authentic? How many people are worn these items before they are repurposed? Is it safe?

Yes! All of their charms are 100% authentic as they specify in the lengthy description of their items. The one thing I especially love about these repurposed pieces is that they are one of a kind; you’ll never find another person wearing the same thing which can be a problem with classic pieces of designer jewelry (especially if you go to a private boarding school).
The downfalls I see for these items is how fast they sell out. If you like it, you buy it or else someone else is definitely going to pick it up. These sites are paradise for impulse buyers but not for thoughtful shoppers. Prices are definitely another thing to consider; though it is MUCH cheaper than new designer jewelry, these pieces are second hand and not 100% affiliated with a fashion house.

All in All, I LOVE IT. Catch me wearing more repurposed pendants in the future!

Religion, Fashion, and even Gender

The concepts of Religion, Fashion, and Gender are all explicitly related. We see society use concepts of Religion to push certain modes of dress. Society’s expectations from us to behave in a certain manner is commonly explained and defied in the world of fashion. But where are these expectations derived from?

Let’s take a look at Religion. The concept of God generalized across most Religions has a sense of masculinity. We see God use He/Him/His pronouns and God is commonly referred to as the father of the world. And of course, God is a woman or even genderless in a multitude of Genders. Regardless, whether God is a Man or Woman or Neither, it is important to see recognize how religion pushes women to have a sense of purity and chastity.

Most of the time, the concept of purity is pushed through how women dress. Society deems it “proper” to dress conservatively for woman all around the world. All religions seem to push the oppressive idea that women should never tempt that women should be pure. Religions commonly test the essence of a woman where if she deems herself as anything other than pure she brings shame to herself and her family. It is absurd that society puts women into two categorize “sluts” and “good girls” and judges these categories by the clothes they wear. We even see this in brides where white signifies a virginal purity.

Religion can also be a fashion statement in itself. It has been weaved into the themes for the Met Gala, Designer Collections, and more. The Met Gala’s celestial bodies theme allowed so many designers to push the envelope on religious outfits. With Galliano making Rihanna into the Pope and other designers following suit, we all saw Fashion take a religious angle at this event. Vivienne Westwood has a religious angle to her clothing with her Bas Charm featuring a prominent cross element. Jean Paul Gaultier is also famous for using religion as inspiration. His spring summer 2007 collection was an homage to Catholicism. He had collections in 1990 exhibiting Hindu accessories and Goddesses on his clothing. Clearly, Fashion draws inspiration from various religions at times.

Queer Signaling in Fashion

The world of fashion is so extensive; a lot of the times it blurs and blends with other concepts, ideals, and issues. One of these many angles of fashion is that of Gender and Sexuality. How do we see gender norms being broken in fashion? How do these gender norms relate to sexual orientation? How is queerness implied through fashion?

The LGBTQ+ community is so diverse and complex in its essence. There are so many niches, identities, and more embedded into the community that makes the sMost of the queer community hides themselves by merging in with “straight” culture or hiding in the metaphorical closet. Even those that are “out” even choose to distance themselves from the community as sexuality is not an outwardly recognizable identity. However, the community as a whole adapts to certain markers to communicate with one another. These items serve as non verbal acknowledgments of sexual orientation and some have even become so common that heterosexual culture recognizes them as well.

There are so many facets to the concept of queer signaling through fashion that many of us even in the community get confused. Some of the most common staples include but are not limited to the left Gay earring, the lesbian flannel, asexual black ring, and the handkerchief code. These signals in fashion goes even further to the extent that queer micro-labels identify their own staple labels. The lesbian community is known to have smaller staples such as silver and turquoise rings that go beyond butch and femme labelings. Honestly, this goes to show how fashion creates unity within the queer community.

It is harmful to generalize the queer community as “fashion-conscious” as such actions tend to trivialize the depth of the community. There are quite a few of these stereotypes regarding fashion in the community that muddle the importance of queer signaling. Ideas that coastal queers are more fashionable than those in the midwest and pushing the idea that all gay men are into fashion can cause the community to stray away from signaling in a show of divergence from the norm. In trying to breakdown these harmful stereotypes, the community can also distance itself from fashion based signaling which is quite essential.

It is consequently important to recognize the importance of fashion in the community as fashion creates bonding on a tribal level in the gay community.


Fashion and Clothing: Gay Identities

Queer Fashion and Style

Queer Semiotics in Dress

Fashion: A Game of Perception

Whenever you enter the mall looking for your next pair of shoes or when you go to your favorite website to do some online shopping, you become a consumer just like everyone else. All of us are consumers of the Fashion Industry, and by effect, all of us are influenced by the industry itself.

In any consumer based industry, big companies have to analyze the psyche of their ideal consumer. Most fashion brands build their own image through implementing themes and creating a staple consumer. Obviously, as consumers in this market, we all associate certain words and ideas with brands. When we think Gucci we think bright, eccentric, eclectic whereas when we speak of Chanel we hear classic, everlasting, chic. These underlying descriptors are the brand’s image.

But doesn’t a brand’s image influence how fashion alters our identity? The clothes we wear, the brands we gravitate towards, our own personal sense of style, all define a portion of our identity. The way we see ourselves is often guided by material items of clothing. Materialism promotes the fashion industry by slowing higher-end brands to hold themselves in high-esteem. I know that I have saved up day by day to go buy a “designer” item simply to associate with a certain social class of people. A simple designer item correlates to higher social class or even an elevated sense of style. The feelings that these fashion brands engender can hurt the way we see ourselves.

The fashion industry tends to promote a certain body type and skin color. By idealizing fair skin and skinny “hour glass” frames, the fashion industry creates body dysmorphia in many of its consumers. The industry brainwashes us to think that this unrealistic body type is ideal, to think that wearing certain brands makes us “elite”.

The reality is that this game of perception promotes other issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. However, finding the balance of perception and positive consumer interaction is the only way to keep fashion healthy. Is this balance even attainable?

Consumer Perception on Brands by Different Aspects