A Brief History of the Brassiere

Ever wondered when the bra (and its earliest contemporaries) first appeared? Here’s a quick rundown of the history of brassieres.

Women weren’t exactly as conscious of their breasts and whatever it is that should cover them up until the time of the ancient Egyptians. Also, it was only during the height of the Roman Empire when young girls were advised to wear breast bands or fascia so as to prevent their breasts from sagging at a later age.

By the 16th Century, corsets were the norm for women, and it wouldn’t change until over 200 years later with the introduction of the modern bra by New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob. Jacob invented the modern bra as a workaround for the corset—the latter’s stiff boning was peeking out of her dress, so she took two silk handkerchiefs, fastened them both with a ribbon, and created an alternative.

Jacob patented her design on the 3rd of November, 1914, paving the way for the modern bra design known today. She called it back then as the “backless brassiere,” remarking that her new contraption provided relief from the restriction tied to wearing stiff corsets. The bra’s popularity soared even further four years later, as the metal needed for manufacturing corsets were required for the war effort during WWI.

Since then, the modern bra has never looked back, and corsets today are now merely reserved for aesthetic purposes; far different from their intended use during their heyday.


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