Jan 16, 2012

Our Supporters

I always wondered with all the kind of lingerie we have on market today,did women a 100 years ago even bother about it? Which led me to check some sites out regarding brassiere.My mom always called it brassiere,and I would wonder how odd the word sounded !

To my surprise,brassieres were in vogue in the 14th century.In the Ming dynasty era,in China,bra like garments were worn by the upper class women,which was a foundation cloth complete with cups and straps drawn over shoulders and tied to the girth seam at the lower back .

Towards the late 19th century,girdles were invented for woman which tightened the lower Torso,which I'm guessing was to give a thin waist look and that suspended the breasts from the shoulder for the upper torso.These girdles and corsets were even made of metal and had elaborate screws and tightening and while the traditional corset needed the services of another to tighten them,the metal ones were introduced ,so that the woman could tighten and wear the corset all by herself.

By the early 20th century, garments more closely resembling contemporary bras emerged, although large-scale commercial production did not occur until the 1930s. With metal shortages, World War II encouraged the end of the corset. By the time the war ended, most fashion-conscious women in Europe and North America were wearing brassieres. From there the brassiere was adopted by consumers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

The term “cup” was not used to describe bras until 1916, and manufacturers relied on stretchable cups to accommodate different sized breasts. Women with larger breasts had the choice of long-line bras, built-up backs, wedge-shaped inserts between the cups, wider straps, firm bands under the cup, and even light boning.Whalebone was used like the wires we use today.

In October 1932, the S.H. Camp and Company correlated the size of a woman's breasts to letters of the alphabet, A through D. In 1937, Warner began to feature cup sizing in its products. Adjustable bands were introduced using multiple eye and hook positions in the 1930s.

In ancient Egypt, women were generally bare breasted. The most common items of female attire a tunic ,a rectangular piece of cloth that was folded sown along the edge to make a tube. The tunic might cover one or both shoulders or be worn with shoulder straps. The shorter tunics was mostly worn by common women or slaves, to be more comfortable when working.I'm going to presume that this is where petty coats originated.I wore them as kids maybe till the age of 15.

Although majority of women in ancient Indian sculptures are devoid of a blouse, there are several instances of ancient Indian women wearing brassieres. The first historical reference to brassieres in India is found during 1st century AD. Sewn brassieres and blouses were very much in vogue during the Vijayanagara empire and the cities brimmed with tailors who specialized in tight fitting of these garments.

Wall paintings in Crete,show women wearing something that looks like a bikini while performing in athletics. Similar depictions have been found in ruins from 4th Century Sicily.

Minoan women on the island of Crete 3,000 years ago apparently wore garments that partially supported and also revealed their bare breasts.Their clothing look somewhat like modern fitted and laced corsets . The support device was worn outside other clothing and supported and exposed the breasts, pushing them upwards and making them more visible. Roman women sometimes wore a band of cloth or leather to support the breasts.

This was in fashion a few years ago.I remember a few bollywood actresses and Hollywood starlets adorning this corset over the tops to show off their curvy waists.

Roman men and women wore a loose flowing tunic, sometimes with a girdle, and an outer cloak. Younger women wore a band of cloth, over the breast to restrict their growth, or a leather tube to conceal larger breasts.

Generally, in the Middle Ages the breasts were minimized in dresses with straight bodices, full skirts and high necklines, designed primarily for function rather than emphasis on form. The 15th century ideal form was small breasted and full figured, symbolizing abundance of fertility. By the time of the Renaissance, decolletage became very fashionable.Decolletage is a type of bra wherein the women literally showed a little spillage. Firmness was an attribute and so women did not breast feed. Infants were given to wet nurses to breast feed, since nursing was bad if a woman wanted to maintain an ideal form. Among the wealthier classes, the corset was beginning to appear by the mid-15th century. Catherine de' Medici (1519–1589) is widely, and wrongly, blamed for the corset. She was reported to have prohibited wide waists at court in the 1550s, legend suggesting she made them wear steel framework corsets.

Early corsets of the 16th century consisted of stiffened linen at the front, but later included iron supports at the side and back. The emphasis now was on form, with compression of the breasts forcing them upwards to the point of almost spilling out, so a considerable part of the breast was exposed. The ideal form was a flat torso, which inevitably pushed the breasts upwards and out.

In 1910, Mary Phelps Jacob ,a 19-year-old New York socialite, Dissatisfied with this brassieres, she worked with her maid to fashion two silk handkerchiefs together with some pink ribbon and cord. Her innovation drew immediate attention and at the request of family and friends, she made more of her new device.

On 3 November 1914, the U.S. Patent Office issued the first U.S. Paton,for the 'Backless Brassiere'. Her patent was for a device that was lightweight, soft, comfortable to wear, and naturally separated the breasts, unlike the corset, which was heavy, stiff, uncomfortable, and had the effect of creating a single "mono bosom".

The word 'brassiere' was gradually shortened to 'bra' in the 1930s. According to a 1934 survey by Harper's Bazaar, bra was the most commonly used expression among college women.Adjustable bands were introduced using multiple eye and hook positions in the 1930s.Bras rapidly became a major industry over the 1930s, with improvements in fiber technology, fabrics, colours, patterns, and options, and did much better than the retail industry in general. Innovations included Warners' use of elastic, the adjustable strap, the sized cup, and padded bras for smaller-breasted women.

The Second World War had a major impact on clothing. Military women of lower rank were fitted with uniform underwear. Advertising appealed to both patriotism and the concept that bras and girdles were somehow 'protection'. Dress codes appeared where their workers were told that bras must be worn because of 'good taste, anatomical support, and morale'.Conically pointed Torpedo or Bullet (or even Cone) bra started to appear in the 1940-50s, designed for 'maximum projection'.

The 60s and 70s reflected increasing interest in quality and fashion. Maternity and mastectomy bras began to find a new respectability, and the increasing use of washing machines created a need for products that were more durable.

Most bras are designed to be form-fitting, to avoid sagging, and restrain their movement. Bra designers and manufacturers originally produced bras that were purely functional and gradually added elements to improve the design, but they have now largely shifted from functionality to fashion. Manufacturers' standards and sizes vary widely, making it difficult for women to find a bra that fits.

Oprah dedicated this one episode on bras and I remember it was one of the most informative shows that I truly loved and made me seek better bras for myself.I didn't know there were cups sizes from A through H.Most of the women wear ill fitting ones and really don't think much into it.I think the major problem is for busty women,who have to be very careful about the inner wear due to many obvious reasons.Bra is an important part of our attire and like the new generation who think its hip to not wear one or show it off.I think it brings grace to female form and decency to an attire.


  1. the first lady's curves - ummm!
    the seoncd lady's - ooouuch!!

    what a topic Suzy and nice title :)

    so much has gone into making them and finally we come to the last pic where the present form of the brassier is almost not existent :D

  2. I am a first time visitor and this was a fun read! Thanks for sharing :)

  3. Suji : what a nightmare it would have been without them right ! Esp.with age now,as they go seeking residence towards the south.The time when they are at their peak,I had no time to give them a second thought and now,with all the talk shows stressing on perkiness...hmmmmmm.

    Sharan : You are welcome sweety ! I hope you have fun reading other blog posts of mine.


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