Make your way into any lingerie store today and you will find countless varieties on display - be it padded, push-ups, or strapless bras, amongst others. The bra or ‘brassiere’ has evolved from once being a functional piece of clothing to a fashion accessory today. Of course, the needs of women have changed with time, and the ‘bra’ has always kept up as the “breast” friend.
Stories from the Ancient Past
Though one may believe that the bra is a modern invention, it finds a mention in ancient literature during the time of King Harshavardhana, who ruled from 606 to 647 C.E. It was also during the time of the Ming dynasty in China, from the 14th through 17th centuries, that women wore a loose silk bodice tied at the neck and waist.
Some wall paintings also show the evidence of bras, including a Roman mosaic in the Villa Romana del Casale in Sicily that dates back to the 4th century AD, where women can be seen in bandeau bras.
Egyptians, Indians, Greeks, and Romans - all had different techniques to cover their breasts. The Egyptians wore a rectangular piece of cloth that was folded and sewn together to make a tube. In India, the blouse has always been liberally used, while in Greece, a piece of clothing similar to a laced corset was common.
Journey through Medieval times
Literature suggests that during the Middle Ages, women would use something that resembled a cloth binder, to cover their breasts and make them look smaller. After some time, straight bodice dresses and high necklines became popular, and women were often seen strutting around in these pieces. Not only were they fashionable, but they also provided additional support to the breasts.
Rocking the Renaissance
During this period, the focus was back on flaunting assets, rather than covering them. While women never exposed them fully, the cleavage was certainly in vogue. The dresses in this era were designed to squeeze the breasts and push them upwards, so that the cleavage could be seen. It is also believed that women were so conscious of their breasts at this point, that some of them even refrained from breastfeeding.
The Victorian Era
The Victorian Era saw the liberal use of corsets to cover a woman’s breasts. These were really tight and while they did enhance the cleavage, they also caused multiple health problems, including nausea, dizziness, and other issues.
The Modern Bra
The first modern bra, the ‘corselet gorge’ was introduced in France in 1869, when Herminie Cadolle cut a corset into two separate pieces. Later, in 1893, Marie Tucek came up with the first underwire bra that had separate pockets for each breast, and a metal plate and shoulder straps for appropriate support.
Bras of the ‘20th Century’
According to the Time Magazine, it was Mary Phelps who came up with the ‘Backless Brassiere’ that was comfortable to wear at parties. The undergarment was made using two handkerchiefs and ribbons, and was soft and comfortable to wear. Unfortunately, it did not provide much support.
The Roaring Twenties
As this era began, women were excited to explore new fashion trends - some wore glittering dresses, while others chopped off their hair. Most of them did not want to flaunt their bosoms, and instead went for lightweight lingerie pieces that were lightly padded.
Winds of Change in the 1930s
By this time, most women were aware of their cup size, thanks to Maidenform. These bras had adjustable elastic straps, padded cups, and hook and eye closures. Comfortable and stylish, they changed the face of the bra industry.
And came along more Styles…
It was in 1947 that Frederick Mellinger invented the world’s first-ever push-up bra called ‘Rising Star’. With this invention, women were able to enhance their best features with much ease.
The 1950s saw the introduction of the bullet bras that had a conical look, and were pointed - hence, the name! As time passed, the next decade emphasised on a range of bra styles, and a specific type of undergarment for teens was introduced.
Enter the 70s and none can forget the launch of the feminine ‘Wonderbra’. This style helped emphasise assets without unnecessary exaggeration.
Did you know when the first sports bra was introduced? Only in 1977! Hinda Miller, Lisa Lindahl, and Polly Palmer-Smith invented the Jogbra that helped women receive breast support, while performing high-intensity exercises.
The last decade of the 20th century focused on lacy statement bras - the sexier, the better!
Enter the Millennium
The 21st century began with a bang, with the launch of the T-shirt bra in the early 2000s. Super-comfortable and easy to wear all day long, this is a necessity and we’re glad it came into our lives!
As the years passed, new styles came up, but the fashion trend that’s sweeping the bra market today is the bralette. While they do not offer much support, they are extremely stylish and will put one under the spotlight in an instant. Besides bralettes, there are a ton of styles and designs available today. Trust us, there’s nothing more therapeutic than lingerie shopping!
Go all out, ladies! When you’ve got it, why not flaunt it in style? After all, you’re spoilt for choice!
Author: Geetika Sachdev