Vintage Bras

Modern bras or brassieres to be formal, haven't really been around all that long - certainly not in their present form of two supportive cups and versatile stretchy straps. This is not to say women through the ages haven't been using devices to keep those mammary glands in check..they have. In fact there's some evidence of bra-like devices dating back to the ancient Minoans. However the widespread use of the modern bra, which offers firm hold, lift and oomph - is mainly a 20th century thing. Prior to that, for around 400 years women primarily used a various array of corsets to keep themselves uplifted.

In the late 19th century various bra-like devices were invented and there seems to be no general agreement on who came up with the first modern brassiere. Frenchwoman Herminie Cadolle  did invent  a  two-piece corset with a bra-like top in 1889, however credit for the invention of the stand alone, modern bra is generally given to New Yorker, Mary Phelps Jacobs, who couldn't stand her corset anymore - those whalebones (which gave corsets their structure) could get pretty annoying, especially when they start poking out of your evening dresses.  The enterprising Mary took two handkerchiefs, sewn to ribbons and cord and tied them around her neck and shoulders...aah, relief!  Mary took out a patent on her  "Backless Brassierre" in 1914, called her creation the Caresse Crosby and sold the patent to the forward thinking Warner Brothers Corset Company for $1,500, who needless to say, did quite well out of the deal.

Image courtesy of aslipofagirl.
In the 1920's though, the boyish figure was all the rage and the new bras went quiet for a while. The flapper ideal was a slim, straight figure and bigger busted women took to bandaging their chests or purchasing a Symington Side Lacer, a kind of bodice with laces at the sides to squeeze those breasts into oblivion.

As the decades wore on and a new voluptuous look came into vogue, bra designs changed in accordance with the new fashion. Bra manufacturers began to make promises about form and shape, such as Hickory's ambitious Perma-lift shape-shifter in the 1940s, with the 'magic inset' that claimed to take breasts to new heights of perfection...the lift that never lets you down.


The 1950's in particular, heavily emphasized breasts and desirable bras were ones that made women look pointy and perky and offered plenty of cleavage. In this decade, they were less a natural formation and more an architectural construction. By the 1960's though, which took inspiration from the pre-war era, the androgynous look was back on the fashion table and once again breasts were de-emphasised.

In the 70s,  breasts were again ok but the look was natural and women rejected, even resented, the artifice of a structured brassiere, some disposing of bras altogether (it was the decade of the feminist revolution after all).  From the 80's on, breasts starting creeping back into the limelight, so much so that by the 2000s, breast enhancements became the No.1 cosmetic procedure or women under the age of thirty and padded and push-up bra's are selling like hotcakes. It seems that in the 20th century, breasts have come in and out of fashion like crowds through a revolving door. At the moment they are well and truly in and thanks to Mad Men and the vintage clothes revival, looks like pointy breasts are even having a resurgance. Still,  in the fickle world of breast fashion, who knows what tomorrow will bring..?

If pointy is your thing Dollhouse Bettie has some beauties and for a look at some tasteful vintage lingerie, check out A Slip of a Girl

50's pointiliism. Lisbeth Scott