Best Known For Its Fashion And Pop Culture Magazine The Evolution of Bras in Pop Culture

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The Evolution of Bras in Pop Culture

It may seem like women have been wearing bras since the dawn of time, what with the extra support they provide, but that’s not true. Although the first linen bra was discovered in a medieval castle more than 600 years ago, the first real bra as we know it was invented in 1859 by Henry Lesher, but this was only a prototype and never took off.

The early bras

When 1930 rolled around, a woman named Mary Phelps Jacob created the first bra worn by women (Source: “The History of the Bra,” LulaLu Blog). When dressing for an evening event, she noticed that her dress did not match in color or style with her corset, which was the usual undergarment at the time. With two silk scarves and pink ribbons for her shoulders, she inadvertently put on the first bra. When all her female friends expressed their interest in this new invention, she started her own business. It is unclear whether she sold the rights to Maidenform, a popular lingerie manufacturer, but this company made the first shaped cup bras around this time, and the padded bras came later in the 1930s to protect the breasts of women athletes.

Changed to lingerie

The bra remained fairly straightforward in terms of style until the 60s and 70s, when a shift towards seeing the bra as more than functional began to take hold in America. The mid-1960s brought the introduction of the first breast-lifting Wonderbra, which was the brainchild of Canadian designer Louse Poirier. This came right after the trend leaned towards more natural, see-through looks that were popular among the growing women’s movement.

French designers in the 70s took the idea of ​​bras as lingerie one step further and debuted them on the runways as a fashion accessory. The only place you could really find sexy lingerie until then was in the red light district of Paris, where tacky lingerie was largely functional in nature (Source: “The Bra: An Uplifting Tale,” BBC). Now that the fashion models wore sports bras along with their garters and panties, lingerie became affordable for the common woman. The first sports bra for fitness-conscious women came out in 1977 (Source: “History of the Bra,” Women’s Health Magazine).

Embracing sexuality

Once thought of simply as a support system for the breasts, bras began to take on a whole new persona as a sex symbol, spurred in large part by Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour, which thrust her into the limelight wearing cone-like bras and very little else . This was a reversal from decades earlier when bras were considered a symbol of an oppressive lifestyle. Models took center stage in padded and push-up bras that showed cleavage in an effort to sell lingerie and clothing lines, with a whole new audience in mind this time: men. The idea was that if underwear companies could appeal to men, those men would go out and buy their significant others’ beautiful bras and accessories. That’s why the “Hello Boys” campaign by Wonderbra with model Eva Herzigova in the mid-90s caused quite a stir.

Today, the bra continues to celebrate women’s sexuality, marked by the mainstream influences of companies like Victoria’s Secret, who not only sell lingerie but also debut all the new fashions on the runway every year.

Sources:

“The History of the Bra,” LulaLu Blog, http://blog.lulalu.com/2013/09/18/the-history-of-the-bra/

“The Bra: An Uplifting Tale,” BBC, http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150220-the-bra-an-uplifting-tale

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