Corsets, Bras, the Brassiere. A Brief History of Ladies Essential Support

Beautiful and Practical Bras

A Pretty, Ornate Bra, probably best worn alone
A Pretty, Ornate Bra, probably best worn alone
Smooth Barbie Pink under wired Bra. The most popular choice of most women
Smooth Barbie Pink under wired Bra. The most popular choice of most women
Front fastening Bra with good support, ideal for Nursing.
Front fastening Bra with good support, ideal for Nursing.
Another pretty underwired Bra
Another pretty underwired Bra
Spoilt for Choice
Spoilt for Choice

Whatever Next?

Brassieres in History

Most women own at least six Bras and these days they are taken for granted. The French word Brassiere is a French word for an under-bodice or baby's vest. Strangely, the French word for a bra is soutien-gorge which literally means "under throat".The forerunner of the Brassiere was a simple cloth tied around the chest of early women especially Minoan female athletes in 1400 BC.Rich Chinese women in the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1440 for those who have forgotten!) wore an early form of brassiere with cups supported over the shoulders. This garment was called the Doudo.

The corset was the preferred form of women's undergarment in Europe and America during the 16th century onwards. This was a severe garment and must have been very uncomfortable to wear because of the tightness caused by lacing. By the end of the 19 century the garment had been split in two and by the beginning of the 20 century the early form of Brassiere had emerged. This name was entered into the Oxford dictionary in 1911. It was soon shortened to Bra.

Today's women are spoilt for choice. Bras come in beautiful fabrics and colors. They can change a woman's silhouette by its design, padding or silicon "chicken fillets" can enhance shape to the disappointment of many suitors. The advent of elastic, Lycra and nylon have revolutionised comfort. There are frequent fashion changes from the pointed cups of the seventies beloved of Madonna to the soft wireless designs of Mary Quant. There is even a "Frequent Traveller" design with resin under-wires instead of metal so that metal detectors are not alarmed by the presence of an uplifted bust.

There are Bras for all occasions, front opening nursing bras with slots for pads to soak up leaks, sports bras to reduce bounce, balconette designs to enhance cleavage. Modern woman is indeed spoilt for choice. Many bras can be found that allow change from strapless (thank you Lycra) to halter, backless or over the shoulder designs. Sadly, when undergoing surgery many women have to undergo a mastectomy but special bras allow them to retain a feminine outline and their self esteem. Their first trainer bra is considered a rite of passage for young girls.

Many women forgo wearing a bra and it was considered a symbol of male domination and burned by womens rites feminists. Apparently many women are wearing bras of the wrong size. This is made even more difficult by the fact that at least 60% of women have a slightly larger left breast. Bra manufacturers like Triumph, Maidenform, Warner etc go to great lengths to ensure the comfort and fit for all shapes and sizes of women. In the UK the famous Company, Rigby and Peller are famous for beautiful bras and careful fitting  Women have a lot to thank them for. I for one will not be burning any of my bras any time soon! There are even bras for men these days, but that's another story!

Designing a new Lightweight Bra

Variations on a Bra Theme

My First Bra, a Rite of Passage.
My First Bra, a Rite of Passage.
Diamond studded Bra by Victoria's secret for the Super Rich Man to give his Woman!
Diamond studded Bra by Victoria's secret for the Super Rich Man to give his Woman!
Pretty in Pink, the ultimate femminine Bra with matching Panties......All Photos courtesy Flickr.
Pretty in Pink, the ultimate femminine Bra with matching Panties......All Photos courtesy Flickr.

More by this Author


Comments 37 comments

Jamiehousehusband profile image

Jamiehousehusband 6 years ago from Derbyshire, UK

Hi Gypsy, thanks for FM- you misunderstood me, I was not seeking fan mail (although was most welcome) when I went to visit at your profile, the usual box to leave fm was not displayed for me, and I wanted to leave some for you! Check it out as can't just be me. I'm giving you all the support you need on this hub - lovely..and where this leads to...nobody knows!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

I think you get taken there when you follow some one for the first time. You are already following so I think you've missed the chance to write an illuminated address! Too bad! Thanks for the comment


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for all these historical information which I enjoyed learning.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hi Hello hello, thanks for coming by again. History is interesting isn't it? Glad you enjoyed it


Merlin Fraser profile image

Merlin Fraser 6 years ago from Cotswold Hills

If they had taught history like this at Skool I might have stayed awake.

I now know more about 'Over the Shoulder Boulder Holders,' than is good for any man.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

I agree with you there! Since venturing into the world I find I love history, so fascinating. Glad you came by. Hope summertime brings better weather for you. Nice to have a comment from an expert on the subject! :)


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

You see GW, women have always misunderstood us men and we have been repeatedly and unfairly maligned through the centuries. It really is not fair and it has to stop!.

When we men look at women’s breasts, our thoughts are pure. We think of history (how the bra developed through the centuries) and science (how does the damn thing actually manage to keep all that weight horizontal).

It is no accident that bridge designers are all men. And the simple fact of the matter is that our engineering successes are all due to our wholesome and unsullied thought processes. We wonder, we calculate, we strategise, we plan and we conceive. Well, if we are successful in our strategies YOU conceive, but we shall not get bogged down with insignificant details.

So, next time you see us ogling your breasts, be charitable. Close your eyes if need be and think of the good of humanity, think of our conquest of space and the first man landing on the moon and be PROUD,

Yes, GW, be proud because man’s achievements are due to those wonderful, luscious, babies you casually and almost carelessly, nay sometimes almost sacrilegiously, carry around with you with such lack of respect and realisation. I have to stop now because I think my wife is calling me from our bedroom….


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Ha ha ha Dimitrus, never thought of it like that. I will be more charitable in future! Thanks for the great comment!


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

Am I good, or am I good??? :-))


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

U R GOOD!


BetsyIckes profile image

BetsyIckes 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

Bras sure have come a long way!


Bambino 6 years ago

Why isn't mens underwear as fascinating to women as womens is to men ?


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hi Betsy it surely has. Imagine wearing those old fashioned corsets laced up tight! Thanks for dropping by


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hello Bambino, I think it depends on who is wearing the underwear, if it was Brad Pitt I think I would be very fascinated


yousuf ghani profile image

yousuf ghani 6 years ago from nazimabad-karachi

beautiful


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

Ok!!! I give up, my dear friend. What is it with all these underwear hubs ? Can't wait to see what you'll pick next. Take care, Dim x


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Glad you enjoyed it yousef. Thanks for the comment.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hi Dim, it's hummingbirds next you will be relieved to know! Mind you the one after that may be a surprise. The histories are fascinating though. Thanks for coming by!


gramarye profile image

gramarye 6 years ago from Adelaide - Australia

Hi Gypsy, this was an entertaining, fun hub to read in addition to interesting history. Thanks.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Glad you enjoyed it gramarye. The history is fascinating isn't it. Thanks for popping by.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 6 years ago

Gypsy- This was great............ who would have known that the brassiere had such a history behind it! Nonetheless- If it wasn't a necessity; I wouldn't wear it!

Thank you for the history lesson!

Kaie


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hello Kaie, I quite agree! Interesting history though. Thanks for coming by.


rebu profile image

rebu 6 years ago from Coorg,India

Hey thanx for the information...


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

You are so welcome rebu. Thanks for stopping by.


A.A. Zavala profile image

A.A. Zavala 6 years ago from Texas

I chose the wrong major in college. I think this lesson is more valuable than my sessions of psychology class. Thanks for the hub!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Hello again A.A. Glad to see you buffing up on history. Thanks for dropping by.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

Gosh, I would have thought there had been bras for centuries. I am surprised to learn they are only 100 years old. Thank you for the education. I enjoyed learning from you.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Glad you enjoyed the lesson James. Always good to learn about subjects that are of interest to you! Thanks for dropping by.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

Hi,

Fascinating hub - I always wondered where the bra orginated. I think we are luckier today than women in the past, and like you I won't be burning the my bra just yet, but it is wonderful at times to go without - freedom!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Totally agree Seeker7 We take so many things for granted don't wee. Thanks for stopping by.


RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Very interesting! Corset's were very popular here a few years ago but I can't imagine they could be comfortable:-). Fun read!


Fluffy77 profile image

Fluffy77 5 years ago from Enterprise, OR

Very informative and educational, great history review of these bras. Very beautiful too. Thanks.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Thanks Fluffy77. Interesting isn't it?


Jennuhlee profile image

Jennuhlee 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

What a great idea for a hub! Informative and a topic I care about, I look forward to reading more!


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Thanks Jennuhlee. I appreciate your comments.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 3 years ago from Germany

Great hub! Thanks for sharing the history of brassiere. Voted up and very informative.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 3 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand Author

Thanks for your kind comment Thelma. We all need a little support!

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