Corsets, Bras, the Brassiere. A Brief History of Ladies Essential Support
Beautiful and Practical Bras
Books on Brassieres
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!