Bra history was first made at the beginning of the 20th century when innovative women sought an alternative to being tied into a restrictive corset. Often debated as to what woman, and what country, created the first bra, the invention of the undergarment was a step into the future for women’s fashion.
Accolades are given to a New York City socialite, Mary Phelps Jacobs, for inventing and patenting the first bra on Nov. 3, 1914. Yet, it was a Parisian woman who first made bra history revealing her own invention before the 20th century. Madame Herminie Cadolle showcased her innovative bra type in 1889, at the Exposition Universelle of Paris.
Cadolle’s idea for the bra-like fashion design was to split the traditional uncomfortable corset in two parts. The lower half still worked as a corset with the upper part improved to work on its own. By adding straps for the shoulders, it worked independently as a supportive garment for the breasts.
The designer called her invention a “soutien-gorge,” brassiere in French. Cadolle established a lingerie shop where she sold the item. By 1905, women took to the new garment, making bra history, seeking to purchase only the upper half.
During the same time period, Marie Tucek of New York, was granted a patent in 1893 for her own breast- support invention. Tucek’s creation offered women a durable and improved undergarment to replace the corset. Her device was designed to use sheet metal, or another hard material, fashioned to sit under the breasts for support, much like today’s underwire.
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In the 1930s and 1940s, Hollywood stars took notice of bra- enhancing curves and promoted the undergarment to fans. Companies were taking notice of the bra as well, working to make it better with fabric that stretched. The first bras were made one-size-fits-all. Ida Rosenthal and her husband William, established the still well-known lingerie company, Maidenform in 1922. They noticed different shaped women should have different sized bras for better comfort.
Rosenthal became another important figure in bra history. Around the late ’20s early ’30s, Rosenthal introduced different cup sizes so the bra would conform to the body and be a better fit.
This has been debated though. Some give credit for the invention of cup sizes, A, B, C, and D, to S H Camp & Company. They were the first to advertise the newly available sizing, in February 1933. The ads were seen in the Corset and Underwear Review publication.