History of the bra, or brassiere
Women have always tried to enhance their female figures by squeezing themselves into restricting, uncomfortable garments. Waists have been reduced and bustlines have been increased, decreased, flattened or spread out, depending on what was fashionable.
Back in 2500 B.C., warrior Minoan women on the Greek isle of Crete began wearing a bra-resembling garment, shoving their bare breasts upward and out of their clothes! Greek and Roman women later wore a breast band, minimizing their chest size.
During the Renaissance Period, women stuffed the chest portions of their undergarments with silk pouches and hankies, binding them in place as well as could be expected to create an alluring bustline. Since there was nothing much to hold the pouches exactly where they should have been, there was a tendency for them to shift into laughable positions.
Marie Tucek patented the actual first 'breast supporter' in 1893. Her foundation garment was similar to the bras sold today, having pouches for the breasts to sit in.
Then in 1913, Mary Phelps Jacob of New York and her maid, Marie, devised a backless bra to be worn under a sheer evening gown. She made this from two handkerchiefs, some ribbon and cord and amazingly started getting orders for it that very night. Not willing to let loose of a good thing, Jabobs showed up at the patent office in 1914 with sketches to finalize her patent. Her invention was awarded the title 'Backless Brassiere'.
It should be noted that Jacob's brassiere design was intended to flatten the breasts and not enhance them. Her invention didn't even have cups.
Without publicity, her brassiere business was doomed to sag and Mary sold her company to Warner Brothers Corset Company for just $1,500!
Ida and William Rosenthal went into business as the Maidenform Company in the 1920's as a protest against the notorious flat-chested flapper girls of the Roaring 20's. Ida was the actual inventor of brassiere cups and designed bras for every female figure from budding teens to the mature matron.
You wouldn't expect to see a mention of billionaire Howard Hughes here, would you?
Hughes used his aeronautical engineering knowledge to take an unknown starlet, Jane Russell, and turn her into an overnight star. Hughes designed a bra that took Russell's chesty assets and put them fully in the face of all gawking America.
Century-Fox had cancelled the agreement for Hughes to allow them to release 'The Outlaw'. Critics that had already seen it were panning it left and right. Censors were having a fit about Jane's breasts being overexposed due to Hughes' wonderfully inventive brassiere improvements. Millions of dollars stood to be lost.
Hughes had all his managers start a chain reaction of calling ministers, women's clubs and housewives telling them about the 'lewd picture' Hughes was about to release starring Jane Russell. They responded by protesting and wildly trying to have the film banned -- just the publicity Hughes needed to turn around the entire profit system and have the most incredible publicity machine in full gear. It was the bra that saved Hollywood.
Over the years, other innovations have been added to the basic bra such as the use of uplifting elastic, uses of lace and other elastics within the fabric.
Recent developments have surfaced in the health field. Some researchers say that full-time bra wearers are 21 times more likely to develop breast cancer than their non-bra wearing counterparts. The reasoning behind this is limiting of the functioning of the lymphatic system and the decreased removal of toxins from the breasts. This study was sharply criticized for not taking into consideration lifestyle differences such as smoking, alcohol, weight, etc.
Statistics show the average American woman owns six bras. Out of those six, one of is a strapless bra and one is a color other than white.