Derived from the french word meaning upper arm, the brassiere is a mass-produced support undergarment worn by women that consists of two fabric cups attached to two side panels, a back panel, and shoulder straps (unless strapless) that fits snugly. They are sized according to a universal grading system first introduced by Ida Rosenthal, the founder of Maidenform, in 1928. Two measurements are crucial to determining bra size: the chest circumference and the fullest part of the breast.
History of Brassieres
Prior to the advent of the modern bra, a term coined in 1937, corsets were the only support garments available. Originally fashioned with whalebones, the one-piece corset was made popular by Catherine de Medici's demand for slim-waisted court attendants during her husband's—King Henri II—reign in France in the 1550s. The corset's popularity was withstanding and lasted over 350 years, with whalebone being replaced by steel rods. The corset design changed to accommodate the reigning ideal figure, pushing bust and hips around according to the fashionable silhouette.
In the late nineteenth century, several precursors to the modern bra were developed. In 1875, a loose, unionsuit was manufactured by George Frost and George Phelps. During this period, corsets were lengthened to produce the fashionable figure type, the top of the corset dropped low, often not supporting or covering the breasts. As added support, fabric undergarments called bust bodices were worn over the corset to cover and shape the breasts (by pushing them together but not separating them), somewhat similar to the modern brassiere. In 1889, a Frenchwoman named Mme. Herminie Cadolle devised the a garment called the Bien-Etre (meaning well-being), which connected with sashes over the shoulders to the corset in back.
Early in the twentieth century, the need for a less obtrusive undergarment became necessary as the fashions changed. In 1913, the modern brassiere was born out of necessity when New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacobs' whalebone corset poked up above her low cut gown. Fashioned from silk hanker-chiefs and ribbons, the mechanism proved useful and Jacobs filed the first patent for a brassiere and began producing brassieres under the name Caresse Crosby. Jacobs sold the patent and business to Warner Brothers Corset Company .
What is a Bra/Bracier?
A bra is made from approximately 12 x pieces of fabric, 2 x foam cups, 2 x underwires, 2 x sliders, 2 x rings and 1 set of hook and eye closures. It can take 6 months for a bra to be developed from design stage to pre-production (sometimes more), with up to 50 highly skilled people working on countless prototypes and with components coming from perhaps as many as 6 different countries. The bra has also led to many highly technical innovations from the hook and eye closure to (more recently) “spacer foam”.