Although the tradition of wearing specialized garments to support women’s breasts dates back to ancient Greece, an official patent for the brassiere was filed in France on May 30th, 1889 by Herminie Cadolle, a young seamstress, feminist, and revolutionary.
Cadolle’s design was sparked by the idea of liberating women from the constraints of corsets, which, were very stiff and uncomfortable.
And by “uncomfortable,” we mean it was commonplace for women to faint while wearing them. Not to mention that over time, corsets were designed to narrow women’s waists and were even capable of “rearranging” internal organs.
The new undergarment was revolutionary and supported the breasts with shoulder straps. The brassiere—now, simply referred to as the “bra”— was displayed in Paris at the Great Exposition of 1900 beneath the recently completed Eiffel Tower.
After Cadolle’s initial patent, countless other designs were patented in Europe and the United States. Unfortunately, the corset wouldn’t completely disappear from use for several more decades.
The first American patent for the bra was filed in 1914 by Mary Phelps Jacob, a New York City socialite, who was fed up with corsets constructed out of whalebone. She called her design the “backless brassiere.” This design would be the first to be widely used.
Interestingly, it was World War I that gave corsets their final blow—metal was needed for tanks and munitions and couldn’t be spared for making lingerie. The halting of corset production saved the U.S. War Industries Board an extra 28,000 tons of metal, which was enough to make two battleships.
Since Cadolle’s design, men and women alike have enjoyed the bountiful benefits of the bra. From the bullet bras of the 50’s, the sports bra, and the Wonderbra (you’re welcome).
A little known fact you may not know, whether bars are harmful to the wearer is unknown, but they can be lethal to others.