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Who Really Invented Bras and Why?

Let's investigate: Who is the true brain behind the bra? Find out the intriguing answer!

Who Really Invented Bras and Why?

The History of Bras: Who Invented Them and Why?

Bras are an essential part of women's clothing today. They offer support, comfort, and confidence to women of all shapes and sizes. But have you ever wondered who invented this remarkable undergarment and why? In this article, we will delve into the fascinating history of bras and explore how they have evolved over time.


Bras are designed to support a woman's breasts and provide lift and shaping. They are an important part of modern fashion and have been an essential piece of women's clothing since the early 20th century. Today, there is a wide variety of bras available, from push-up bras to sports bras, nursing bras to strapless bras, and everything in between. But the history of bras stretches back much further than you might think.

Ancient Bra-like Garments

The history of bras goes back to ancient times. In fact, the first bras were not even called "bras" - they were more like bandeaus or breastbands. The ancient Greek women, for example, used a garment called the "apodesmos" to cover and support their breasts. This was a long strip of cloth that was wrapped around the torso and tied at the back, much like a modern sports bra. The Roman women also wore a similar garment, the "mamillare," which was a kind of breastband made from leather or linen. These early bra-like garments were mostly used by women who were involved in sports or physical activity, and they provided some support and protection to the breasts.

The Modern Bra: A Revolutionary Invention

The modern bra, as we know it today, was invented in the early 20th century. Before the bra, women wore corsets to shape and support their bodies. But the corset was uncomfortable, impractical, and often caused health problems for women. In 1913, a New Yorker named Mary Phelps Jacob invented the first modern bra, which she called the "backless brassiere." Her design was made of two handkerchiefs and a ribbon, and it was designed to be more comfortable and practical than the corset. Jacob eventually patented her invention in 1914 and sold it to the Warner Brothers Corset Company for $1,500. Other inventors followed in Jacob's footsteps. In the 1920s, the "flapper" craze led to the popularity of the flattening bra, which was designed to give women a more boyish figure. In the 1930s, the push-up bra was introduced, which was designed to enhance a woman's cleavage. By the 1950s, bras had become an essential part of every woman's wardrobe. New materials were used to make bras, including nylon, elastic, and spandex. Different styles and designs were introduced, such as the underwire bra and the padded bra. Today, there are bras for every occasion and every body type, and they continue to be an important element of modern fashion.


In conclusion, the history of bras is a fascinating journey that spans centuries. From the ancient Greeks and Romans to the modern bra, this undergarment has evolved to become an indispensable part of women's clothing. Whether you wear a push-up bra for a night out or a sports bra for a workout, the bra is an essential part of your wardrobe. And we have Mary Phelps Jacob to thank for starting this revolution almost a century ago.

Why the Bra Was Invented

Throughout history, women's clothing has been restricting and uncomfortable, with the goal of achieving a certain shape or silhouette. This was particularly true when it came to undergarments. Before the bra was invented, women wore corsets, which were constructed from rigid materials and tightly laced to cinch the waist and push up the breasts. The practice of wearing corsets dates back to ancient Greece and has been a common garment for centuries. However, corsets were not only uncomfortable, but they also posed serious health risks. They caused difficulty in breathing and digestion and could even deform the rib cage.

The Struggle for Comfort

As women began to participate more in society, they needed a garment that would allow them to move and breathe freely. This led to the invention of the bra. The first bra was invented in 1914 by Mary Phelps Jacob, who was frustrated with the discomfort and unattractive appearance of corsets. She constructed a prototype by sewing together two handkerchiefs and a ribbon, which she then wore under a negligee to a social event. The design was so successful that she patented it the following year. Her design was less restrictive than the corset and allowed women to have more agency and confidence.

Soon, the bra became a popular alternative to the corset, and with the invention of modern fabrics like synthetic fibers and elastic, the bra became even more comfortable and functional. In the 1930s, cups were added to the design, providing more support and shaping. The bra continued to evolve over the next several decades, with innovations like the push-up bra, sports bra, and strapless bra providing women with even more options for their specific needs and preferences.

The Rise of Feminism

The bra became popular during a time of great social change, especially in regards to women's rights and liberation. Women were entering the workforce in larger numbers and were actively seeking more control over their own lives. Feminist movements during the 1960s and 1970s urged women to break free from societal conventions that defined their roles as subservient to men. Many activists saw the bra as a symbol of oppression and argued that it restricted female movement and enforces patriarchal ideals of beauty and sexuality. Some even burned their bras in protest.

The Bra as a Symbol of Female Empowerment

While some feminists chose to reject the bra entirely, others saw it as an opportunity for empowerment. The bra was transformed from an uncomfortable necessity to a fashion statement. In the 1980s, Madonna famously wore bras as outerwear in her music videos and performances, emphasizing the bra as not just an undergarment, but a fashion accessory. The lingerie industry took note and began to market bras as objects of desire and luxury. This shift in perception allowed women to take control of how they presented themselves and to embrace their sexuality on their own terms.

Today, the bra is seen as a symbol of choice and empowerment. Women have the freedom to decide whether they want to wear a bra or not, and there are numerous styles and designs for every body type and preference. While some might argue that the bra is still a tool of patriarchal oppression, many women see it as a means of self-expression and confidence.

In conclusion, the bra was invented out of necessity for comfort and freedom of movement. As it evolved, it became a symbol of both oppression and liberation. Despite its mixed associations, the bra remains an important part of women's fashion and self-expression.

The Evolution of Bra Design

Bras have been an essential undergarment for women around the world since time immemorial. However, the evolution of bra design has come a long way from the corsets of the 16th and 17th centuries to the wireless, adjustable bras that we have today.

Let's take a look at the different types of bras that have come about throughout history.

The Push-Up Bra

The push-up bra, also known as the contour or padded bra, has been an important innovation in the world of bra design. This type of bra features padded inserts or cups that create the illusion of a fuller bust.

The origins of the push-up bra can be traced back to the 1930s when Lethbridge, a Canadian company, created a bra with an elastic band that lifted the breasts and accentuated their shape. However, it wasn't until the 1960s that the Wonderbra was invented, which helped popularize the push-up bra.

The Wonderbra gained worldwide attention in the 1990s with its "Hello Boys" ad campaign featuring supermodel Eva Herzigova, and it became one of the most popular bra brands in the world. Today, push-up bras have become a staple in many women's lingerie collections, although they have also faced controversy over their potential to sexualize women's bodies.

Sports Bras and Bralettes

While push-up bras have been a fashionable choice for many women, sports bras and bralettes have been essential for women who are active or want comfortable alternatives to traditional bras.

The first sports bra was invented in 1977 by Lisa Lindahl, Hinda Miller, and Polly Smith. They created the "Jogbra," a bra made from two jockstraps sewn together, to provide support for their breasts while working out. The Jogbra paved the way for other brands to create sports bras that could meet different women's needs, whether for high-impact activities or low-impact yoga sessions.

Another recent trend in bra design is the bralette, which has become popular for its comfort and versatility. A bralette is essentially a bra without underwire or molded cups, and they come in various styles, such as lacy bralettes, cropped bralettes, and strappy bralettes. Bralettes offer a comfortable, casual look that can be worn as a crop top, under a sheer blouse, or with low-cut dresses.

Modern Innovations

Bra design has continued to evolve as technology advances and companies focus on creating bras that cater to different body types and needs. Some of the latest innovations in bra design include wireless bras, adjustable bras, and bras that incorporate breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics.

Wireless bras, as the name suggests, do not have any underwire, and instead rely on stretchy fabric and wide, supportive bands to offer lift and support. Adjustable bras, on the other hand, come with adjustable straps, bands, and cups, which allow women to customize their bra fit. This is especially important for women with different breast sizes or those who may experience changes in their breast size throughout a menstrual cycle or pregnancy.

Finally, some bra brands have focused on creating bras that cater to different body types, such as plus-size bras or nursing bras for breastfeeding mothers.

In conclusion, bras have come a long way from the corsets of the past. Today, there are a variety of bra styles to choose from, and the design continues to evolve as the needs and preferences of women change. Whether it's a push-up bra, a sports bra, or a wireless bra, women can now find a bra that suits their unique body type and lifestyle.

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