Beginning With The Basic Brassiere
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We must continuously count our blessings we do not live in the century of corsets/brassieres. German designer Christine Hardt patented the first modern brassiere in 1889, which provided more support than the default corset option. Let's all be grateful we don't have to wear metal supports unless you're really feeling that extra wow factor.
Photo: Ladies Home Journal, 1898
Mary Phelps Receives Patent for First Modern Bra
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In 1914, just six years before women gained the right to vote, Mary Phelps Jacob acquired the first patent for what is now considered the modern bra. The backless construction, originally made of silk handkerchiefs, cord and ribbon gained widespread popularity as WW1 approached, though it did not offer as much support as previous whalebone brassiere inventions.
Photo: US Patent and Trademark Office
Flat Freedom for 1920s Flapper Girls
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As the Roaring Twenties began, women began experimenting with fashion trends with feverish intensity. While many young women were eager to wear glittering dresses and chop off all of their locks, they preferred not to show off their bosoms, instead opting for light lingerie pieces with limited padding or bandeau styles.
1930s Fashion Debuts the Two Cup Design
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By the 1930s, most women knew their cup size thanks to the founders of Maidenform. With new innovations including adjustable elastic straps, padded cups and hook and eye closures, the bra industry was receiving a much-needed face (boob) lift.
1947 Introduces the First Ever Push Up Bra
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Frederick Mellinger invented the world's first ever push up bra in 1947, and subsequently launched his international lingerie business. The "Rising Star," Mellinger's first push up creation, aimed to help beautify women's bodies by enhancing their best features.
The 1950s Brings the Birth of the Bullet Bra
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Ah yes, who could forget the bullet bra in the great timeline of boob style? While Madonna wore these pointy beauties well into the '90s, it appears the conical look hasn't enjoyed a true comeback quite yet. You never know, those sharp suckers could come in handy for self defense!
The 1950s Introduces the Training Bra
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Obvious sexism aside, it's a bit surprising training bras didn't hit the mass market until the 1950s. Can you imagine donning one of those perky pieces for a double date to the drive-in movie theater?
The 1960s Celebrates Flirty, Lively Bras
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As liberal social movements and mod styles dominated fashion trends of the Sixties, it was only natural women wanted more from their bras. Distinct bra styles started to emerge in the marketplace, and brands such as Maidenform started to make undergarments specifically for teens. Pretty groovy, right?
Multiple Styles Emerge For Every Woman In The '60s
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Given the sexual and free love revolutions of the '60s, some women refused to wear bras and lingerie as they once had. Popular brands such as Maidenform had to heavily market their new products to attempt to attract their lost demographic.
The 1975 Wonderbra Emphasizes Natural Feminity
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Typically, timely undergarment styles reflect society's values concerning feminine dress. During the '70s, simplicity reigned supreme, and the Wonderbra helped emphasize feminine assets without unnecessary exaggeration.
Photo: Mattnad at English Wikipedia
The Sports Bra Runs Into the 1970s
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It's hard to imagine life without a sports bra. How else would we be able to participate in our favorite hard-hitting excercises comfortably? In 1977, Hinda Miller, Lisa Lindahl and Polly Palmer-Smith invented the Jogbra, forever revolutionizing women's competitive sports.
Photo: Smithsonian National Museum of American History
1980s Workout Crazes Further the Sports Bra
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We've all seen (or even tried) a classic '80s aerobic workout––and we'd be lying if we also didn't secretly envy that neon athletic apparel. After the Jogbra burst onto the market in the late '70s, women demanded more support and color options for their challenging sports pursuits, furthering the female competitive edge.
Photo: Jogbra, Inc. Smithsonian Archives Center
Camisoles All The Rage In The 1980s
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As women started to become more active and power suits (with the shoulder pads, of course) became the dressing norm, camisoles emerged on the marketplace as the underwear option of choice. The silky, free-flowing fabrics added sex appeal while still providing adequate support for every woman.
The '90s Promotes Sleek and Chic Styles
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As the last decade of the 20th century began, high fashion started to exert its influence on the lingerie industry. Gone were the days of comfort and convenience. Lacy statement bras dominated ads and clothing racks in department stores.
Photo: Vintage Ad Browser, Gucci
Athleisure Lingerie Arrives in the '90s
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Calvin Klein famously stirred controversy and sold thousands of briefs and bras during the brand's heyday in the '90s. CK-branded underwear defined the athleisure trend so many women lusted after, even to this day.
Photo: Fashion Gone Rogue, Calvin Klein
The 2000s Creates the T-Shirt Bra
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What better way to kick off the 21st century than with a brand new bra? Victoria's Secret, the world's most popular lingerie chain, introduced this iconic bra style in the early 2000s, and thousands of American women own at least one or two in their undergarment entourage.
Photo: Victoria's Secret
The 2010s Bralette Frenzy
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What do you get when you combine a faux bra and cami? One answer is the bralette––the current bra trend sweeping the nation, one chest at a time. While bralettes do not offer the same support as your typical boob holders, they sure are super cute and make wearing any top a cinch.