It’s thought to be the oldest push-up bra in the world and was found after sitting in storage for years at the Science Museum in London! Said to be at least 200 years old, it has shallow conical pads to enhance the cleavage, just like a modern bra!
Since it was common at the time for women to have personal seamstresses, I would guess this was designed and made to a specific customer’s instructions. Early custom-made bra innovations were probably a lot more common than we imagine.
The corset dominated women’s undergarments from the 16th century onwards – but then throughout the 19th century a variety of bra-like devices for restraining and modifying the bosom were invented. Home sewing was extremely fashionable for the “genteel” lady and printed paper patterns were common in most women’s magazines, so it was easy for women to create their own comfortable undergarments. For “at-home-wear” a simple hand-made cami-brassiere would have been an acceptable alternative to the corset, particularly for women with medical conditions. Common ailments of the time such as nausea, bowel displacement, breathlessness, flushing, fainting and gynecological problems were largely blamed on the heavily boned and reinforced corset.
But it was particularly difficult for larger busted women at the beginning of the 20th century when straight fronted corsets became fashionable. Whereas the Victorian corset pushed the breasts upwards and provided support and containment, the new style of corset flattened the bust and left nowhere for it to go!
Hermine Cadolle of France is credited with inventing the first modern bra in 1889, initially appearing as a two piece undergarment, one part was a corset for the waist and the other a “bust support” with shoulder straps named the “corslet-gorge”. She patented her invention and by 1905 the upper half was being sold separately and termed the “soutien-gorge“, the name by which bras are still referred to in France today.
As the period of women’s emancipation began, an increasing interest in sport for women (initially bicycling) made the wearing of the corset impractical and new alternatives were sought. Simple bras were available at that time largely by mail order but made little impact and were essentially only for the wealthy and educated.
In 1910 Mary Phelps, a New York socialite, fashioned a simple bra from two silk scarves and some ribbon. She went on to patent her design as a lightweight comfortable brassiere which “lifted and separated the breasts”. Her husband dissuaded her from expanding this as a business and she went on to sell her patent to Warner’s!
With the onset of the First World War women were encouraged to stop buying corsets to free up metal for war production. Women were finally liberated from 300 years of the corset and in fifteen years the first commercial production of bras would begin.
So instead of making our own bras we can can get comfy bras that feel custom-made from brands like Warner’s, available at Now That’s Lingerie.com!
All information and images fro Wikipedia: History of brassieres – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia