One of the most important pieces of vintage underwear is the bra. For thousands of years, women were in need of something to support, lift, shape and separate their breasts. As far back as 2500 B.C., woman on the island of Crete sported garments similar to bras to lift their breasts outside of their clothes. In 450 A.D, things began to change. To cover their breasts, Greek and Roman used tunics, but they offered no support. As time progressed, Greek and Roman women would wrap and flatten their breasts to minimize the size of them. During the 1550s, the French came up with steel corsets. During the period of the 1550s to the 1800s, the corset became the main form of breast support. Corsets worked to shrink the waist and lift a woman’s breast.
Soon the corset began to become a piece of vintage underwear. Corsets were causing damage to women’s internal organs and many women were anxious for reform. They got the answer to their cries in several ways. In 1863, Luman L. Chapman created an alternative to the corset with shoulder brace straps and breast puffs. Thirty years later, Marie Tucek created the “breast supporter”. Much like the bra of today, this new breast support invention had shoulder straps that could be hooked shut in the back. In 1904, the brassiere became the front runner for breast support. This boned camisole was used to help stabilize a woman’s breasts.
In 1913, Mary Phelps Jacob helped revolutionize the breast support business by creating the very first bra. She accomplished this by attaching two silk handkerchiefs with ribbons. They became such a hot commodity that Jacob decided to patent the idea of her backless bra. William and Ida Rosenthal further revolutionized the bra when they introduced cup sizes. Seven years later the A to D sizing system was created.