25 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Bra

Should you wear a bra? A 15-year French study says no. The study says bras make your boobs sag. Others propose that bras make your breasts look perky, protect you during exercise, and make you feel secure. But do you know everything there is to know about your bra?  

If you’re considering making the bouncy leap into the bra-less world, we’ve got tips. (Not just those kind, either.) We’ve also got bra facts, fit advice, updates, and the history of the bra. Just in case you want to be the designated bra knowledge keeper on your trivia team.  

Your breasts are your buddies. And much to your grandma’s horror, we may be entering the era of side boob and full-on nipples right out there in the open as an every day occurrence. There will be a day where breasts will fail to shock in America. Until then, we’ve got Sweden and France.  

Bra-less may be nice, but if you play sports, want to keep your breasts in place, like to enhance them, or you’re a big hugger, you probably want to strap one on. Choosing the right fit and style is an important part of a woman’s fashion. It can make a huge difference in how you feel. So choose well.  

Bra or no bra, here’s to the girls. Let’s celebrate them with a few bra facts. Maybe afterwards, you’ll be able to determine if you should wear a bra or not

$16 Billion Was Spent on Bras Worldwide in 2014

Considering that the average woman owns nine bras, wears six, and is always looking for a better fit, big time bra sales makes sense.  

 

American Boobs Have Gotten Bigger

Today’s average bust size is 36C, which has increased from a 34B over the past 15 years. Wonder why?  

Source: The Laughing Stork

Mary Phelps Jacob Invented Her Version of the Bra Because She Was Sick of Her Corset

The first bra was patented on Nov. 3, 1914 by a young woman.  

Nineteen-year-old Mary Phelps Jacob didn’t want to wear a corset to a debutante ball, a garment she called “boxlike armor of whalebone and pink cordage.” She created a backless brassiere as a substitute. “[The first bra] was basically just two handkerchiefs sewn together, and the bias of the fabric created sort of cups,” says Lynn Boorady, fashion and textile technology chair and associate professor at Buffalo State University. “But it was lightweight [and you would] tie it around your neck. It looks like a halter top bikini, I guess, but not quite so conforming.”

Women may have worn Jacob’s bra at home, but they still felt the societal pressure of wearing their corsets outside of the house. Jacob would change her name to Caresse Crosby (sure, why not) and didn’t pursue any kind of profits from her invention. She sold the patent for her bra to The Warner Brothers Corset Company in Bridgeport, Conn. for $21,000.

Her famous quote about her invention: “I can’t say the brassiere will ever take as great a place in history as the steamboat. But I did invent it.”

That fact is under dispute and many experts agree that the true inventor of the bra is Herminie Cadolle. More about her on this list. 

A French Scientific Study Found That Wearing a Bra Makes Your Boobs Saggier

So that’s why all of those French actresses have such perky breasts. A study by sports science researcher Jean-Denis Rouillon at the University of Franche-comte found that braless is best. The 15-year study of 330 women, ages 18 to 35, revealed that not wearing a bra had no effect on what gravity naturally does to breasts. “On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra,” Professor Rouillon told France Info in an interview.  

The study found that women gain more tone and supporting breast tissue if no bra was worn. The braless group had a .3 inch-lift in their nipples compared to bra wearers. Bras could possibly hamper circulation and reduce breast tone with time.

British Women Have the Largest Breasts

Nearly 50% of British women wear at least a D cup. The boom in size may be due to obesity or man-made chemicals and food preservatives, evolution, or vanity sizing. God save the queens.  

Source: The Guardian

WWI Made the Bra Popular

War! What is it good for? Making the bra a thing, apparently. Because the metal used in corsets was needed to create materials for the war, the bra had a chance to emerge. The U.S. War Industries Boardused those 28,000 tons of metal to make two battleships. Also, women entered the workforce and the corset wasn’t practical.  

Who Really Invented the Bra? Probably French Feminist Herminie Cadolle

Some form of the bra has been around since the ancient Greeks, but there is confusion and controversy about who invented it in the modern age. 

Marie Tucek had a version in 1863. It had supporting cups and shoulder straps and was about lift and not coverage as you can see in the diagram. Early bras had a similar design where the point was lifting and not covering the breasts.

Clara P. Clark had an “improved corset” in 1874 that looked much like today’s long-line bra. The design featured a breast pocket system held up by shoulder straps that crisscrossed in the back.

Olivia P. Flynt’s version in 1876 was a bust supporter. Her garment wrapped around the torso, supporting each breast with a fabric pocket. It had shoulder straps that looked more like they belonged on a blouse, rather than the straps of other designs.

In 1885, Charles Moorehouse created an inflatable breast enlargement design with air-filled rubber cups that held each breast.

The largest consensus among experts agree that French feminist Herminie Cadolle actually invented the modern bra in 1889. She sold French underwear in Argentina. Her business was so successful that she traveled the world and was inspired to create something more comfortable than the corset. Her great-great-granddaughter, Poupie Cadolle, still owns and runs Cadolle in Paris.

What about Otto Titzlinger and Philippe Brassiere? There’s more about those guys on this list.

Cup Sizing Was Invented in 1928 by Ida and William Rosenthal

Will Rosenthal and his wife Ida also invented a breast supporter in the 1920s. They were the first to measure the linear measurement around the ribcage under the breasts and the cup size, measured in volume.  An A-sized cup is equal to 8 fluid ounces, a B cup is 13 ounces, a C cup is 21 ounces, and a D cup is 27 ounces. Their sizing method is still in use today across the U.S.

Source: National Geographic 

Women Have Been Wearing Bras for Thousands of Years

The women of Crete wore bras in 2500 BC. The bra-like corset lifted breasts up and was called a mastoeides or “shaped like a breast.” Roman women wore bandages around their breasts to play sports.  

Bust improvers, a kind of padded structured bra, were worn in 1840. They were also known as cuties, bosom friends, waxen bosoms, lemon loves, pneumatic breasts, and falsies – all great band names.

There was also a reform bodice bra, a kind of healthier bra with mesh net cups that didn’t really give support but it was better than the metal corset.

Sources: Fashion EraFact Monster

Flat Was Phat in 1918

The boyish styles of Chanel and other designers required ladies to wrap their chests from 1918 well into the roaring ’20s.  

The Symington Side Lacer helped flatten the chest to accommodate those fashions. The reinforced bust bodice cinched the chest in tight. Around this time, the word brassière was abandoned for the word bra.

Source: Fashion Era

Dunlop Chemists Transformed Latex in to Materials for the Bra in the ‘30s

Rubber had not yet been turned into clothing, so Dunlop chemists came up with an elastic thread that was knitted and woven into washable fabric.  

Source: Fashion Era

The Kestos Bra Was Queen in the 1930s

The Kestos Utility Bra had two distinctive cups made of quality cotton and lace. It’s still a popular design and versions of it are seen in fashion today.  

WWII Helped Create Utility Bras with Minimal Material

Once again, bras were affected by the war effort. As materials were needed to create products for the military, bra design was scaled down to require minimal fabric. They were called “utility bras” and were made of broche, a cotton-backed satin or drill. They usually came in pink or peach, and were popular well beyond the war, into the 1950s. The largest manufacturer of utility bras was Twilfit.  

Source: Fashion Era

No One Really Burned Their Bras in the ’60s

As part of their protest for equal rights, women freaked out the “Establishment” by burning their bras… or so the story goes. In reality, though, a ton of women didn’t burn their bras. Only a few bra burnings ever took place. It was a symbol of not being constrained by a male-dominated society and a push for equal pay, treatment, and other essential human rights. The dramatic protests or “zap actions” were designed to bring attention to women’s rights and jump start new ideas.  

Contrary to popular belief, feminists did not burn bras at the 1968 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. The protesters carried signs that read, “Let’s judge ourselves as people” and they did crown a sheep as Miss America. They also dumped cosmetics, girdles, and bras into a “freedom trashcan,” but nothing was lit on fire.

Author Susan Brownmiller explains where the bra burning rumor started. “That’s a myth. It was the time of draft-card burning, and some smart headline writer decided to call it a ‘bra burning’ because it sounded insulting to the then-new women’s movement. We only threw a bra symbolically in a trash can.”

Source: Snopes

Women Who Worked in Factories Wore the SAF-T-BRA During WWII

We’re not sure if Rosie the Riveter was sporting one of these hard plastic protective bras under her shirt, but women who worked in factories certainly did. This lady worker is showing hers off.

Source: Bust

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    You Can Recycle or Donate Your bra

    Before you toss that bra into the bin, there are lots of ways to recycle her. Bras for a Cause supports breast cancer survivors. The Bra Recyclers’ purpose is to recycle 95% of the textiles from bras and donate 45% of it to charity.  

    Source: Glamour

    Women Made Their Own Bras from Patterns in the ‘40s

    Sisters were doing it for themselves during the ‘40s, as materials were scare and being reserved for the war effort. Using patterns and guidelines from magazines, they made bras from parachute silk and nylon or old satin wedding dresses.  

    Source: Fashion Era

    American Vogue Used the Word Brassiere in 1907

    Brassiere is French for support. However, the French called the bra soutien-gorge. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?

    Edwardian Women Called Bras “BBs”

    The bust bodice would be called a “BB” by 1905. 

    Source: Fashion Era

    Wearing Bras Doesn’t Cause Cancer, No Matter What Some People Say

    The American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen Foundation have dismissed the connection between bras and cancer. Yet some, like medical anthropologists Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, damned those dismissals. Their book Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras claims that women who wear bras are 125 times more likely to develop breast cancer.They also state that women who only wear bras during the day have a lesser chance of developing breast cancer, but braless is best. So who do you believe? We’ll still with the real doctors on this one. Bras may make your boobs sag, but they WON’T cause cancer.

    The Myth of Otto Titzling and Philippe de Brassiere

    Here’s the popular but false factoid about Tizling and Brassiere, perpetuated by a smart aleck writer:  

    Titzling lived in a New York Boarding house. He created a bra for his voluptuous neighbor, Swanhilda Ofason. He used cotton, elastic, and metal struts. He didn’t patent his invention. Frenchman Philippe dd Brassiere patented a garment that looked suspiciously like Titzlinger’s in 1930. The way this whole thing got started was with a satiric book written by Wallace Reyburn in 971 called Bust-Up: The Uplifting Tale of Otto Titzling and the Development of the Bra.

    Sources: Snopes

    You Can Go Bra-less Without Shocking Society

    Let’s say you work in a conservative environment and you still want to eschew the boulder holder. Wear layers. An undershirt, camisole, sweater, a scarf over your top, a jacket, or a sleeveless vest will hide your free lady parts nicely. You can also wear a top with a built-in lining. Crop tops are also a good option. There’s also the bralette.  

    Or don’t. Let those puppies fly, girl. Find your inner Rihanna. 

    The Bralette Is a Hybrid of the Camisole and a Thinner Bra

    Bralettes offer a good alternative to the full-on bra. Plus-size bralettes may be a good option for fuller sized-breasts, especially when it’s warm out.  

    There Are Lots of Advantages to Going Bra-less

    Here’s a handy list:

    You can wear backless shirts.
    No Wires!
    Science says you get perkier boobs.
    No bra marks!
    It’s way more comfortable!
    It helps you be more discerning about who you hug.

    Getting the Right Bra Fit Is Important

    Buying a bra off the shelf may work for some, but the truth is, the majority of us are doing it wrong.  

    Eight out of ten women are wearing the wrong sized bra. You have to try the bra on, but most importantly, an expert, or fitter, can help you choose the right bra for you. Even if you only get sized every couple of years, the fitter will help you choose the right fit for maximum comfort.

    You can then take that information with you to shop anywhere. They can also help you find a new fit after a mastectomy or other major changes to your breasts. You can usually find bra fitters at major department stores such as Nordstroms, Bloomingdale’s, etc.