a bra’s life: From corsets to cones, Madonna’s bra touting tours and Mad Men’s “sweater girls,” bras have changed shape with the times

The first rudimentary bra is created in Britain, constructed of wire and silk.

New Yorker Marie Tucek patents the “breast supporter,” an intimate designed with separate pockets for the breasts and straps that lay over the shoulder, fastened by hook and eye closures.

New York Socialite, Mary Phelps Jacob, and her maid, Marie, design a corset alternative. Using two handkerchiefs, some ribbon, and a cord, they fashion a backless bra. A year later she patents the Backless Brassiere under the name Caresse Crosby.

A Russian immigrant, Ida Rosenthal, establishes Maidenform and creates different cup sizes for the first time.

Bra technology advances with the missile or “bullet-shaped” bra which raises and separates breasts. Lana Turner garners the nickname “Sweater Girl” for the form-fitting appearance in They Won’t Forget, a trend later depicted in Emmy Award winning Mad Men.

The “Sweater Girl” trend continues, its peak appearance featured by Hollywood starlets, including Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe.

Poet Robin Morgan and members of the Women’s Liberation Party picket the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, throwing their bras into trash cans as a gesture against women's objectification. Although reported as the first "bra burning," no actual burning took place.

San Francisco makes headlines with “Anti-Bra Day,” where a woman publicly removes her bra as a symbol of women’s liberation.

Athletic girls gain support with the introduction of the Jogbra. The world’s first “sports bra” consists of two male jockstraps sewn together.

Oprah Winfrey hosts a “Bra Intervention,” including herself in the 85% of women wearing the wrong bra size.

2nd Millenium BC
The corset starts as an undergarment of antiquity, worn by Creten women of the Minoan Bronze Age.

French couturier, Paul Poiret, starts designing women’s dresses according to body shape, freeing them of the restrictive corset. That year the term “brassiere” is coined by Vogue magazine.

WWI Industries Board asks women to stop buying corsets to conserve steel.

Bras resemble slightly shaped bandeaus, the bust secured with a clip fastened to the corset. This personifies the “boyish” silhouette of the flapper era, providing little bust definition.

WWII brings another shortage in metals. Synthetic fibers such as nylon are introduced into bra making.

Ida and William Rosenthal patent the bra strap fastener, creating adjustable straps and setting a new, comfortable, standard for bras.

Louise Poirier, a Canadian designer, invents the WonderBra push-up bra, the first underwire bra with side padding designed to uplift and separate the bust.

Material Girl rocks the world. Madonna wears her bra as a top while promoting the tour, furthering bra buzz in the 90s with her controversial cone-shaped style.

The bra celebrates its 100th birthday

2011 Freshpair launches At Home Bra Fitting, bringing world-class advice and service to women’s living rooms and closets.

Through wars and world tours, the bra has evolved from a constrictive undergarment to a comfortable, even eco-friendly, intimate. What is the modern woman’s staple has been a statement making symbol, igniting social and political debates, fueling change, and rocking stadiums. A delicate article of lingerie, the bra is one intimate that packs a punch.