The Humble Bra – Part 3
In the 1950s, in a post-war society, women wanted glamour – and lots of it. After years of deprivation due to World War II, fashionable women emulated Hollywood stars who wore uplifting bras that seemed to achieve the impossible. Berlei, Triumph and Maidenform were big players in the manufacture and sale of quality bras that were not only functional but beautiful as well. The style of the time was for a pointed, circular, conical shape. “Sweater Girls” like Lana Turner and Jayne Mansfield, and clever advertising, inspired everyday women to pay close attention to the appearance of their breasts under clothing.
In the 1960s, bras were well designed to look good under knitted dresses. Rubber parts were eliminated and Lycra fittings became the norm. Then when Yves Saint Laurent showcased a sheer blouse worn with no bra, feminists responded with ire and demanded women burn their bras. In reality, bras were not actually burned (except as publicity stunts) and most women did not abandon their bras, though attitudes to their wear did relax somewhat. Bras became less structured and from 1965, transparent sheer fabrics were sometimes used for their construction. Women who had worn bras to bed now slept braless for the first time in many years.
The pointed shape of the 1950s made way for a more natural look. Then in 1968 the first Wonderbra was produced by Gossard, to lift and enhance cleavage like never before.
Bra slips were also popular in the 1960s: an all-in-one underwired cleavage bra and short mini slip, worn with panties and tights under a mini dress. This was the least women had ever worn!
The 1970s saw bras made seamlessly and in fabrics with colour, prints, and nude tones. The braless, natural look was in vogue. The eighth season of TV show Bewitched, for example, saw Elizabeth Montgomery create a stir as Samantha when she was obviously braless in certain scenes and outfits.
Women in the 1980s became very body conscious and erotic lingerie a la Dynasty and Dallas inspired camisoles, bodysuits and teddies.
Cleavage and shape were again popular in the 1990s and the Wonderbra made a comeback. Bras were at times worn as outerwear by celebrities such as Madonna and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Today there are bras for every circumstance, look, and occasion: sports, maternity, training, strapless, T-shirt, sexy, convertible, plunge, push-up, everyday, novelty, bridal… who knows what the future will bring in bra styling?