Wearing a bra has been a painful necessity since the 16th century. If you are like me, taking your bra off at the end of the day is the first thing you do when you get home. Why are bras still a necessity? Who invented them and why? In this post, I will provide you with the history of the bra, figure out how they came to be, why we still wear them and recommend the most comfortable, supportive ones on the market today.
History of the Bra
The predecessor to the bra was the corset an even more painful necessity during the 16th century. According to Wikipedia, “In the 16th century AD, undergarments were worn by wealthy women in the western world. The corset was meant to train the body to be more erect and to support the breasts by shifting their weight to the rib cage.” It sounds painful. The combination of medical experts who were concerned about the long-term effects of corsetry and the feminist movement which sought liberation from wearing these painful devices ended the corsetry era. Thank God.
“In the latter part of the 19th century, women experimented with various alternatives such as splitting the corset into a girdle-like shaping device for the lower torso and transferring the upper part to devices suspended from the shoulder.” By the 20th century, bras became common for all women – used with and without a girdle.
So there you have it. All of the earliest patents for bras are owned by men. Inventing the modern bra was another way men control women – this time with their undergarments.
It wasn’t until the 1920’s that bras went from flattening breasts to lifting them. These early models were invented by women forming companies like Maidenform. In the 1940’s conical-shaped bras were all the rage as worn by starlets Lauren Bacall and Jane Weiman.
Underwires were used from the 1940s until today as a way to take the weight off the shoulder straps while still lifting the breast. But women tend to find them uncomfortable and having metal against your breast 12 hours a day became a questionable health issue. Due to consumer demand, bras have once again been reformulated with more wireless bra options.
When we talk about bras today, it is a whole different ballgame. Women are disrupting the bra market by starting their own companies since they consume lingerie and know what feels right and what doesn’t. Their sole goal is to make quality bras that provide coverage, support, and comfort – no pain allowed. And these companies have been disrupting market share from the behemoth companies like Victoria’s Secret (owned by a man) which has closed 25% of its stores.
Instead, women are happy to shop online for bras, shapewear, and lingerie where they can order a style or two in varying sizes and try them on in the privacy of their own home and return what doesn’t work. The following brands do not cause pain and are all available online only.
Some Suggested Bras To Try for Support and Comfort
Honeylove at honeylove.com @honeylove. Their bestseller is their “V Neck Bra.” Their site says it is “so comfortable you’ll forget you are wearing it.” The company was founded by a woman named Betsy Larkin who was a vocalist and couldn’t find a bra that was both comfortable and supportive, so she invented one. They serve all body types and also make shapewear as well.
Another female-founded brand is Negative Underwear, https://negativeunderwear.com/ @negativeunderwear. They define themselves as providing “uncomplicated, considered, minimal luxury.” And it’s true; bras used to be quite complicated which meant more painful straps and closures rubbing up against your skin. Simplicity is king in this market, but it needs to provide the right amount of support.
Their Sieve bra does all it says and comes in different fabrics and 3 colors to suit your needs
Another newer company by the name of Third Love, https://www.thirdlove.com @thirdlove, whose best-selling bras have underwire. However, they promise that the memory foam cups and pleated straps make it extremely comfortable and seamless for wearing under T-Shirts. They also make wireless bras like the Smoothing V Neck wireless Bra pictured below.
I’ll admit I gave in and tried Kim Kardashian’s line called Skims, https://www.skims.com @skims. They have the largest assortment of bras and shapewear by far of any of the aforementioned companies. They offer 7 bra styles and the widest range of colors and fabrics within each style. Their fabric quality is excellent. In addition, the line is very female-focused making sure that fabric weight and sheerness are factored into each style. Here are just some you can choose from.
The good news is there are dozens more female-founded companies disrupting the lingerie market and making bras that are no longer painful to wear. Those that are owned by women are succeeding because who better to understand what a woman needs from a bra than a woman?