To some, it signifies sexual liberation or not liberation and to others its a friendly or not that friendly support for the wooblybags. Some are OK with talking about it and others well, not so much. Irrespective of cultural interpretation or personal opinion and circumstances, bras have been a part of everyone’s life. The modern day lingerie which makes retailers happy also has a very fascinating story behind it.
Although the evolution of bras began during the early 1820’s there has been evidence of lingerie found at Lengberg Castle in Austria. This medieval longline bra(as shown in picture) was carbon dated all the way back to the early 14th century.
The early trends(we’re talking 196 years ago) started from silhouettes to the hourglass form which later transformed into the hoop skirt(Why?). From 1890’s the lingerie world was all about the corsets. The evolution of the corset initially began with skirt supporters which then advanced to a battery powered corset. The trends then moved on to what I’d like to call -the demon spawn corset aka the wasp waist corset which was unbearably tight because who needs to breathe properly? not the women from the 1890’s I suppose. The later advancements were mostly added elements to the corsets like lace and metal eyelets.
In 1910, Mary Phelps Jacob(the real MVP) designed the bra which consisted of two handkerchiefs with a ribbon tie. From the 1920’s to the 1940’s we can see changes in the aesthetics ranging from voluptuous to boyish. Later there was a focus to display androgynous figures which then returned to a more feminine aesthetic. In 1933, the Full-Fashion Double Support Bra came into popularity which consisted of an extended band for added support(we got that extended band after 113 years).
A distinct trend can be noted by observing the 1940’s when women would paint seams down the back of their legs in order to give the illusion of stockings, this happened due to shortage in World War 2 supplies. The cup size was also created at this time which was later adopted as the industrial standard.
The push up bra was designed by Frederic Mellinger in 1947 which radically changed the scene for lingerie as the emphasis began to shift to glamour. In 1960’s women would burn their bras as a display of defiance and non-conformity.
In 1977, Roy Raymond opened Victoria’s secret because he felt uncomfortable shopping for lingerie. Lingerie was advertised as something that’s sexual, provocative, sultry and bold. Madonna’s cone bra which was designed by Jean Paul Gaulter was considered as the icon of the decade.
By 2000 it was hard to tell if someone’s outfit consisted of underwear or outerwear. This year is also special because a little,sweet and innocent thong was designed(good or bad? you decide). Later trends included super fitted bodycon dresses and see through dresses. In 2015 the ‘sporty chic’ began to trend and the rest is now as we know it.
If we put things into perspective we learn that lingerie was only socially acceptable and readily available until 1955 (135 years later). Old writings suggest that lingerie wasn’t approved of because the writings had complaints and satirical comments on breast enhancements. In terms of present day scenario, a lot of awareness is prevalent on diversity and body positive thinking and the need to include a wider range for women of colour( About time don’t you think?). But in contrast in the 1820’s we’ve come a long long way and I think that you as an individual should be proud of that.
A positive response has been given by men as they interpret lingerie as sexy, shows effort and it’s all about tease to please so why not? Women have various interpretations of wearing lingerie. Some see it as a way to boost self confidence or please their significant other and some are not comfortable in lingerie and that’s OK(because some retailers don’t see range and comfort as important key words and also because it’s her body).
Another development in lingerie trends is the shift from sexy lingerie to comfortable undergarments termed as leisure’e. In a consumer based market, the lingerie yields 13 billion $ and is expected to increase by 3.3% . This has led to a rise in new startups and innovative ways to market lingerie keeping the right size, comfort and variety in mind. These companies include True & Co,Third Love and Negative.
Lingerie have come a long way and so have we as a human civilization. Like it or not, you can actually tell the social behavior of a society based on the design of lingerie. So let’s hope that this 13 billion $ industry will head towards ‘the perfect bra’ that they love to say so often and the world becomes a happier place. If your woman wears a comfy bra, she’ll be happy(at least one of her problems is solved), if she’s happy then she can work better to support her goals and imagine this happening to billions of women around the world. Wouldn’t you like a woman’s smile in the morning?