History of Bras: Part 3~ Ancient To 1915

Who would think that Lara Croft would be retro? Film and TV have a way of capturing styles, no matter how old, and altering them into a modern fashion statement. It seems that everyone talks about Mary Phelphs-Jacobs patented bra in 1914, but what most people don't realize is that women were wearing bras back in the Cretan times. The bra image (below right) looks like something start out of Tomb Raider or something that a female gladiator would be wearing in Spartacus.

Thanks to Fashion-Era for the following post about early Bras.

Vogue Reports the First Brassiere 1907

Bra fashion history began as far back as Cretan times, but 1907, was the year when the word brassiere was first reported in an American copy of Vogue. The original French meaning was support, but the word was out of use and the French chose to call a bra soutien-gorge. Cretan women wore bras thousands of years ago. Picture of the healthier Reform Bodice, back and front. In England bust improvers were available in the Edwardian period. By 1905 BBs as they were known were usual wear. (Right - Reform Bodice Bra)

This is the early supposedly healthier Reform Bodice bra with mesh net cups that gave virtually no support.

Early Brassières Pre~1915

Most of the major designers of the era have tried to lay claim to designing the first bra. Poiret probably had the strongest claim. Picture of simple wrap bra camisole. What is certain, is that all the designers promoted a simple breast retaining garment as better for the newer simple straight dress styles.

In the costume history of bras these early bras were similar to camisoles tops of the 1980s and 1990s. Initially at the turn of the 20th century even the word camisole was used too, but replaced by 'Bust Bodice' by 1905. (Above Left - Wrap around camisole style bra.)

In her bra history book 'Bras', Rosemary Hawthorne tells of her collection of brassières and of one that is stamped ' Brassiere. Model 441, British Made ', then of another 2-3 years older marked 'LA CYBELE' (No 18 British Made)'. By 1915 the magazine 'The Lady' recorded pretty bust bodices or brassieres as essential wear. Rosemary Hawthorne's bra history book is very informative and she often describes genuine examples of bras, corsets and girdles she has collected or has had donated to her.