Fashion history has shown that by the 1950s glamour
was what women wanted most. They had been deprived in the war and they had seen
the Hollywood stars that had uplift that almost reached their necks. Brand names
like Maidenform, Berlei, Triumph and the British
Marks & Spencer bras under
the St. Michael label all sold excellent bras that
gave the correct pointed circular stitched conical shape of the era.
Right - 1950's Stitched Longline Cone Bra.
The conical bra was the
bra that gave
the support silhouette for girls who longed to emulate the curves of
film star sweater girls like Lana Turner and Jane Russell. Bra history changed
for the better as bras began to be revolutionized by
the use of nylon, making them lighter, prettier and easier to wash.
See 1950's Bra Adverts here.
By the 1960s well
designed bras by
Exquisite Form, Berlei, Twilfit, Lovable, Silhouette, Playtex and the
Marks & Spencer St. Michael
thought ideal under knitted sweater dresses.
Soon Elastomerics transformed
foundation garments with power net fabric. Early styling found in bra history
became out of tune with modern sixties bra design. The old elastic bra backs and straps were replaced by
the newer Courtauld's Spanzelle or Lycra fittings. Overstretched rotted rubber bits
that made bras lose their grip were gone forever.
When Yves St. Laurent
designed a sheer blouse worn without a bra, feminists demanded women burn their
bras. It was all metaphoric and only a dustbin was ever used to dispose of bras. But this claim has gone down in bra history despite the fact that so few women
really abandoned their bras. Those who needed support knew they could never seriously
do without a bra. But many smaller breasted women did stop wearing bras beneath opaque
garments. Few were really brave enough to do it with a sheer top, but it did
herald changes for the decade.
By 1964 Rudi Gernreich
designed the 'no bra bra' which was light, made of see through stretch netting and
very simply shaped, but only really suitable for the small breasted woman. But from this,
the idea of a body stocking in transparent material was developed by Warners in
The concept simply
fitted in with the woman of the 1960s wanting to choose what she did, rather than be told she
must wear a bra. Old habits were changing. Many older women had worn bras to bed believing
breasts should be supported during sleep, now bras were removed at night or
abandoned altogether as attitudes changed.
Corsets such as those
by Spirella were still worn and were still available. Longline bras to the waist
from Marks & Spencer were very popular to keep that midriff in control. Redesigning the body
contours in the gym was rather unusual then. To control wayward lumps and bumps one dieted and bought the correct
power elastic foundation garments.
In the 60s many bras
like those by Lovable had a very fine layer of foam latex rubber bonded to the top lace
fabric and which made the cups stand up on end. They were comfortable bras
that gave a good reliable rather pointed firm shape fashionable at the time.
Memorable bra history was made when Gossard launched its Wonderbra
campaign in 1968. The byline went something like this - 'makes 34 look 36, makes
36 look pow...'. It was and is still true. Initially 36C was the top size
of this revolutionary under wired bra that was a must for V neck dresses of
the late sixties. Low necked V caftans were transformed by the cleavage from a Wonderbra. Eventually
demand led to larger sizes being produced and its is made today up to size 38D.
Those who longed for one, but were
just one size too big simply bought a bra replacement fastener and used it as an
extender. They just hoped for the best and as the breasts were all pushed to the
front a little pain was worth it to get the cleavage that no other bra could
produce. False inserts of extra
wadding or foam rubber could be inserted into little pockets in the Wonderbra to
give a little more fullness where the bust was lacking. Eventually as
women got larger, manufacturers increased the size range of such push bras.
In the 1990s when silicone breast implants and other implants caused scares, many women looked to
bras to improve their breast size. The Wonderbra was a huge hit and bestseller
all over again in the 1990s.
It was and still is a
magic bra, but Gossard eventually sold the rights to the name. Gossards best
alternative today is an uplift bra called the Ultrabra.
Bra slips were a
sixties hit for short skimpy dresses and gave a freedom unknown before. This
strange hybrid was an under wired cleavage bra with a short mini nylon slip all in one. Tights,
panties, bra slip and top dress and that was it. Never before had women worn so
little. What would Victorian and Edwardian matrons have made of it all. In the
early 21st century the bra slip made a reappearance in stores such as Marks and
In the early and mid
decade short sleeved scoop necked vests called 'cosy tops' and 'Demi-john' pants
sometimes known as thigh warmers were worn. They
were in strongly coloured stretch nylon such as red or tartan or baby blue or
pink nylon lace and the Demi-johns reached
mid thigh or even to the knee. Considering the liberation everywhere else these
seemed to be an aberration even at the time. But they were much loved in winter
to give extra warmth under short dresses which were not necessarily mini
dresses. They could be worn under maxi dresses with ease.
heating became more or less universal in the UK they disappeared to be replaced by thermal
underwear mainly bought from sports outlets.
By the 1970s seamless
underwear was essential to wear under T-shirts to give a no bra natural look.
Manufacturers became more adventurous and bras could be bought in mini print
pattern fabric such as a purple and pinks mix or autumn leaves colour mix. Natural flesh tone bras also became desirable. Although it seems manufacturers
never quite get the tone of flesh quite right as we come in so many shades. What's right for you in a so called flesh tone is probably wrong for your
At the decade end,
sequin and plain Day-Glo coloured 'Boob Tubes' became a popular craze after the disco scene. Simple stretchy strapless
flesh toned Lycra mesh bands beneath, helped support the style. At the same time small luxury lace bra and
French knickers designs by Janet Reger and others, brought erotic and exotic style to
lingerie. Of course major manufacturers of the 1980s soon followed producing some of the
prettiest underwear seen for years.
In the 1980s with the
influence of media series like Dallas and Dynasty, erotic lingerie was an
outward manifestation of conspicuous consumption and feminine luxury beneath masculine
Women became very body
conscious in the 80s. They pumped iron at the gym, honed and refined their
bodies and power dressed. All in one satin Teddies similar to modern swimsuit
designs, but lace trimmed with a pop fastener gusset and high cut legs, were shown worn without
often had a cup formation that doubled as a bra which when under wired made it a
body suit. This was fine for the toned
woman or the surgically enhanced breasts of modern women who needed no support
as the silicone did all the work.
Simple camisoles and matching French knickers
or hip briefs or tangas became more and more lace encrusted. Camisoles often became
outerwear and women shopping in UK's Marks & Spencer for simple tops just to fill
in under a suit, were often directed by floor assistants to the underwear
The camisole became popular partly because separates were so
fashionable. Women more and more, wore trousers, so petticoats in the
traditional sense were worn less as more mass market clothes were lined as well. Nowadays a woman is likely to buy an under slip for a specific garment that
needs it, rather than always wearing one automatically when she dresses.
For special occasions
and sexual intrigue women took to wearing
basques again. This fashion was stimulated by off the shoulder dresses. A basque
became an essential item for a bride so that no under straps were visible at the
neckline. Many women rediscovered basques as items to titillate with in the bedroom
as well as to help
get a good silhouette.
Madonna sported ice
cream coned circular stitched cups on her Gaultier corset on stage in her
'Blonde Ambition' tour. Nothing shocked anymore. Gaultier first did designs
based on the conical breast in the 1980s, but it took Madonna to approve the
style in the 1990s. Sexy lace bras came back into the shops. La Senza, La Perla,
Rigby and Peller, Triumph, Lejaby, Victoria's Secret and even Marks & Spencer sold delectable lace bra confections and exquisite matching briefs or thongs.
Now of course the Madonna images of her in her coned bra look horribly dated.
Very plain Tactel
underwear slips introduced in the 90s gave such a good line beneath dresses
making it at last possible to wear unlined dresses successfully without static build
By the mid 90s there were usually only 2 styles of full length all in one corselette girdles
at Marks & Spencer. This is an
important fact in the UK as
Marks & Spencer is a major retailer of
undergarments of all types. The women who shed their bras in the sixties were
occasionally seeking a bit more figure control for the straighter sheath dresses
back in fashion. The other option many opted for were Lycra support panties that
lifted the bottom or tights with control panels.
By the end of the 90s
the UK bra market alone was worth half a billion pounds. Another billion was
spent on other foundation underwear.
With so much capital
income possible, it's little wonder then, that Charnos decided to invest heavily
in designing a new uplift bra suited to all sizes, but with those with fuller cup sizes in
mind. G cups are included rather than ignored.
After research and
development was complete they took the plunge and in 2000 they launched the
The Bioform Bra in my
opinion uplifts and contours the breasts so well that it immediately takes ten
years off a sideways sagging bust. If you are past 40 with a full cup size you
may realise that you have not seen your breasts in this position for twenty
years. It has an effect that centres the breasts more, whilst uplifting them at
the same time. And it does it up to size 42DD with many smaller sizes going up
to G cups. Probably the greatest achievement
of it, is to successfully lift large breasts and make them look more youthful.
The Bioform Bra is
helpful for giving a more youthful shape to women who have had trouble getting
good uplift before. To be honest when you put the
bra on, it seems to look much like any other, but once you put clothes on top of
it you realise the bust silhouette is younger and sexier. It does take a few days to get used to wearing one and they do not suit
everyone. The sides are quite firm
pre moulded plastic materials that replace under wires, so the harder feel at
the sides of it is different. It takes a few days to get used to the change of support. One way of coping with this is to get used to the bra by wearing it on alternate
days for a while.
Wearers who find that shoulder straps normally cut into their
flesh will soon notice that the redistribution of breast weight means that
unsightly and uncomfortable shoulder welts from strap marks just don't happen.
On the negative side
there were only ever a few fabric versions. The original lace fabric used was not the most eye catching either,
due to technical production process. To be fair the unfussy fabric did give a smooth tailored outline. However
in 2002 more eye catching attractive, sexier lacy versions were put in the shops and
were compared to the original
version were much prettier. However due to the change of circumstances at
Charnos these bras are hard to get other than via the internet. The bra was designed
by two well respected male product design engineers but the cost of putting this
bra into production was so great that Charnos sold out a couple of years later.
After Charnos was bought out the organisation
restructured, the Bioform bra has sadly been in demise in stores within the UK. However I was still be able to buy this bra at Figleaves online in Spring 2004.
In the UK go to Figleaves for a great selection of
bras, lingerie and money off bargains. If you join their email list service you
can get regular updates of a wide range bras on offer. Simply great when you
know your size and are confident with a particular style. Figleaves has
been so successful as an online venture that it ranks as UK online retailer of
By the time of the second millennium women
were adding inserts to their bras called affectionately chicken fillets.
But help was soon at hand with the
development of the Ultimo bra, a silicone gel filled bra that
creates cleavage whilst giving comfort. It was launched in May 2000 and
became a must have accessory for those in need of a boost. It has enhanced
some of the most famous breasts in the world today including those of Julia
Roberts and Kylie Minogue.
The Ultimo was invented by a British woman
from Glasgow called Michelle Mone. It took three and a half years to develop
the Ultimo and a great deal of hard work and tenacity on Michelle's part.
Unlike normal padded bras the silicone makes the bra feel real so the
inserts move and feel like real breasts in wear without the bra squelching
the breasts into unnatural positions.
Ultimo select fabrics and components of the
highest quality such as Microfibre polyamide yarns which are finer than silk
and so soft to the touch. They also use a patented liquid silicone gel which
has the ability to mimic breast tissue, resulting in a comfortable mould to
create a super cleavage.
So effective is the bra that people often
believe wearers have had breast implants. To learn more about the Ultimo
visit the ultimo website.
During a recent browse around Marks and Spencer I
noticed that some of their bras appeared to have similar chicken fillet silicone
Bras have come a long way even since 2000. A
visit to Figleaves or
Marks and Spencers will show you the latest bridal and eveningwear bras perfect
for strapless and difficult to wear fashion clothing.
Buy my latest ebook and learn how to recognise changes
between Paniers, crinolines, bustles, bras and corsets and the affect this
has on the outer silhouette of female costume
My How to Recognise Undergarments in Fashion History e-book has 12 chapters about the changes in under foundations in costume history found in
various articles on this website.
It also has a new chapter on the history of drawers and knickers and
one covering the chemise and petticoats. This
you to read, print and copy from various web pages of fashion-era.com all in one go.
The Undergarments ebook includes information from my
articles on early corsetry, C18th Paniers and the sack dress, stays to corsets,
crinoline styles from 1830s to 1860s, bustle styles of 1870s & 1883/5,
Edwardian corsetry, bras and girdles
before and after 1950, and a new chapter on drawers, pantaloons, knickers to
panties. A look at Rational Dress Reform, the contribution of Mrs. Bloomer and Dr. Jaeger
to the resultant
cycling and swimming dress. For
more information on the contents of Undergarments click here.
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