A certain amount of frankly random fannying about on Tumblr led me to a French website posting about the oldest bra in the world. Further Googling turned up English language articles about said article, and it is a bra which dates to probably the late 12th or early 13th century, and very closely resembles a modern longline bra.
I did some extremely rudimentary sketching in pink to show where fabric is missing, and if you notice on the open edge under the arm, the back would have been closed by lacing – there are stitched eyelets:
It would be around another five hundred years before an undergarment like this was produced commercially and put into common use.
This is an ad from a 1950s knitting magazine offering bras “scientifically” designed for various figure types. The bra shown at the far left is a very similar shape to the medieval bra in the article linked above.
I actually own a couple of vintage bras, one probably from the 1930s, the other most definitely from the 1950s.
This bra probably dates to the late 1930s, if the provenance I have on it is correct. I’m given to understand that it belonged to a sister of one of my parents’ neighbors, a man who passed away about ten years ago? Clear as mud? Right. The woman who probably owned it left behind a selection of clothing from the 1920s through the 1940s when she moved out upon marriage. The 1920s dresses are those of a young teen girl and are quite small. The 1930s/40s dresses are those of a slightly-built young woman. This bra, which barely fit on my dummy when it was set on the smallest setting would best fit someone whose bust was about a 30A. As you can see, the band is a delicate crocheted netting and the straps are actually satin cord. The cups are made of handkerchief linen and cotton lace inserts.
This little beauty is a genuine Maidenform bra. As in “I dreamed I ____ in my Maidenform Bra”
I got it new-old-stock with tags. It was something that my Grandmother had bought at some point in the 1950s, but never ended up using. I’ve worn it a few times when I felt the need for a conical bosom:
It doesn’t show up as well as one might like, on account of the bodice of this dress being cut fairly loosely, but suffice it to say that this bra does a fantastic job of creating that iconic 1950s Dagmar bosom.
I can’t wear it right now on account of my colossal lactating rack, but it’s kind of a cool thing to have in the wardrobe just for reasons.