Bra or Brassire | Types of Bra | Sizes of Bra | A Brief history of the Bra or Brassiere

A brassiere commonly referred to as a bra is an undergarment that covers, supports, and elevates the breasts. Since the late 19th century, it has replaced the corset as the most widely accepted method for supporting breasts. A wide variety of bras are manufactured today.
Most bras are designed to be form-fitting and to lift the breasts off the chest wall if they sag and to restrain their movement. Bra designers and manufacturers originally produced bras that were purely functional and gradually added elements to improve the design, but they have now largely shifted from functionality to fashion. Manufacturers' standards and sizes vary widely, making it difficult for women to find a bra that fits. Bra-measurement procedures conflict with one another. Even professional bra fitters disagree on the correct size for the same woman. Women's breasts vary widely in size and shape; most are asymmetric to a degree and can change from month to month depending on the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, or weight gain or loss. As a result, from 75-85% of women wear the incorrect bra size.

A Brief history of the Bra or Brassiere
The concept of covering or restraining the breasts dates back to 6,500 years ago in Greece. Minoan women on the island of Crete 4,500 years ago wore brassieres that revealed their bare breasts. A binding known as an apodesmos, or mastodeton was worn by Greek women for exercise in those city-states that supported women’s sports, e.g. Sparta. It is said that brassieres were invented by men so that women’s breasts would be smaller, and thus more like a man’s.

A bra-like device to give a symmetrical rotundity to the breasts was patented (nr 24,033) in 1859 by Henry S. Lesher of Brooklyn, New York; although it is recognizably a bra, the design looks uncomfortable by current standards.

In 1889 Herminie Cadolle of France invented the first modern bra, a two-piece undergarment called le bien-ĂȘtre (the well-being). The lower part was a corset for the waist, the upper supporting the breasts by means of shoulder straps. By 1905 the upper half was being sold separately as a soutien-gorge (“breast-supporter”, using a euphemism for breast that usually means “throat”), the name by which bras are still known in France. Cadolle’s business is still going strong.

In America, Mary Phelps Jacob was granted the first U.S. patent for the brassiere (nr 1,115,674), in 1913. She was aided in this work by her French maid, Marie. Her invention is most widely recognized as the predecessor to the modern bra. She sold the patent to the Warner Brothers Corset Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for $1,500 (or over $25,600 in today’s money). Warner eventually made an estimated $15 million off Caresse’s patent.

In 1922, Ida Rosenthal, a seamstress at the small New York City dress shop, Enid Frocks, along with shop owner Enid Bissett and husband William Rosenthal, changed the look of women’s fashion. The “boyish figure” then in style downplayed women’s natural curves through the use of a bandeaux brassiere. Their innovation, designed to make their dresses look better on the wearer, consisted of modifying the bandeaux bra to enhance and support women’s breasts. Hence, the name “Maidenform”. A later innovation is the development of sized brassieres. The company they founded became the Maidenform manufacturing company.

In 1943, Howard Hughes designed a cantilevered brassiere for Jane Russell for her appearance in the movie “The Outlaws”. The “lifts and separates” design went on to influence later commercial brassieres.

In 1960s, many women publicly discarded their bras as a symbol of female liberation as a form of protest; however, “burning the bra” was not a widespread practice.

The oft-repeated story that the brassiere was invented by a man named Otto Titzling (giving the humorous name tit-sling) is false.

Sizes of Bra

There are several sizing systems in different countries. Most use the chest circumferences measurement system and cup sizes A-B-C+, but there are some significant differences. Most bras available usually come in 36 sizes,but bra labeling systems used around the world are at times misleading and confusing. Cup and band sizes vary around the world. For example, most women assume that a B cup on a 34 band is the same size as a B cup on a 36 band. In fact, bra cup size is relative to the band size, as the actual volume of a woman's breast changes with the dimension of her chest. In countries that have adopted the European dress-size standard, the torso is measured in centimeters and rounded to the nearest multiple of 5 cm.

A number of reports state the 80-85% of women are wearing the wrong bra size.A correctly fitted bra is determined by accurately calculating the chest size (or band size) and breast volume (the cup size). The band size can be adjusted slightly using the two or three alternate sets of fastening hooks and eyes in the clasp. The bra straps (over the shoulders) can usually also be adjusted slightly.

Types of Bra
There is a wide range of brassiere styles available, designed to match different body types, situations, and outer garments. The degree of shaping and coverage of the breasts varies between styles, as do functionality, fashion, fabric, and color. Common types include backless, balconette, convertible, cupless, custom-fit, demi cup, front-fastening, full coverage, halter, longline, minimizing, padded, plunge, posture, push-up, racerback, sports/athletic, sheer, strapless, strapless-backless, support, t-shirt, underwire, wireless, sports bra, and invisible. Many designs combine one or more these styles. Breast support is built into some garments like camisoles, single-piece swimsuits, and tank tops, eliminating the need to wear a separate bra.

Sharing Knowledge: Students, teachers and professionals can publish your article here. It is a platform to express your knowledge throughout the world. For details: Submit Article


Mazharul Islam Kiron is a textile consultant and researcher on online business promotion. He is working with one European textile machinery company as a country agent. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.

Let's Get Connected: LinkedIn | Facebook | Email:

Back To Top