The History of Brassiere


The History of Brassiere

Brassiere, which is more popularly known as bra is a women’s inner wear that supports the breasts. Apart from its most important job to support breasts, these days it has also become a popular fashionable item and is longer a hidden wear, as it used to be.

The term ‘brassiere‘ was first used in 1893 in England and bagged a place in Oxford English Dictionary in 1911. By 1930, this terminology was more simplified to what we know as ‘bra’.

History of the Brassiere

The history of brassiere is inevitably associated with the social history of women and not to mention the evolution in the fashion industry.

Since time immemorial, women have been trying to cover, maintain or modify the shape of their breasts by trying various kinds of inner wear and garments. With the onset of the 14th century, the wealthier women revolutionized this kin of inner wear with corset, which helped push the breast upwards.

Bra History

Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, women were rarely seen using any kind of garment to support their breasts and in some exceptional cases, they used a cloth binder. During the 1370 Holy Roman Empire, a widely citation states –

“No woman will support the bust by the disposition of a blouse or by tightened dress.”

Medieval bras

In this era, the breasts were rather played down in dresses with high necklines, straight bodices and full skirts, which were designed mostly for functionality rather than giving importance to the form.


By Renaissance era, the décolletage had become quite popular. It is the upper part of a torso i.e. between neck and waist, including neck, back, shoulders and chest.

Catherine de’ Medici, wife of Henry II of France is widely blamed to make the use of corset popular in her country. She had prohibited the broad waists at court and was believed to make them wear steel-made corsets.

Renaissance Corset

Although it is widely believed that the corset paved way to the bra, but with archeological findings of 4 linen bras in 2008, have again raised the question if the brassiere is the predecessor to the corset.

French Empire

The ‘Empire’ fashion mainly originated during the pregnancy of the then Empress Josephine, who had found it convenient to wear garments with a higher waistline, just beneath the breasts. This classical design soon became popular, as breasts got to be more visible than the waist. This period in Britain was known as the ‘Regency’.

Regency Corsets

Victorian Era

During this era, regardless of morality, the woman’s clothing was ridiculously designed to put emphasis on both the breasts and hips by tight lacing the waist part of the body. The Victorian ladies were seen hog-tied with multi-layered clothing, including a chemise (usually drawers), corset, corset cover, the under and over petticoat, hoop skirt and lastly the dress.


victorian era dresses

Edwardian Era

By the Edwardian Era, women’s indulgence in physical and social activities had increased and soon the corset was used as a girdle, like a separate upper garment. This kind of style was known as Bust Bodice.

Bras in the Edwardian Era

“The high-water mark of modesty would ebb after sunset some six inches!”

Women’s Inner wear Reformation

With the rising increase of women’s interest in sports, such as bicycling, soon cleavage exposure and bare arms became a fashion statement, thereby urging the use of brassiere.

womens innerwear

19th Century Bra

The world’s oldest push-up bra is now exhibited in the Science Museum of London. This was specifically designed to enhance the cleavage.

19th Century Bra

However, it’s still unclear, who had invented the bra. Many dressmakers and manufacturers had come up with a variety of designs, claiming unique features and benefits.


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