10 Un-bra-lievable Facts about Bras

Whether we like it or not, bras are a part of many people’s everyday lives! In fact, 50% of the world’s population is women, so at least that many have to deal with them at some point in their lives. Shopping for these articles of clothing may be difficult, but once you get the hang of it, you have a variety of colors, patterns, materials, and shapes of bras to choose from.

Although bras seem like a trivial, everyday piece of clothing, bras have created a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide. Bras have undergone countless transformations throughout history, and there are many fun facts from beginning to end. So let’s unclasp some fun tidbits about bras!

Related: Top 10 Misconceptions About Historical Clothing And Fashion

10 The Bra’s Predecessor: Corsets

Despite bras being a significant part of people’s lives today, they weren’t always the soft, plushy material we know and love. According to NPR, corsets were created in the early 1500s and were the predecessor to the modern bra. The corsets during this time period were thin, wiry cages made of wood, metal, or whalebone—whale… that sounds uncomfortable! Despite their uncomfortable makeup, corsets quickly became compulsory for middle to upper-class women.

However, years later, a metal shortage cropped up in the United States. This shortage led to the U.S. War Industry Board banning the purchase of corsets so that the metal used to manufacture corsets could be made available for the war efforts. After this ban, over 28,000 pounds (12,700 kilograms) of steel—enough to build two battleships—were freed up to use for war efforts. As the war ended, corsets became old news, and a new piece of clothing emerged: bras! (LINK 1) [1]

9 Ancient Bras

Although bras were not patented until the 1900s, some fascinating discoveries from ancient ages have hinted that bras are a long-standing clothing article. In 2012, The Guardian reported on the discovery of four 600-year-old bras in an Austrian castle. This discovery was groundbreaking, dating bras back to the Middle Ages instead of the 1900s.

Hilary Davidson, a Museum of London fashion curator, stated that these bras “look exactly like a [modern] brassiere.” Additionally, as the previously mentioned NPR article states, “The first-ever bra most likely dates back to ancient Greece, when women wrapped a band of wool or linen across their breasts, pinning or tying them in the back.” Therefore, even though bras were not patented until 100 years ago, ancient women were crafty enough to build their own supportive clothing.[2]

8 A Historic DIY Project

While bras and brassieres were created and used before 1914, Caresse Crosby was the woman who officially patented the first modern bra in the United States. On the fateful day of the invention, Crosby was preparing for a debutante ball. In addition to a lengthy getting-ready process, Crosby had to squeeze into a stiff, tight corset before putting on her gown. However, the corset stuck out from her gown, appearing like “a boxlike armour of whalebone and pink cordage.”

Luckily, Caresse had a creative mind and decided to DIY her own bra! Caresse told her maid, “Bring me two of my pocket handkerchiefs and some pink ribbon.” Upon receiving the materials, Caresse and her maid assembled a makeshift bra from scratch. Her fellow peers adored her creation, and in no time, Caresse was able to secure a patent for her bra, launching the bra’s evolution to the modern bras we know today.[3]

7 Mark Twain: An Unexpected Contribution

That’s right—Mark Twain, the author of the classic book Tom Sawyer, coined the “Father of All Literature, ” invented an integral part of today’s bras: the Bra Clasp. Well, kind of… In reality, his invention came to fruition because he found suspenders uncomfortable, so he wanted to create an alternative.

In 1871, Twain invented the “multi-purpose elastic clasp,” stating that “The nature of my invention consists in an adjustable and detachable elastic strap for vests, pantaloons, or other garments requiring straps.” His creation, unfortunately, did not gain popularity for the garments he intended, but it did catch on for the bra! So next time you’re struggling with your bra clasp, you can thank (or blame) Mark Twain![4]

6 The “Jock Bra,” Otherwise Known as the Sports Bra

Before sports bras were created, exercising could be a painful endeavor. With no support, many women had to suffer while running or performing other athletic activities. Before the invention of the bra, women had to still wear corsets when playing sports like tennis—in long dresses, too. Honda Miller, Lisa Lindahl, and Polly Smith knew this pain all too well. During a jogging fad in 1977, these three women struggled to find comfort and support from their clothing options while running.

As a joke, Lisa Lindahl took her husband’s (unused) jockstrap and assembled it on her chest to function as a bra. Surprisingly, this method seemed to provide relief. What started as a joke skyrocketed into a prototype and, soon, a successful invention! So you can thank these three women next time you’re jogging comfortably in a sports bra.[5]

5 Bra Myth Debunked: Sleeping in a Bra Stops Sagging

Despite their popularity, bras aren’t widely discussed, which leads to a few myths surrounding them. For example, wearing bras during sleep is a contentious issue. Many people swear that sleeping braless makes the chest area sag, but this contention just doesn’t add up. Luckily, an answer has been reached on this controversial topic. According to Dr. Amber Guth, director of the Breast Cancer Surgery Fellowship at NYU, she has the solution. And she brings good news!

There is zero evidence that wearing bras to sleep prevents your chest area from sagging. Dr. Guth states, “There is certainly no evidence that sleeping in bras is either helpful or harmful,” and that changes in the chest area are due to other factors such as pregnancy, time, and gravity. So the only concern about wearing a bra to bed is your comfort and preference![]

4 Another Bra Myth Debunked: Breast Cancer

The belief that bras cause breast cancer is another old wives’ tale fueled by faulty studies and defective reasoning. The logic behind this myth is relatively straightforward. Around the same time that technology was invented to identify breast cancer better, bras were also invented. Due to the overlapping periods of both, this led to many making a correlation between the two. As a result of this myth, many bra wearers grew up avoiding wearing bras for an extended period of time unless absolutely necessary. Fortunately, this myth was also debunked!

The American Association for Cancer Research, in their 2014 population-based study, found that no aspect of bra wearing, including cup size, underwire, and amount of hours worn, had an impact on breast cancer. The organization points to outside factors, a history of breast cancer in families, and lack of exercise as the real culprits. So, while bras may not be the most comfortable item of clothing, they won’t harm you![7]

3 Wait, Do I Need to Replace My Bras?

Lots of people wear their bras for longer than their recommended life span. Yes, there’s a lifespan for bras! Lois Siciliano, a Lingerie Technologist, explains, “We recommend replacing your bra every nine to twelve months, and as bodies change regularly, you definitely shouldn’t be wearing a bra from the previous decade.”

To avoid discomfort and incorrect fits, bras should be kept up to date as your body changes. However, no need to fret—there are methods to making your bra last longer and feel better![8]

2 Increasing Your Bra’s Lifespan

In the same article referenced before, Lois Siciliano shared valuable insights on making your bras last longer without spending an obscene amount of money. Lois advises that handwashing your bras is one of the most crucial steps to increasing bra longevity. She states, “This really is the best way to wash bras and is the only fail-safe and environmentally friendly option.”

Washing bras at high temperatures or on the wrong cycle can stretch the elastic fibers in your bra—this will drastically shorten your bra’s life span. You can even risk the wires of your bra coming loose! While it’s good to know strategies to extend your bra’s lifespan, it’s important to note that the most critical indicator of your bra’s physical state is your own preference and comfort. If you don’t feel you need to replace your bra, don’t![9]

1 The Cost of Bras

Bras may not be a consistent part of your shopping list, but the cost of bras per year adds up! A recent study indicates that the average woman spends £2,700, or around $3,400, on bras during their lifetime. This high price point in a lifetime suggests that while we don’t have bras on our minds much, they are an impactful part of the economy.

$3,400 spent per woman in the United States can add up to billions of dollars and contribute largely to the retail industry as a whole. Global Edge cited that in 2016, “the world lingerie retail market was valued at about $29 billion with bras making up about 34% of that market value.” Bras are a powerful retail item, so don’t underestimate the power of support![10]

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