How The Bra Shaped America
What do a Victorian corset and a WWI battleship have in common? Steel.
Like modern women scouring Pinterest for DIY projects and time saving hacks, women living in the midst of World War I era turmoil sought to make their lives and the lives of their loved ones easier. In fact, a woman named Caresse Crosby constructed the first US patented bra in 1914 after becoming frustrated with the way the steel boning of her boxy corset looked under a new dress. She demanded her house maid "Bring [her] two of [her] pocket handkerchiefs and some pink ribbon," and she fashioned her materials into a rudimentary bra.
Crosby’s bra probably looked something like a modern tie-back crop top that one might choose to wear to a music festival. She donned her design at a debutante ball, and the rest is history. The bra was a hit; it gave Crosby freedom to move as she pleased without fear of fainting, and before she knew it, Crosby was selling her hand made undergarments to other women in her community. She managed the business until her husband urged Crosby to sell her patent to Warner Brothers Corset Company.
Meanwhile, the pains of WWI were being felt both on the battlefield and the home-front. Women were looking for ways to actively support their country and their men in the trenches. Women occupied jobs that had previously been reserved for men, bought and sold bonds, and chose to go without some common luxuries to preserve resources for American troops, resources like steel. The metal is an essential component in producing munitions and ships, and on April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson banned corsets. Women turned to minimalist bras like Crosby’s that would allow them to move more easily in their new jobs while supporting their loved ones serving abroad.
According to an editorial by NPR, this sacrifice “freed up 28,000 pounds of steel, enough to build two battleships.” Later, when American soldier returned home, many women chose to return to their domestic lives, but very few returned to their corsets. The outdated undergarments were uncomfortable and restricting; instead, women began designing new styles of bras including bandeau bras which became popular in the 1920s and bullet bras which were all the rage in the 1940s and 1950s. Changing lingerie fashions gave women a newfound sense of freedom to express themselves, and that same desire for empowerment still fuels US women today!
In contrast to past decades, the modern bra market is wide open! No one style reigns supreme, and women are free to experiment with whatever shapes, styles, colors, and fabrics compliment their unique style preferences. That’s why Breakout Bras carries so many diverse brands like Elomi, Comexim, Scantilly, and more. Breakout Bras is dedicated to helping customers find beautiful, quality bras from around the world that will fit well and withstand the test of time!
Elomi, one of our top selling brands, creates attractive sets, babydolls, basques, etc. in band sizes 32”-44” and cup sizes F-K. The brand is a goldmine for curvy women who frequently struggle to find their sizes in large department stores and specialty shops. Elomi’s garments are fashion forward and functional; they are made with high-quality fabrics like lace and satin, but they also feature fully-adjustable straps and reinforced wires for exceptional support!
Breakout Bras also features Comexim and is proud to be one of the only US retailers to stock its products. These gorgeous matching sets are manufactured in Poland, and they are available in band sizes 28”-42” and cup sizes E-LL. Comexim bras include feminine details like velvet accents, floral prints, embroidered lace, and satin bows.
Women on the hunt for something a little more scandalous should explore Scantilly by Curvy Kate’s selection of seductively strappy sets. The Scantilly brand is characterized by black strappy designs, faux leather, mesh panels, and metallic hardware. The size range is 30”-40” in the band and DD-HH in the cups. These sexy, black and nude ensembles are certainly a long way off from the Victorian corsets they descended from, but they still serve the same purpose: to make women feel great about their figures and gain the confidence to overcome all of life’s challenges.
To find the bra that makes you look and feel your best, stop into Breakout Bras’ retail location for a complimentary fitting or shop our online inventory. Need help finding your size? Consult one of our on-site customer service representatives, each one with years of experience fitting women in Breakout Bras' fitter approved intimates. They would be happy to help direct you towards your perfect bra! For more information on Breakout Bras’ products, employees, community events, and more, be on the lookout for our weekly blog posts, and like us on Facebook!