The concept of covering or restraining the breasts dates back to 6,500 years 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. It is said that brassieres were invented by men so that women's breasts would be smaller, 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 recognisably a bra, the design looks uncomfortable by current standards.
Herminie Cadolle of
France invented the first modern bra,
a two-piece undergarment called le bien-
tre (the wellbeing). 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 support), the name by which bras are still known in France. Cadolle's business (http://www.cadolle.com) 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 Maidenform (http://www.maidenform.com/custserv/custserv.jsp?sectionId=33) manufacturing company.
In 1960's, 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.  (http://www.snopes.com/history/american/burnbra.htm)
The oft-repeated story that the brassiere was invented by a man named Otto Titzling is false.  (http://www.snopes.com/business/origins/bra.asp)
- Maidenform Inc., company website, company history section. Retrieved Jun 2004 from http://www.maidenform.com/custserv/custserv.jsp?sectionId=33
- Smithsonian Institute, Museum of American History Archives MAIDENFORM COLLECTION, 1922-1997 #585. (35 CUBIC FEET: 54 DB; 10 [.5] DB; 19 F/o; 4 card-file boxes; 1 O/s Fldr.) by: Jennifer Snyder and Mimi Minnick, August 1997-July 1999. (Revised: February 3, 2004). Retrieved Jun 2004 from (http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives/d7585.htm#top. E-mail: email@example.com.
- A History Of Bras (http://mrbra.com/historyofbras.ivnu)
- Another History Of Bras (http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa042597.htm)
- Brassiere Sizes (http://www.sizes.com/people/brassieres.htm)
- Types of bra (http://mrbra.com/typesofbras.ivnu)
- In support of natural breast sagging (http://www.007b.com/bra_sagging.php)
- Bra free = Pain free (http://www.brafree.org/index.htm)
- Bras: A Conspectus of (http://www.lingerie-uncovered.com/womens/bras.htm)
- Essay questioning the purpose of the bra (http://www.breastnotes.com/aware/aware-bra.shtml)