What do an egg cup, a tea cup, a coffee cup and a challenge cup have in common?
They are the original cup sizes for bras.
Having just experienced a female lingerie emergency, I thought I’d find out more about this garment that I either love or loathe.
I suppose I better own up to the nature of the emergency. Well, it wasn’t a 911, but it did draw blood. I was happily chatting away to my male colleagues when all of a sudden, the underwear on my,rather nice bra, stabbed me brutally in the boob.
“Are you okay?”
“Um… yes, I’m fine,” I replied breathlessly and a little desperately trying to find a way out of the conversation and into the sanctuary of the ladies’ room.
“Seriously, what happened? You look pale?”
“Really, I’m fine.”
“Why are you crossing your arms like that?”
“You want to know? Fine. I tell you. My bra just tried to stab me in the heart! OKAY!”
Funny, how quickly they vacated my office and left me to try and extricate myself. Of course, it would be one of those days when you can’t take 20 minutes to run to the mall and buy a new one, so I had to resign myself to having one boob up one boob down for the day.
In fact, when asked about my most embarrassing moments, underwear malfunctions feature high on my list. But that is another story.
The bra is officially 115 years old.However, it has appeared in history all the way back to the ancient Romans,Greeks and Minoans. Then of course we had the corset. Now, I am not an advocate of wholesale whale slaughter, but I venture to suggest that whalebone might be more comfortable than the steel underwire that just almost gave me a mastectomy.
By 1900 several “emancipation garments” had been designed and patented. One rigid metal structure resembling a large dustbin was designed by Henry Lesher. Thank the Lord it didn’t catch on. Olivia Flynt had a “bust supporter” that sort of designated each boob into a pocket.Charles Moorhouse offered a “breast-enlarging garment” complete with BDSM rubber straps and cups.
In 1907, French Vogue coined the term brassiere or bra and voila here we are. Mary Phelps Jacobs is widely recognised as the architect of the bra. In a very Scarlet o’Hara fashion crisis she made a bra from two silk hankies and some ribbon. Not quite as impressive as the ballroom curtains, but functional nonetheless.
Credit for the first brassiere usually goes to Mary Phelps Jacob, a 19-year-old girl-about-Manhattan who, in 1910, bought a sheer evening gown for a party. The whalebone corset that was supposed to define her figure actually poked out of the plunging fabric. What was a girl to do?
She and her maid dug two silk hankies out of a drawer, sewed them on to a length of pink ribbon, added some string and tucked her breasts in place. Girlfriends asked if she would make a similar device for them. Then somebody paid her a dollar to do so, and she took the hint.
Now corsets went out of style with the French Revolution, or started to, but really ended up on the trash heap of history with the advent of World War 1. Corsets were outlawed, apparently the steel was needed to build battleships. Who knew. By World War 2 women in the forces had to wear bra’s for “protection”? The advent of the bulletproof vest?
The only real blip on the sales horizon of the bra came in the 1960s with the bra-burning Germaine Greer.
When Ira Rosenthal, wife of William, the minds behind our current cup size conundrum and the Maidenform bra, was asked if she was worried, she replied that she had gravity on her side. Sure enough once the bra burning teens became breast-feeding baby boomers, they were back in Maidenforms.
Then along came Larry Nadler, the MBA behind the Wonderbra. It claimed to the first bra to empower woman rather than disempower them. I think that is a pretty lofty statement for a bra, but hey,its advertising.
What is more bizarre is what goes into making my Victoria’s Secret over the shoulder boulder holders. The Today Show says, “Even the simplest bra is composed of complex industrial parts that require the expertise of chemical engineers, biomechanics scientists, veteran seamstresses and color specialists. It takes hundreds of machines to produce…”
Did you know:
- Caterpillar spit and crude oil are among the ingredients of some bras
- Over 4,000,000 new bras are created on average every day
- Women own an average of 6.5 bras (The half bra, is what I was reduced to with the underwire crisis – we keep these in the hope that we can fix them, which we can’t)
- In the last 15 years, the average bust size has increased from 34B to 36C
- How many ounces in a cup? An A cup – approximately 8 fluid ounces; B cup – 13 ounces; C cup – 21 ounces; and D cup – 27 ounces. They were originally known as egg cup, tea cup, coffee cup and challenge cup
- Women spend around $16 billion a year on bras
(I found these on http://www.intimateguide.com/bras/bra-history-101-with-nifty-vintage-photos/)