By Tim Lambert

Ancient Greek women wore a form of bra called an apodesme. Women also wore a band of cloth or leather around their chest called a strophium or mamilare.

However for hundreds of years after the fall of Rome women, usually did not wear anything for support. From the 16th century to the 19th century women wore corsets but they were designed to shape the woman's torso rather than to provide support.

However Mary Phelps Jacob invented the modern bra in 1913. She used two handkerchiefs joined by ribbon. She patented her invention in 1914. Her garment too was called a brassiere but in the late 1920s the word was shortened to bra. Cup sizes were invented in 1932.

The strapless bra was introduced in the late 1930s but they did not become until the 1950s. Meanwhile in 1942 Ida Rosenthal invented a bra strap that allowed the straps to be adjusted. A man named Frederick Mellinger invented the padded bra in 1947. The push up bra was introduced in 1948. The wonderbra was invented in Canada in 1963. The first sports bra was introduced in 1977.

A timeline of underwear

A brief history of knickers

A brief history of cosmetics


Last revised 2019