Demystifier: ED Original where the content is written in such a way that it is knowledgeable and easy to comprehend at the same time.
Bras are a necessity in every girl’s wardrobe. They have been around for as long as we can remember. One might think that bras existed from the beginning of time itself, here we are talking about a history of bras. Although bras are not as old as dinosaurs, they do have a long history.
Indians were Uncovered and Free
Paintings and artefacts from ancient India generally show women to be topless. Does this mean that the concept of the bra was absent then? No. In fact, the bra existed in various forms and fashions that gradually transformed over the years into the bra that we know today.
The first garment that resembled the bra could be traced to the Chola Kingdom (3rd Century to 13th Century) and was called the ‘Choli’.
During the Vijayanagara Empire that followed (14th Century to 15th Century), the Kanchuka, a tightly fitted bodice was popular.
Throughout this period there were tailors who specialised in the construction of tight-fitting garments that women used to wrap around their chests.
In most parts of India, the covering of breasts was closely related to caste and class. It was mostly women of the upper classes who were allowed to cover their breasts. This, in turn, led to several revolts like the Channar Revolt in Kerala that fought for the rights of lower caste women to cover themselves.
Yes, the history of bras has revolutions backing them. Onwards.
What about Women in the West?
While women in India walked around free and uncovered, it was not the same for their female counterparts in the West.
The situation in the West was a different one. The bra or bikini-like garments could be traced back to the 14th century BC during the Minoan Civilization, which was adorned by Minoan female athletes.
Dawn of the British and the Corset
From the 14th century onwards, the corset dominated women’s undergarments. It was tightly fitted around their bodies and pushed their breasts upwards. It was only with the arrival of the British in India that the idea of the bra was first introduced to the Indians.
We weren’t keen on having these weird cages disrupt our much more glorious history of bras.
Indian women saw the corset as a symbol of female subjugation. The corset was tight and uncomfortable and as a result, it made women sick and constantly fainting.
The British inculcated into the minds of the natives the need of a “civilised society” which comes through the imitation of their values and their ideas of “propriety”. Thus, Indians who once walked the streets without blouses were encouraged to wear them. Rabindranath Tagore one of our most loved writers, was believed to have encouraged his wife to adopt Western Ideas.
It was in the latter part of the 19th Century that the corset was split into two- the lower part of the waist and the upper part of what would soon become the brassiere.
The Second World War and the Modern Bra
Metal shortages during the Second World War encouraged the end of the corset which led to the emergence of garments that have a close resemblance to the modern-day bra.
Did you know, it was Mary Phelps Jacob who invented the first modern bra in the early 20th century? Mary was so uncomfortable with the corset that she made her own bra with a pair of satin handkerchiefs and a satin ribbon.
The commercial production of bras began only in the 1930’s. Cup sizes also emerged and the brassiere was shortened to “bra”. S.H Camp & Co. correlated the sizes women’s breasts with the letters of the alphabet.
The Bra as We See it Today
The bra is a complicated piece of garment. More complex perhaps, than any of the normal clothes that one wears every day. Recent innovations have come up with ways to make everyday wear more comfortable. One of these being, the padded camisole.
Thus, in this day and age where humans are provided with every comfort possible, one can only hope that the bra would also be replaced by a better and more comfortable alternative.
This was our short history of bras. Love them, hate them, but you cannot ignore them!
Image Credits: Pinterest, Google Images