Men will never understand how joyful it makes us ladies feel to unsnap that bra after a long day, whip it through our shirt sleeve, and fling it across the room! Oh, it’s like one can finally breathe again. But, if you think this is torture, then you don’t really know what actual torture is.
In ancient times, bra-like garments were created with the purpose of covering or revealing breasts. But, there was hardly any attention paid regarding comfort and support. Breasts were used as a sex symbol without any concern for the lady or her feelings. Ah, patriarchal society! The first bras were made in ancient Greece where women covered used fabric to wrap it around their breasts and pin them behind.
Can you imagine putting on an extremely tight vest, poking you right in your chest, and making you almost die due to lack of space to even breathe? Now, does this look like some torture to you? In the ancient times, women’s undergarments were actually a torture until Mary Phelps Jacobs came to their rescue.
Mary Phelps Jacob- The Woman Who Invented The Modern Brassiere
Mary Phelps Jacob belonged to the American financial aristocracy of the early 20th century. Her real name was Caresse Crosby. She was a publicist, writer, and an activist. At a young age, her main hobby was to enjoy New York and hang out with other aristocrats at posh parties.
At one of such events, The Manhattan Debutante Ball ( 1913), Mary chose to wear a daring gown with a plunging neckline and shiny fabric. She was absolutely frustrated to wear the corset underneath, which made her body look ugly and poked her ribs to death. Worse? One could see the linkage next to her breasts over the dress. “The eyelet embroidery of my corset-cover kept peeping through the roses around my bosom.” – Jacobs said in her autobiography, The Passionate Years.
Mary was determined to create a more comfortable alternative. She took two silk handkerchiefs, and with the help of her maids, she sewed it with a pink ribbon and a cord. She then tried out the resulting garment. When the ribbons were tied the outcome was similar to a corset but much sleeker. It was soft and light and fitted a woman’s body naturally. More importantly, it separated the breasts ( No more mono boob!), unlike a corset. “It was delicious,” Mary said. “I could move more freely, an almost naked feeling and in the mirror, I was flat and proper.”
The brassiere was an instant success. Mary wore it to parties later and demonstrated her new invention with pride. She made more models of it using elastic bands for her friends. Soon, she realized how much the women loved it. So, she visited a patent attorney. On February 12th, she filed for a patent. And on November 3rd, she received one. She called her invention “The backless brassiere.”
Not just family and friends, strangers started offering a dollar to buy the brassiere. The new garment was far beyond fashion. “The women will have freedom of movement that corsets prevented,” – she said. “The main advantage? It does not confine the person anywhere except where it’s required.”
Soon, business became rather boring for Jacobs. That’s when the Warner Brothers entered. By end of 19th century, the brothers had already established being a successful manufacturer of corsets. Priced at $1500, they bought the patent from Jacob – The best decision ever!
For the next 30 years, The Warner brothers generated a revenue of about $15,000,000. Even though Mary Phelps Jacob never received money for her invention, she was rather satisfied to see her immensely popular brassiere making life more comfortable and convenient for millions of grateful women.
Mary Phelps Jacob died on 24th January 1970. Even 100 years after Jacob’s invention of the modern brassiere, it is worn daily by hundreds of millions of women all over the world.