Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, February 29, 2016

Recommended: How World War I Helped Popularize the Bra

From: Today I Found Out

By Terynn Boulton

Wartime Bra Advertisement (I Guess You Need the Free Style Book)

Corsets dominated the undergarments of wealthier women in the Western world for centuries, until WWI. So how did the war help popularize the bra? In a word, or two words in this case: metal shortage. The making of corsets required quite a bit of metal.  Thus, in 1917, the U.S. War Industries Board asked American women to help their “men win the war” by not wearing or buying corsets.

This may seem like it would only make a small difference, but, in fact, during the war it is estimated that they freed up around 28,000 tons of steel [a battleship or two] by this change.  (Similar reasoning later led to the banning of pre-sliced bread in the U.S. during WWII, with much less success.)

Obviously This Would Be Tough to Do in a Corset

Besides conserving resources, other aspects of the war also contributed to the demise of the corset and the rise of the bra.  For instance, during the war, American women found themselves working in factories, places where it simply wasn’t possible to function properly wearing an ultra-tight, ultra-restrictive corset. Women still needing some support in these active jobs, the bra became the most used alternative.

By the end of the war, fashion-conscious women in North America and Europe were now mostly wearing brassieres and soon mass production of bras ramped up, despite there no longer being metal shortages or as many women still working factories and the like. Women in Asia, Africa, and Latin America followed the trend. 

1922 Advertisement:  No Mistaking the Product Here

The reason the switch was more or less made permanent was that corsets were designed to accentuate the curvy Victorian ideal of beauty by cinching the waist and boosting the breasts. In the process, this made it very difficult to breathe and squeezed women’s waists so much that it could even displace organs and cause certain internal problems, along with symptoms such as fainting, gynecological issues, flushing, and nausea, among others. With corsets out, women could move and breathe.

Read the complete article here:


  1. "Women still needing some support in these active jobs..." I guess going bra-less would habe been out of the question??

    1. I heard that when Napoleon returned to Paris after a particularly successful campaign that society women in court went ala savage (topless). This may be good.

  2. Interesting, the sports bra had not been invented yet.

  3. Well, this is a bit lighter than yesterday's subject!

  4. ... 28,000 tons of steel... Oh la la! Truly women were once IRON maidens. On the other hand, they could have sent these to the troops at the front and hastened the development of the bullet proof vest.