The bra was only invented relatively recently - most likely by Parisian lingerie maker Herminie Cadolle in 1889. Her "le bien-être" (the wellbeing) was comprised of a corset for the waist and an upper part which utilized shoulder straps to support the "girls". Five years after she first exhibited it at the Great Exposition of 1900, the top half was being sold separately as the "soutien gorge", literally "support for the throat"; "gorge" also meant breast in old French and the name stuck.
In 1926, Marks & Spencer began selling their bra to help flappers stay as flat as possible under those boxy frocks. As the fashion silhouette changed along with fabrications, bra-sizing became more standardized and mainstream in the 1930s, ad slogans promised to uplift & "perfect" a girl's figure. By 1941, M&S even help shade the Clothing Civilian Act which imposed regulations on the wartime manufacture and limited the use of fabrics.
This year, it's the Queen's Diamond Jubilee (marking a reign thus far of 60 years), so M&S is celebrating with a new collection of naughty nothings launching in May 2012: four looks made from silk, lace, satin & mesh which pay homage to the glamorous bullet-breasted sweater-girl of the 1950s. They also launched a pop-up lingerie museum online, covering the decades from the 20s through the 80s featuring pretty pix and fun factoids
- Lesley Scott