An iconic piece of lingerie is celebrating a milestone anniversary this year: A century has passed since the first bra was patented, cementing a switch from the full-figure corsets that used to cinch women into brutalizing hourglass shapes. To help mark the centenary, Switzerland-based lingerie company Triumph is offering free bra-fitting clinics at Hudson’s Bay stores across Canada. According to retailers and industry experts, most women still aren’t wearing a properly sized bra, a garment that has morphed from Edwardian-era unmentionable into a fashion statement unto itself. (Thanks, Madonna!) Here are a few of the highlights from its 100-year journey.
After becoming frustrated with a whale-bone corset that kept popping through a new party dress, 19-year-old New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob sewed together two pieces of silk tied with cord. A patent for the first modern bra followed.
World War I removes women from their corsets when the metal required to make them is needed for munitions.
Enid Bissett and Ida and William Rosenthal create the Maidenform brassiere, which features two cups separated by elastic built into dresses.
Swiss-based Triumph introduces the first bras with front fastenings and changeable straps.
Jane Russell famously sports a cantilevered bra designed by eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes in the movie The Outlaw.
Frederick Mellinger of Frederick’s of Hollywood introduces the world’s first padded bra, followed by the first push-up bra a year later.
Warners and DuPont produce Lycra, an elastane fibre that revolutionizes lingerie.
Triumph is the first firm to use a moulded-cup technique to eliminate seams.
Feminists begin burning their bras in public to draw attention to the rising women’s rights movement.
The first sports bra is created from two jockstraps sewn together.
Madonna wears Jean Paul Gaultier’s conical bra on her Blond Ambition tour, paving the way for the underwear-as-outerwear trend.
Model Eva Herzigova poses for Wonderbra’s “Hello Boys” ad campaign. The billboards are so eye-catching they reportedly causes traffic delays and car crashes.
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, featuring leggy models in the skimpiest of knickers, is televised for the first time.
Bragel International introduces the NuBra, made of self-adhesive silicone cups – no straps required.
Katy Perry wears a cupcake bra outfitted with cans of whipped cream in her California Gurls video.
Japanese lingerie company Ravijour releases the True Love Tester bra, which unhooks only when the wearer’s heart rate reaches a certain level.
For more information about Triumph’s bra-fitting clinics at Hudson’s Bay stores, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.