Bra History Facts

The History of the Bra and Fit

To understand how a bra fits it’s important to understand its’ short history.  It’s also fascinating!  The first bra was the corset.  Quite different from our modern bra the corset was created by men around the 1800’s because it was believed at that time that women were too weak and fragile to complete a days’ work without the extra support for their back.  Children as young as 3 years old were subjected to this belief and grew up wearing them.  So for centuries women lived with aid of steel reinforced supports.  The shapes of corsets changed over the years.

Bra Fit
Bra Fit

     Around the late 1800’s corsets took this shape. This made it common for a woman’s waist to sometimes be no bigger than 13 inches around.  In the late 1800’s it was discovered that this was very unhealthy and had caused these women’s bones to grow and become disfigured.  Not only that, but it was determined (finally!) that women needing the extra support was a myth and this practice instead caused our backs to become weaker.  Many women couldn’t go more than five hours without her corset because her back had grown so weak.  Did this news make us change right away?  Nope, because we had made habits and for years believed things to betrue that weren’t.  It wasn't until World War I that women were asked to stop wearing corsets to help save the steel for the war effort.  In America alone, 2 battleships were made with the steel saved by not making corsets!

Bra Fit

    The first bra was more like what we’d call a camisole today and fashion from that era embodied the shape it gave us.  The 1920’s flapper look gave a woman a straight flat upper body.  The camisole gave women no shape or support.  Around the mid 1930’s the bra as we know it was invented.  This type of bra was created, to give women more shape and support.  At this time wealthy women could go see a bra tailor (very often a man) and be measured and essentially custom fit.  The first means of sizing bras was simply measured around the fullest part of our breasts and that gave us the size of our bra.  So if you measured at 36 inches across your bust your bra size was 36.  Shortly afterwards, a cup size was introduced, but with no measurement.  Instead it was simply small, medium or large cup size.  

Bra Fit

    Today we buy the sizes off the rack and wear it as is.  However, the fashion of the 1950’s showed clearly the effects of this a very tailored bra.  In this decade women still sewed and took the time to tailor their bra to fit them or to have it done for them. 

Hormones and our Bodies

     Also in the 1950’s the FDA approved the use of the growth hormone in our food.  A whole book could be (and has been) written on the long term effects this has had on our bodies but I merely want to mention it in this one.  Women today have an entirely different shape than we did 100 years ago.  Excessively large breasts were a rarity then but it is the average now.  Most women are between F –K cup size but 2-3 times each week we measure women in the L, M, N, O range which is also completely normal.  Like the chickens in this picture, the growth hormone has affected us as well in this food chain.  We are what we eat, it has been said.

      In the 1970’s there was a push to standardize bra sizing.  At this point every company was making them a little different.  This is where our current measuring system was born.  Measure the under bust and get the number, measure the bust line and subtract the difference to find the letter size.  This is where the problem begins.  In order to make the transition easier and not have to create new sizes they told women to add 5 inches to their under bust measurement and that would help them be able to stay in their old, familiar size.  (A bit patronizing on their part...)  Several decades later, we’re still living this transition.

    This sadly is the state of the industry today. Major PR companies like “Victoria’s Secret” monopolize America’s bra industry but because they make billions keeping us in the dark they have no reason to change.  In fact they have billions of reasons not to change.   Thousands of years ago we wore a couple strips of leather strapped to our foot and called it a shoe.  Somewhere along the way someone said, "There must be a healthier way!" and created one.  This is where the bra industry is today.  There must be a healthier way…and there IS!  Enter Braology!  Bringing awareness to women everywhere is our mission and we need you to share in this mission with us so together we can make a difference.

    European companies have begun to fix these grievious errors, brands like Panache and Freya offer bras up to K cup size.  Some companies out of Poland, such as Kris Line, are creating beautiful bras up to an 0 size cup but the shipping and customs costs make these bras in America very pricey. Not only that, but again this new sizing has no real standard.  Sizing is done differently from country to country from brand to brand and often from style to style.

     This makes the industry a jungle to navigate and means you almost always need to try it on before you buy it.  Because this expanded size range is a newer area still, many bras will fit but look horrible with clothes on or are just plain ugly granny style bras… very sad.  Finding them here in the U.S. is the tricky part. Few stores carry these sizes and brands that fit.  The ones that do keep commonly purchased sizes on hand and uneducated customers often purchase the wrong sizes.  This creates a dangerous cycle. Designers make bras that buyers purchase for stores in sizes they sell most to customers who don't know the stores don't sell sizes they need and buy what is available which keeps the loop going.  

        This chart explains the process:

Bra Sales

     Customers buy bras the store has in the sizes the salesperson offers.  The store’s buyers purchase bras from the designers in the sizes that they sell the most of.  The designers make bras in the sizes that the stores sell. This cycle won’t change until the consumer is educated and demands the change from the stores.  Braology has made it our mission to educate the consumer so you can make an informed decision in the fitting room and not rely on often uneducated salespeople, or companies more interested in selling you something than considering if it’s best for you or not.  These are very common practices, even in bra specialty shops where they’re supposed to be the expert.   They can carry limited inventory and need to make a profit.  So who can you rely on?  Rely on yourself!  We want to empower you and show you what your specific body needs and why so you can make informed decisions in the fitting room and be the expert of your own body!

    The truth is, the range of sizes needed in each style is difficult and costly to keep in stock so because the bills need paid.  Even those with the best intentions often just need you to buy something and compromise the fit.  If they don’t have your size in stock, they sell you one that will work. (This is done through sister sizing.  Look for our blog explaining this coming soon.)

Afterall, you won’t likely know the difference (unless you’re Braology Alumni).  The training many stores give their sales people is not only inadequate but it’s often completely incorrect.  Their training is based on how to sell you the bras they have in the store, not how to make sure you’re in the correct size for your body.  Braology is set on giving the power back to the customer, YOU!

    The way sizing is done with bras now, Victoria’sSecrets sells 30 sizes but we need closer to 120 sizes. This makes keeping an accurate inventory a real challenge.  When you think you need 120 sizes in every style and in every color.  The math gets insane. Truth is, the whole bra sizing method needs overhauled.  We have the technology to start from scratch and design a much better bra but first there needs to be a standard and that is what we have created through years of testing.

 So why haven’t we as a society made an effort to find a healthier bra sizing method?  There are several reasons.  It’s not as profitable as using the current method.  Victoria Secret, the standard in bras in America, sells 30 different sizes.  5 band sizes with up to 6 cup sizes in each band size.    Considering the current numbers were originally designed to include the entire bust line, the sizes they sell are hugely inadequate.  They sell cups starting at A, who’s size is nearly extinct considering middle schoolers easily wear DD and F cup size.  Their DDD bras which come in limited styles are the only ones that could potentially be worn often if people wore the correct sizes.  This means that Victoria Secret would have to spend billions of dollars reinventing their bras to fit sizes that are needed. In total, there are about 120 sizes that are needed by women today.  Bras last longer when worn correctly as well, and again, Victoria Secret has no need to change when they are profiting perfectly fine the way things are.   Many European companies have begun to fix this issue and do currently sell many of the needed sizes.  Because these are considered “plus size” bras though, they are often not as flattering and not as sexy or cute as women would like.  In this industry a 28 G bra is considered plus size, however this person would wear a size small shirt.  Her back size (without breasts included) would be an XS size.   

Bra Size

     Today, stores like Victoria Secrets and Macy’s teach employees nothing more than “measure here, measure here and subtract the difference.”  Designers design bras to fit a certain way, buyers buy the bras in the sizes the customer buys most often.  Customers only know their size by what the uneducated store employees tell them or by “sister-sizing” themselves in the only size at that store that will work as far as they can tell.   This is the tragic circle of today’s bra industry.  Until the customer demands the product, this is not likely to change.   Welcome to the BRAvolution!

   Yes, ladies…be upset! The reason we don’t have bras available that fit today is because when this problem was brought to the attention of those in the know, they chose to continue making and selling the bras as they were and fit us into those instead of spending the money to create and sell bras that fit our bodies.  #JoinTheBRAvolution and lets demand this change together!  Sign up to follow our blog or for our weekly newsletter so you don't miss out as we continue our Bra Knowledge - Fact vs Fiction Blog series.  Share this post with friends and lets help women everywhere, together!   Comment and let us know you're joining the BRAvolution!  We're glad to have you on the team.