Underwear are a very normal part of a wardrobe for modern people. We spend time picking out the perfect shapes, fabrics, and fits and then we evaluate them as we wear them for things like comfort, breathability, and stretch. But it hasn’t always been like this — some pieces of underwear used to be very uncomfortable. And people would have to use their imagination in order to adapt this foundation of clothing to themselves.
We at Bright Side were interested in how the attitude toward underwear has changed over time. We also like to compare how creative people from the past had to be when choosing what to wear to how creative people get with their undergarments today.
1. The modern bra was made in a single night.
Before 1914, bras looked like corsets and they basically were corsets, but a bit shorter. Fashionable dresses were changing quickly, but underwear wasn’t. And women finally lost their patience. New Yorker, Mary Phelps Jacob, invented a bra several hours before going in public. She couldn’t wear a corset with her half-transparent dress with an open back, so she took 2 slim handkerchiefs and sewed them together. The bra was a great fit.
Later, she patented the invention and even started its production, but had to sell the patent because her husband didn’t want her to go into business. The Warner Brothers Corset Company bought the patent for $1,500 and earned at least $15 million with it.
2. The first nightgowns were only worn by nobles, and not just women.
It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that the nightgown became a regular thing people wore. Before that, people either slept naked or in the clothes they had been wearing all day. Nightgowns made of thin fabrics could only be afforded by wealthy people. And men wore them as well as women.
Nightgowns were popular up until the end of the 19th century. Then, people started wearing pajamas.
3. There’s an order that was created in honor of the woman’s garter and it still exists today.
Albert Chevallier Tayler — Ceremony Of The Garter 1901
According to a legend, The Most Noble Order of the Garter (created in 1348), which can have no more than 24 members, has an interesting origin. The Countess of Salisbury dropped her garter during a ball when she was dancing with King Edward III. When the surrounding courtiers snickered, the King picked it up and returned it to her, saying, “Shame on him who thinks ill of it!’” This became the motto of the order.
Garters are used under traditional wedding dresses.
4. The first sports bra was made from men’s underwear.
In 1977, Hinda Miller, Lisa Lindahl, and Polly Palmer Smith patented the Jogbra — an elastic supportive bra for sports. The girls loved running and realized that the existing bras weren’t able to provide the comfort level they needed. So, they made the first sports bra from men’s underwear in just a few hours.
5. Victoria’s Secret made the most expensive bra in the world.
The most expensive bra from Victoria’s Secret was presented in 2001 by supermodel Gisele Bündchen. It had over 1,300 gemstones including Thai rubies.
6. Inflatable bras were once used to get a push-up effect.
In the 1950s-1960s, the perfect body was one with big breasts and a thin waist. And the women whose bodies didn’t look like that had to use different tricks: they would stuff their bras with socks or cotton. Then, the owner of the American company, Frederick’s of Hollywood, started selling push-up bras.
Inflatable bras were also invented. They allowed women to create the size they wanted. There were special devices you had to inflate through a straw. The inflatable bras of the 1950s were very trendy. But it often happened that women would suddenly realize that their bras were deflating at the worst moment. As you can imagine, this was not the best thing that could happen to you when you were in public.
The managing director of an American company that produced an inflatable bra
7. Men’s T-shirts were considered to be underwear before Marlon Brando wore one.
It’s hard to imagine that before the 1950s, almost everyone wore T-shirts as underwear. The only exception was for physical labor or sports. But in 1951, Marlon Brando appeared in A Streetcar Named Desire wearing a tight T-shirt. He solidified its success with The Wild One and then Rebel Without a Cause came out with James Dean. This is how T-shirts became an everyday thing that men wear.
8. In Japan, there are bras for men.
These bras are made for health. According to the developers, this bra lowers the power of gravity on men’s breasts in order to preserve their shape. It is supposed to prevent deformation, but it’s not clear yet whether it can fix a problem that already exists.
9. In order to diagnose breast cancer in the early stages, a special bra was invented in Mexico.
Julian Rios Cantu, a 18-year-old student from Mexico, invented a bra to help diagnose breast cancer. The scientist was inspired by his mother who had managed to beat cancer. The bra is called EVA and it has 200 sensors that track the temperature and estimate the change of shape and weight of the breasts. All of the collected data is uploaded into a special app that analyzes it. According to the developers, in order to get reliable results, you need to wear the device 1-1.5 hours a week. At the moment, it is still a prototype and is not yet being sold.
Did you know any of these facts about underwear? Maybe we missed something interesting?