The solid history of the bra dates back to the early 1900s. However, this does not take away the fact that before then, women looked for ways to maintain the firmness of their breasts until old age. Women began to wear some form of breasts supports during the period of the Roman Empire. These supports were form of bands also known as the bandeau. Besides serving as supports, they provided minimal cover up. This view is in accordance to existing historical records.
However, an opposing view by Shin (2009) suggests that breasts supports are part of the undergarments that gained relevance around 3000B.C during the ancient civilization as a form of social status. In particular, the phenomenon manifested well in Ancient Egypt where clothes played a significant role in wealth and power symbolism. Accordingly, gradual advancement of the fashion industry oversaw the invention of sophisticated and complex forms of clothing.
The breast bands become outdated when the technology of the corset took over the market. The corset was widely endorsed especially in the France. It served numerous roles but the main ones include; sexual appeal, social status, breasts and body protection, and figure enhancement. The initial design of a corset was a two piece bodice that minimized the size of the waist thereby rewarding women with a very beautiful figure.
The design of the corset advanced gradually as significant changes were introduced in outwear clothes. At one point the décolletage fashion theme gained a lot of popularity leading to the development of a strapless corset.
A shift from the corset occurred in the late 19th century when an undergarment referred to as the bust bodice was developed in the Great Britain. In France, other major design changes that led to the development of the corselet gorge were also taking place. The corselet gorge was introduced by a lady referred to as Herminie Cadolle. This undergarment paved way for the development of the modern bra. The modern bra was first designed in 1910 by a woman known as Mary Phelps Jacobs.
All in all, the culture of wearing bras did not gain firm ground until during the World War 1. The World War 1 came as a form of liberation to women. Firstly, it freed them from the culture of the corset. Instructions by the War Industries Board required women allow increased war production by abandoning corsets. The result was a major shift to the modern bras that had just found their way into the fashion industry. The move freed metal that was necessary for war production. Secondly, World War 1 freed women from the ‘house-wife’ culture. As more men got engaged in war related activities, women got a chance to work to take up major responsibilities in the society. It was their moment to shine in offices and factories.
Since the World War 1, numerous changes have taken place in the bra industry. Advanced bra features such as the underwire, full cups, demi cups, racerback, and stick on abilities have been introduced. Today bras come in multiple styles to suit the needs of different individuals and occasions.
There are very many types of bras and most of them are beautiful. However, we will only discuss the most common ones.
Bandeau Bra: Bandeau is the oldest type of bra and its design is cute and extremely simplified. It is simply a strapless band that cuts across the breast area. It is convenient for all forms of dressing (apart from backless clothes) because its design is low-neck and does not feature straps. Bandeau is made with stretchable fabric to ensure firm support of the breasts. Furthermore, it is extremely comfortable and can be worn for long hours. On the down side, it does not provide services such as enhanced breasts size, increased cleavage, and push up effects.
Sports Bra: These are bras that are specifically designed to help women who engage in sports-related activities such as running and cycling. Besides providing breasts support, they offer improved flexibility and comfort during workouts. Sports bras come in a variety of designs and styles. For example, there are some that feature pads whereas others have fairly open backs. Good sports bras are designed with breathable and moisture-wicking materials. Since sports activities involve increased sweating and body metabolism, these kind of fabrics prevent the discomfort that comes with these changes.
Adhesive Bras: Also known as stick-on, these are bras that get attached to the skin surface effortlessly. Their main feature is adhesion or stickiness. Mostly, manufacturers design them with medical grade silicone because it is safe and sticks to the skin surface well. Adhesive bras are backless and strapless. Accordingly, they can work with all types of dressing. Stick-on bras are not suitable for everyday wear. They are suitable for classy events that require elaborate dressing. Furthermore, they offer the least support and if you are prone to sweating the adhesion gets damaged easily.
Push-up bras: Probably the most exciting and irresistible bras, push-up bras offer enhanced cleavage and breast firmness. They make the boobs appear more rounded and voluptuous. As a result, they are more suitable for events such as dinner dates, night parties and, classy events. However, push-up bras can be worn for any event by women with smaller breasts. Unlike the traditional belief, push-up bras are not always padded. However, they mostly feature aspects such as demi cups, straps, underwire, double cups, seamless design, straps, hook and closure, and support bands. Most push-up bras are very convenient, easy to use, and super comfortable. The main disadvantage of push-up bras is that they do not work very well with extremely large breasts. They tend to create an unnatural and overly-exaggerated look.
Convertible bras: Convertible bras are the most versatile. They feature removable straps that can be worn or converted to create different styles and trends. For example, they can create a crisscross style, form a neck halter, and be removed to create a strapless bra design. The beauty of convertible bras is that they can blend with almost all types of dressing. Additionally, they can be used at beaches and swimming pools comfortably.
Minimizer Bras: Minimizer bras are designed to help women with large breast. Just like the name suggests, they compress the breasts thereby reducing their appearance in terms of size. The technology of these bras fosters the redistribution of the breast tissue. Besides making the body appear more proportionate, minimizer bras provide adequate support.
Maternity Bras: These bras provide support to pregnant women. Hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy affect the body of a woman. They target areas such as the breasts and lower abdomen. The breasts become larger and extra sensitive. Maternity bras feature full cups, stretchable fabric, and extra-wide straps for extra support. The stretchable material adjusts to the size of the breasts as the pregnancy advances. The main shortcoming of these bras is minimal style and fashion sense.
Cupless Bras: These are bras that feature an empty cup space thereby leaving the nipples exposed or with minimal coverage. It is more of a lingerie that features molded supports and straps only. It is only suitable for sexual adventures and thus not very popular.
Wireless bras: Wireless bras do not feature an underwire. They are also known as soft cups. There is widely spread misconception that these bras do not offer enough support. Just like bras with underwire, you can get extra-support with these bras depending on their individual design and specific features.
Padded Bras: Padded bras are enhanced with pads around the base area for increased breast support. They are suitable for breasts that require extra support. The size of pads differs with bras. There are some that feature thicker pads than others. For example, you can use these bra if your breasts have undergone severe damage because of breast feeding and age. Thick padded bras are also suitable for individuals with smaller boobs. They are great for volume addition.
Racerback Bras: These are bras that feature a T-back design in the back. The design is commonly found in sports bras because it increases flexibility and comfort during workouts. It allows the back and shoulders to make a wide range of movements comfortably. Racerback bras are recommended for clothes that expose the normal bra straps.
Plunge Bras: These bras feature a deep U/V shaped cut at the center on the front area. The cuts leaves the cleavage completely exposed. Some push-up bras are characterized by this design. They enhance the appearance of the cleavage by molding the breasts into a more rounded shape. Plunge bras work best with clothes that that feature a low neck.
Strapless bras: Strapless bras can be designed without straps at all or they can feature removable and convertible bras. They are constructed with stretchable and strong fabrics that provide firm support. However, they require keen attention during selection because the wrong fit can lead to a lot of discomfort. Strapless bras are best worn under strapless and wide shoulder clothes.
Seamless bras: These are also known as T-shirt or moulded bras. They feature seamless cups thereby providing a smooth finish when worn under tight or see-through clothes. Most of them feature light padding to prevent visibility of the nipples from the outside.
Underwire Bras: The design of these bras is characterized by a wire under or at the bottom of the cups. The two main functions of the underwire are support and style improvement. Underwire bras are excellent for saggy and big boobs. On the other hand, sometimes the wires tend to get uncomfortable with time.
Demi-cup bras: Demi bras feature half or partial cups. The cups cover the lower parts of the breasts only, leaving the upper part completely exposed. The demi-cup design provides a lot of lift and cleavage. Additionally, it blends well with low-neck clothes.
Longline Bra: The design of a longline bra can only be likened to that of a crop top. It is a bra with coverage that extends several inches below the breasts. Longline bras are very sexy and stylish. They can be worn alone with high waist pants and skirts. The only disadvantage of these bras is that they can be a bit cumbersome and heavy when worn under other clothes.
Mastectomy bras: These are full cup bras designed to help women with one or both breasts removed as a result of health problems. The cups have pocket like features where breast forms are inserted. It is important to get a custom made mastectomy bra because of fitting issues.
Balconette bra: This is a form of a demicup bra except that its cups are designed to sit lower on the breasts. As a result, its upper edge forms a more horizontal line. It is an excellent choice for low and V-neck clothes.
Nursing bras: These bras are used by nursing women. Besides providing support, their design allows easy breastfeeding.
Bralette: This is a simplified bra that lacks features such as underwire and cups. Accordingly, it is more an accessory rather than a breasts-support garment. Bralettes are more suitable for small breasts.