Date: c. 1950s
Fabric: Leavers lace and bobbinet tulle
This unusual bra is a highly luxurious example of 1950s foundationwear, incorporating some of the most complex structures used in bras of this period. This longline style incorporates a combination of vertical steel boning throughout to maintain vertical tension, encased in tight satin bone channels. There are underwires around the bottom of the cups and a triangular wire separator, both encased in velvet lined channels. An overwire even extends over the top of the bust, though it doesn’t extend down into the underarm. The cups themselves have steel boning extending both vertically and horizontally encased in satin channels, with padding at the bust point. This padding could potentially be intended to help created the fashionable pointed bust shape that the decade’s fashions demanded, but it likely also prevented the boning from bursting through the seam.
The main body of the bra is created in a cotton bobbinet tulle overlaid with a luxurious chantilly leavers lace. Triangular gusset inserts of elastic are inserted into the side panels of the garment, with narrow panels of stretch, floral patterned stretch nylon at the centre back allowing some fit flexibility. The hem of the bra underarm and bottom edge are simply rolled and stitched in by machine. Narrow pieces of elastic are stitched into the bottom hem of the bra by hand and finished with small metal hooks, likely to attach to foundationwear worn below to keep all the garments in place during wear. The garment fastens at the centre back with a row of hooks and eyes.
The bra is labelled as a size 36, likely referring to the overbust measurement in inches. This suggests that the garment was made by the French fashion house for the overseas market, potentially the USA. One of the garment labels cites ‘Made in France, Marima, Exclusive with Imaginin & Co’. Likely this garment was made for a high-end department store and was considered an extremely luxurious product, especially considering the level of construction complexity and the expensive fabrics used.
The Cadolle design house was founded by Hermine Cadolle in 1878, originally a shop that specialised in made-to-measure undergarments. Hermine is often credited with designing the first modern bra in 1889, although this is often contested. The brand continues to this day, and is now headed by Poupie Cadolle, the fifth generation of the family to run the eponymous brand.
From the collection of Karolina Laskowska