Date: c. 1934
Origin: United States
An everyday bra with specially adapted patterning and construction suited for nursing. The main body of the bra is constructed of tea rose cotton. Simple two part cups give a lightly pointed bust line, with faggoting embroidery through the over bust seam. Rayon ribbon forms the shoulder shoulder straps. The shoulder straps are adjustable from the cup apex, with a hook that allows the strap to detach. The back fastens with hook and eye tape attached to small pieces of elastic, allowing a small level of fit adjustability.
Hook and eye fastenings through the centre front allow the bra to be opened and for individual cups to be lowered without the need to remove the entire bra. The 1932 patent filed for this bra states that ‘A still further object of this invention is the construction of a brassiere incorporating novel features which render it peculiarly adaptable for use as a nursing brassiere, a goodly portion of the front of which may be opened without taking off the brassiere from the wearers body’.
The cups have a pocketed construction, with the sewn-in inserts being made of what appears to be glazed cotton. It could be assumed that this design detail was to prevent leakages to the exterior of the garment or outer clothing. The glazed cotton inserts are lined with plain cotton, for comfort directly against the skin.
The patent also states that:
Considerable difficulty has been encountered heretofore in creating a convenient and comfortable nursing brassiere which may be readily opened while nursing and which, due to its construction, will firmly and securely support the breasts without irritation of the wearer’s skin.
As a matter of fact, as is commonly known, brassieres have not generally been worn by women while nursing, due to a lack in the prior art of any moisture-proof breast confining construction, which could be readily opened.
It is the purpose of this invention, therefore, to provide a novel type of brassire of novel pocket construction which may be readily opened and which includes moisture-proof breast confining elements which operate when the brassiere is worn to prevent breast exudations from contacting with and soiling either the brassiere pockets or other garments that are worn. The breast confining elements, as will be disclosed, while necessarily moisture-proof must, on their inner surface, be of soft material and without raised seams or of other irritation producing construction.
The patent highlights the limitations that breastfeeding women faced, with few practical underwear options available to them. Although such a bra may not be considered comfortable by modern standards, it would have offered considerable relief, practicality and comfort to women at the time.
Maidenform was founded in the USA as a women’s underwear manufacturer in 1922. The brand was started by seamstress Ida Rosenthal, her husband William, and Enid Bissett, the owner of the shop that employed Ida. The brand initially specialised in supportive bras and foundationwear that accentuated the natural shape, rather than the compression bandeau that was the fashion of the period. The patent for this particular bra was filed by William Rosenthal.
Maidenform continue to trade today and has been owned by Hanesbrand since 2013. They are one of the largest producers of shapewear and are sold worldwide.
From the collection of The Underpinnings Museum