Date: c. 1940s
Fabric: Nylon tulle
This bra is is constructed from what appears to be nylon one-way stretch mesh, but has no labelling (a label appears to have been cut out near the elastic at the center back) and so the exact fibre content and origin are difficult to determine. It was purchased from a vintage store in Portland, OR.
The bra is constructed with multiple darts around the bust point, vertically and horizontally. The satin ribbon straps can be adjusted with enamelled metal sliders. A small piece of elastic at the centre back gives a small amount of fit flexibility, with an off-centered hook and eye fastening.
Nylon was introduced by Du Pont in 1939 and was initially used by hosiery and brassiere manufacturers in the United States, a country not yet involved in the Second World War. It was said that this strong yet fine completely man-made textile fibre would be able to make the stockings of the future indestructible – a claim that proved to be not completely achievable, but the overall benefits of using nylon remained clear and so demand grew even before the stockings were even available to buy. Interestingly, the name nylon was never patented by Du Pont and it was introduced as a generic fibre at its launch. By 1940, all-nylon lingerie was selling out as fast as manufacturers could get the fabric – despite the fact that prices were the same as for pure-silk garments. This is perhaps due to Du Pont’s clever marketing of it nylon an up-market high-fashion fibre from the start.
Nylon bras made from marquisette, taffeta, and powernet were on sale in 1941 and 1942, before being withdrawn to conserve supplies of the fibre for use in the war effort.
From the collection of Lorraine Smith