Date: c. 1930s
Origin: Great Britain
Fabric: Silk satin, cotton bobbinet
Brand: Unknown, likely custom made
A soft cup style bra based on the ‘Kestos’ bra of the late 1920s. The design was patented in 1926 and the bra was arguably one of the first commercially produced bras with separated cups. It marked the shift in ideal body aesthetic from the flattened bust of the 1920s to the more voluptuous ideal of the 1930s.
The Kestos bra is based on two lightly darted triangle cups, overlapping at the centre front. Elasticated straps cross at the centre back, fastening around the front with buttons underneath the bust point. The bra was designed by Rosamond Lilian Klin, in London, England. The Kestos bra remained popular through the 1930s and 1940s. Although the Kestos brand produced many different styles, this bra shape became generically known as ‘The Kestos’.
This particular bra is not an authentic branded Kestos, but was custom made by a seamstress for an individual wealthy client. It is particularly noteworthy due to the luxurious and time-consuming techniques and fabrics used. The bra is entirely hand stitched, with profuse embroidery embellishing the top part of each cup. It is constructed with a mix of machine stitching and hand sewing. The majority of core construction, such as the darts and interior binding stitching, is done by machine, with the majority of finishing done by hand.
The tap pants were not made as part of a matching set, but were styled with the bra as they both feature similar finishing techniques and fabrics. As with the bra, the tap pants were likely custom made for a wealthy individual, and are entirely hand stitched with luxurious techniques and fabrics. Silk satin and cotton bobbinet form alternating panels, appliquéd to one another with decorative scallop patterned stitching. The silk satin is subtly embellished with pintucks, whilst the bobbinet panels feature lavish hand embroidery and silk appliqués in floral motifs. The waist and leg edges are trimmed with narrow silk bias binding, and the garment closes with mother of pearl buttons and loops at the side waist.
Bra from The Underpinnings Museum’s collection, tap pants from the collection of Karolina Laskowska