Nylon Rosette Ruffle Bra By Au Fait Foundations

Nylon Rosette Ruffle Bra By Au Fait Foundations, c. 1950s, England. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

Date: c. 1950s

Origin: England

Fabric: Nylon

Brand: Au Fait Foundations


This bra has small, unlined mesh cups that are decorated with ruffled rosettes. The bra is otherwise fairly simple, with a single elastic strap to form the band beneath the cups, adjustable shoulder straps, a small dart to shape the cups, and a non-adjustable hook in the back. The tag along the band has the name of the brand, Au Fait, and reads “Made in England,” as well as noting the size (32) and the model number, 5133. It holds similarities to pieces in the Underpinnings Museum’s collection, such as this black cotton tulle ruffle bra, and these tulle and satin breast pads, both from the 1930s. While they are a little earlier, these two pieces of comparanda indicate that the ruffles on this bra were intended to pad the bustline, helping create the full, hyper-feminine curves that were the popular silhouette of the 1950s.

The British Au Fait foundations line boasted that it combined “elegance as well as ease,” and promoted its girdles that would give the “willow waist” characteristic the desirable 1950s silhouette. The Au Fait line was potentially produced through the British corset manufacturer Spirella. “Au Fait” is French for “by the way”, though in British English it has become slang meaning to be up-to-date and well-acquainted with something. It is possible the use of a French phrase for the name of a British company was to capitalize on the prestige of the French fashion industry — at the time, many consumers felt that all fashion came from Paris, so using French would give the impression that these garments were French and therefore fashionable.

According to a September 1948 issue of The Buyer: The South African Trade Journal, Au Fait Foundations was a long-established company that had only been operating under that trade name since 1940. As of 1949, Au Fait produced utility brassieres in accordance with the British Government’s Second World War Utility Clothing Scheme using 100% British materials. Au Fait foundations were carried by retailers alongside other prominent foundation lines including Kestos and Berlei, and their advertisements were published in British magazines including The Queen and Country Life as well as the American magazine Harper Bazaar. In 1954, the address for Au Fait Foundations Ltd. was given as 1 Hanover Square, London W1, but in 1957 it was 48 Brook Street, London W1 — only about two blocks away. Au Fait appears to have been well-known within the United Kingdom and was even called “the greatest Fashion name in Brassieres” by Radio Times in 1958. The company was still operational into 1965, though according to Underwear: The Fashion History by Alison J. Carter, dissolved in 1984.


From the collection of Karolina Laskowska.

Many thanks to Katherine Shark for the object description and research, and Summer Anne Lee for researching the company history of Au Fait Foundations.

Museum number: KL-2017-149


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