Overwire 'Bow' Longline Bra By Bali

Overwire 'Bow' Longline Bra By Bali, c. 1950s, USA. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

Date: c. 1950s

Origin: United States

Fabric: Nylon

Brand: Bali


Although overwired bras were first seen in the 1930s, it was only by the 1950s with the lift of wartime material restrictions that these structured bra styles became truly popular. The shape of these bras made them most suitable for the plunging necklines of eveningwear fashions, giving support and security. The overwire was a relatively constricting structure with little flexibility, so it’s perhaps no surprise that these bras often featured interior padding on the wire stress points. They were arguably not as comfortable as their underwired counterparts, so it’s perhaps little surprise that this style almost completely fell out of manufacturing, with only a few independent lingerie brands today ‘reviving’ the shape.

This bra has a number of noteworthy construction details, particularly on the cups. The cup shape is achieved with a vertical dart, which has been stitched with a faggoting style ladder braid. The bottom of the cups are machine quilted, and a decorative signature nylon bow is appliquéd across the centre front of the cups. The longline shape maintains its vertical tension with steel bones alongside the complex overwire structure itself. Satin encased padding is sewn into the garment interior at key stress points for comfort. The bra wings are a stretch mesh, edged with plush elastic. The bra fastens with hooks and eyes at the centre back.

The Bali Brassiere company began as the ‘Fay-Miss’ in 1927, later changing the brand name in 1935 to reflect their most popular products, the Bali range. A signature design feature was the ‘bow’ decorative overlay, which can be found on a wide range of Bali’s products, from various bra shapes to slips and shapewear. This bra originally sold for $8.50, which would be approximately $75 in today’s currency.


From the collection of Karolina Laskowska

Museum number: KL-2017-128


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