Date: c. 1920s
Fabric: Silk satin, elastic
A bandeau bra in silk satin, embellished with a cotton tulle neckline trim and silk ribbon rosettes at the shoulder strap joins. The silk ribbon shoulder straps are fixed length, with no adjustability or elastic. Elastic gussets are stitched into the back panels to offer some fit flexibility. The garment closes with metal hooks and eyes at the centre back. The garment is sewn with a mix of machine and hand stitching, with numerous alterations worked both by hand and machine. Due to the garment’s age, the silk is beginning to shatter in numerous areas.
The bandeau bra shape came to prominence in the 1920s, and was intended to flatten rather than to accentuate bustlines. Rather than shaped cups, the bras were cut with minimal shaping and lift, in order to smooth the figure to the ideal silhouette of the day. Women’s Wear Daily in August 5th, 1926 reported that ‘Several corsetieres, such as Madame Cadolle, report that American women [as opposed to French women] prefer deeper, straighter bands of lace or satin that give flatter shape and which are cut to control bust and diaphragm…One point on which both French and Americans seemed to be agreed is the desirability of support as flexible as possible, with little or no boning, and made of supple materials’.
The Cadolle design house was founded by Hermine Cadolle in 1878, originally a shop that specialised in made-to-measure undergarments. Hermine is often credited with designing the first modern bra in 1889, although this is often contested. The brand continues to this day, and is now headed by Poupie Cadolle, the fifth generation of the family to run the eponymous brand.
From the collection of Karolina Laskowska
With thanks to Geena Roth for research assistance