Date: c. 1930s
Fabric: Silk and leavers lace
This brassiere offered not only the fashionable 1930s shape of a subtly lifted bustline, but also a low cut back that was likely designed to be worn with the low cut bias-gowns of the era. It is certainly a luxurious garment with high-end fabric and couture-like construction, likely intended only for occasion wear.
The bra is constructed from a combination of lightweight silk, leavers lace and cotton bobbinet tulle. Shoulder straps are made with a combination of rayon satin and a strip of elastic and, unusually for the time period, feature an adjustable section with celluloid adjusters. Adjustable shoulder straps were rarely seen until the 1950s. The shoulder straps are placed at the cup apexes and are widely placed at the back, to allow for low back garments to be worn without the undergarment showing.
The construction techniques used in this bra are of a high standard, with a mix of neat machine stitching and hand finishing. The raw edges of the garment seams are concealed within the garment’s linings and neat French seams, and hems are rolled in and stitched by hands. The neck edge of the garment has a rigid crown-edged decorative trim.
Small loops of elastic with hooks at the bottom are sewn into 4 points of the garment (at the centre front, back and sides), designed to attach to other undergarments to keep everything smooth and in place during wear. The garment fastens at the centre back with a row of rayon satin hook and eye tape, sewn in with a combination of machine and hand stitching for a smooth and concealed exterior finish. Sadly due to the garment’s age and fragility of silk, one of the seams split and was later repaired by a small area of lace appliqué at a later date.
The garment was made in France by the Cadolle brand, to be sold in the Chicago department store stockist Marshall Fields. It was likely marketed as an ultra-luxe import, particularly since French fashion was renowned worldwide.
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