Date: c. 1940s
Origin: Great Britain
The ‘Kestos’ bra had its first patent filed in 1926, and almost immediately exploded in popularity. Its influence was such that the brand name ‘Kestos’ was at one stage generically interchangeable with ‘brassiere’. The bra was arguably one of the first commercially produced bras with seperated 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 brand saw countless copies of its original design. Some where more blatant then others (with the Kestos brand pursuing legal action against some competitors), but most made enough legally recognisable design changes to avoid infringing on Kestos’ original patents.
Such was the Kestos bra’s popularity that it was manufactured continually from the 1920s well into the 1950s. By the 1940s, it is evident that the brand had become frustrated its copycats, resulting in this advertisement that boldly proclaims ‘We Thought Of It First’.
In 1940s Britain, clothing was rationed due to resource limitation during WWII. This resulted in a government scheme in which any clothing sold had to be approved under its ‘Utility’ scheme, to prevent waste of crucial resources like fabric. This scheme is referenced within the advert ‘By official order we now call them ‘Utility”. One of the Kestos bras sold under this scheme can be found within our collection here, and is identified by the ‘CC41’ label on the garment interior.
From the collection of Karolina Laskowska