'Whirlpool' Spiral Stitch Overwire Bra By Hollywood Maxwell

'Whirlpool' Spiral Stitch Overwire Bra By Hollywood Maxwell, c. 1944, USA. The Underpinnings Museum. Photography by Tigz Rice

Date: c. 1944

Origin: United States

Fabric: Nylon

Brand: Hollywood Maxwell


Although spiral stitching and overwires are bra features often associated with 1950s lingerie, the technology precedes that fashion period by several years. The Hollywood Maxwell brand was founded in 1929 and was renowned for championing and patenting new brassiere techniques.

The bra label notes two patents: the first is number 1997995A (granted in 1933), which details bra improvements including spiral stitching and cup shaping, and the second is 2436094A (granted in 1944) which details an overwire style structure, to allow for brassieres to be worn with low cut necklines.

This strapless bra style was very much ahead of its time, as overwire bras did not become commonplace until the 1950s once wartime metal usages restrictions were lifted. Indeed, this bra was likely a luxurious purchase, with the interior boasting satin padding and silk velvet lining.

The garment is entirely machine stitched, with bottom cups of rayon satin, top cups of cotton tulle, and elasticated wings. The brand label states it is a size 36C, indicating that the brand was an early adopter of the bra size format still used to this day.


From The Underpinnings Museum collection.

Museum number: UM-2018-007


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