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I apologize but this post is a little nerdy.Β What can I say? I am kind of a nerd. Okay, I’m a huge nerd.

I originally intended to write about the history of the bra – who invented it, why it was invented, how it was sewn, ecetera, ecetera – but as I read about its history, I came across one article that suggested something cooler and more interesting than simply dates and important names. The author wrote that the shape and size of women’s breasts (I don’t hate that word as much as the “p” word but it’s still awkward to say and write, right?) and her bra was and is related to what was going on during each time period. When women were given the right to vote in the 1920s, they were considered equal to men for the first time in history. They took their emancipation literally, flattening their chest to look like mens by wrapping them with bandages. I already knew that body size and shape related to a particular time period (Monroe of the 50s, Twiggie of the 60s, Nicole Richie about 5 years ago) but I never thought the events that occur during a certain time period related to the shape of breasts and bras. Because it was to read and learn, I wanted to share it with you. Below, I give you a brief breakdown of how the size and shape of breasts and bras changed in each decade since the 1920s

1920s Like I wrote above, woman were considered equal to men for the first time when they were given the right to vote. They took their newfound freedom literally, emulating mens body with homemade bandages and flattening corsets that hid all curves and femininity. No waist shape or bust definition was in fashion.

1930s Hollywood was huge but cleavage was not. Because of the Hays Code, women were not allowed to show cleavage on screen. So celebrities such as Anny Ondra and Bette Davis stayed sexy by exposing their backs with plunging back necklines. Femininity and curves were in, and women flaunted it, but it was hidden and sans cleavage.

1940s World War II. As their husbands were away at war, women assumed men’s roles, working as doctors, managers, clerks, etc. Once again considered equal to men, their dress and bust definition, or lack thereof, resembled mens. The milieu of fashion at the time was androgynous and military-esque. No massive boobage was shown. Instead, women covered up and wore pants, collared shirts, and jackets.

1950s With the war over, the focus shifted to space. We were on a race to get to the moon and its influence spilled into everyday life.Β Cars like the Pontiac and Studebaker resembled rockets and buildings such as coffee houses, gas stations, and motels were built to look “into the future” with starbursts motifs, slanting roofs, and lots of steel, glass, and neon. The space age look also influenced fashion and consequently, the way women showed their goods. Cleavage and massive boobage was not in, it was a very conservative time period, but womens bust shape become pointed, resembling rockets, with the Bullet Bra being a very popular item.

1960s and 1970s To be young and youthful was the desire of all women. Woe to the woman who wanted to grow up, marry, and have children. Androgyny, thinness, and the no chest was the look to have (Jean Seberg, not Twiggy, was my favorite from this time period).

1980s and 1990s Going back to work, woman used their accouterments to say and achieve power (no shame in that, in my opinion). Silhouettes were missy and conservative but sexy – power suits cinched in waists, cupped the chest, and accentuated the shoulders. Boobs were shown, but in a very refined, corporate, and powerful way.

Now I think that no particular size is “in.” Cameron Diaz, Michelle Obama, Jenna Lyons, Maria Sharapova, Kate Middleton, and Penelope Cruz, all women with different cup sizes, are gorgeous in my opinion. Today, it’s more about what is right for each woman, what works for them, and being happy with that. Agree?


  1. Reply


    Super interesting! It’s funny the way that fashion, even when it comes to something as intimate as underwear, is influenced by cultural forces. I feel like I’ve seen changes in bras during my time wearing them (not that long!)– when I think about bras in the ’90’s, pushups were really popular, and now I think a more natural silhouette is more prevalent.

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      Exactly what I think. When I was younger (I’m not old by any means-24) I wanted as much push up as possible. Not so any more. I’ve really been into bandeaus (especially from Free People) and higher (not high) waisted underwear (I’m not saying the P word). It’s weird how our eye changes, right?

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    what a great post. way more interesting than the technical evolution if the bra, in my opine…

    i would add that today cleavage sells, whether it’s a valley or mountains… i actually like that trend, because like you said, both are considered lovely. and when it gets hot in the summer, it’s just not fair for guys to have all the breeze:)

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      Very very true. Cleavage does sell and it can be cleavage of any size.

      P.S. Love your analogy. You always have the best comments

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    Great post! I also wanted to let you know I’ve nominated you dear Maddie for the Liebster award! πŸ™‚ Feel free to pop over on my blog to check it out!

    • Reply


      Thank you my dear! I’m heading over right now πŸ™‚

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    Interesting post; however, I have to wonder about the exceptions to the rules. For example, the “Earth Mother” look of the 1970s as portrayed by Mama Cass or other “large” women. Or the effect of trend setters like Madonna on corporate attire. 1990s grunge with it’s ubiquitous flannel shirt was quite androgynous..

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      Totally, totally agree. In every decade, there’s an overall trend but that’s not to say littler and less popular trends existed too. Not every woman had a flat chest in the 20s but a good deal did

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      I want to add to my last comment- I also think that with time came more and more trends at one time. During the 20s through the 50s, there was one widely prevalent trend, whereas today as well as previous decades, there are many trends that are “in style” at one time.

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    Oh I do love bras and bra making. It’s a great post.

    Have you ever seen Some Like it Hot? 1959, Marilyn Monroe with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon spending most of the movie in drag. It takes place in the 20’s, they sure weren’t taping her bust in the movie. At one point as they arrive in Florida, Sugar Kane (Marilyn) turns to Daphne (Jack Lemmon) and says he is lucky to have such a lovely flat chest, clothes fit him so well. The movie is well worth the time, lots of commentary about gender and acceptance if you want to think about it and comedy if you just want to enjoy the fast banter.

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      I love that movie! I have spent many Sunday’s watching that movie over and over and over again! I always get nostalgic when I watch it as I am from Florida and seeing them on the beaches just makes me long for home. Although I always thought the movie was funny, I never thought it to be a commentary on gender and acceptance. I guess I’ll just have to watch it again this weekend.

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        I didn’t really think about it until watching some special feature stuff that came with my DVD copy. “Nobody’s perfect” is a great last line.
        Apparently Jack and Tony went on casting calls in drag with the girls from the band to see if they would pass, Tony got a few call backs.

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          Its kind of cool to hear that self acceptance was a topic even way back then. I thought it was a new thing but I guessed I thought wrong. Thanks for the insight lovely lady

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