The following article was sourced from a Wikipedia page at the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassiere
A brassiere, commonly referred to as a bra, is a woman's undergarment that supports her breasts. Bras are typically form-fitting and perform a variety of functions; not only do women usually wear them to support their breasts, but they have also evolved into a fashion item.
Changing social trends and novel materials have increased the variety and complexity of available designs as well as allowed manufacturers to make bras that in some instances are more fashionable than functional.
Some garments, such as camisoles, tank tops and backless dresses, have built-in breast support, alleviating the need to wear a separate bra.
The bra has become a feminine icon or symbol with cultural significance beyond its primary function of supporting breasts.
Women wear bras for many reasons – among them are comfort, appearance, or to conform to social expectations. Some bras are designed to enhance the size of breasts, while others are designed for maximum comfort. Still other bras are designed for nursing or exercise.
The term "brassiere" was first used in the English language in 1893. In 1904, it gained wider acceptance when the DeBevoise Company invoked the fashionable cachet of the French language by applying the term "brassière" to describe their latest bust supporter in their advertising copy—the actual French word from which the term derives means "upper-arm." That product and other early versions of the brassiere resembled a camisole stiffened with boning. Vogue magazine first used the term in 1907, and by 1911 the word had made its way into the Oxford English Dictionary. On 3 November 1914, the newly formed U.S. patent category for "brassieres" was inaugurated with the first patent issued to Mary Phelps Jacob. In the 1930s, "brassiere" was gradually shortened to "bra".
In the French language, the term for brassière is soutien-gorge (figuratively "throat-support"). In French, gorge (throat) was a common euphemism for the breast. This dates back to the garment developed by Herminie Cadolle in 1905. The French word brassière refers to a child's undershirt, underbodice, or harness. The word brassière derives from bracière, an Old French word meaning "arm protector" and referring to military uniforms (bras in French means "arm"). This later became used for a military breast plate, and later for a type of women's corset.
In the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec, both soutien-gorge and brassière are used interchangeably. The Portuguese word for bra is sutiã, while the Spanish use the word sujetador (from sujetar, to hold). The Germans, Swedes, Danes, and Dutch all use the acronym "BH" which means, respectively, Büstenhalter, bysthållare, brystholder, and bustehouder (bust-holder). In Esperanto, the bra is called a mamzono (breast-belt). Despite the large number of nicknames for breasts themselves, there are only a couple of nicknames for bras, including "over-the-shoulder boulder-holder" and "upper-decker flopper-stopper".
Wearing a specialized garment designed to support a woman's breasts may date back to ancient Greece. Women wore an apodesmos, later stēthodesmē, mastodesmos and mastodeton, all meaning "breast-band", a band of wool or linen that was wrapped across the breasts and tied or pinned at the back.
In 2008, archaeologists working at the Lengberg Castle in Eastern Tyrol, Austria discovered 2700 fragments of textile, among them four bras. Two of them were modern-looking bras, the other two were undershirts with incorporated cups. All bras were from linen. The two modern-looking bras were somewhat similar to the modern longline brassiere; the cups were made from two pieces of linen sewn with fabric that extended down to the bottom of the torso with a row of six eyelets for fastening with a lace or string. The brassiere also had two shoulder straps and was decorated with lace between the cleavage, one of them possessing needle lace. The radiocarbon dating results showed that the four bras stemmed from the period between 1440 and 1485.
From the 16th century onwards, the undergarments of wealthier women in the Western world were dominated by the corset, which pushed the breasts upwards. In the later part of the 19th century, clothing designers began experimenting with various alternatives to the corset, trying things like splitting the corset into multiple parts: a girdle-like restraining device for the lower torso, and devices that suspended the breasts from the shoulder to the upper torso.
The German Christine Hardt patented the first modern brassiere in 1889. Sigmund Lindauer from Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, Germany developed a brassiere for mass production in 1912 and patented it in 1913. It was mass-produced by Mechanischen Trikotweberei Ludwig Maier und Cie. in Böblingen, Germany. With metal shortages, World War I encouraged the end of the corset. By the time the war ended, most fashion-conscious women in Europe and North America were wearing brassieres. From that point forward, women in Asia, Africa, and Latin America adopted the brassiere.
A design recognized as the modern bra was patented in 1914 in the United States by Mary Phelps Jacob.
Like other clothing, brassieres were initially sewn by small production companies and supplied to various retailers. The term "cup" was not used to describe bras until 1916, and manufacturers relied on stretchable cups to accommodate different sized breasts. Women with larger or pendulous breasts had the choice of long-line bras, built-up backs, wedge-shaped inserts between the cups, wider straps, power Lastex, firm bands under the cup, and even light boning.
In October 1932, the S.H. Camp and Company correlated the size and pendulousness of a woman's breasts to letters of the alphabet, A through D. Camp's advertising featured letter-labeled profiles of breasts in the February 1933 issue of Corset and Underwear Review. In 1937, Warner began to feature cup sizing in its products. Adjustable bands were introduced using multiple hook and eye closures in the 1930s.
Since then, bras have replaced corsets, and bra manufacture and sale has become a multi-billion dollar industry.
Although in popular culture the invention of the bra is frequently attributed to men, women have played a large part in bra design and manufacture, accounting for half of the patents filed. There is an urban legend that the brassiere was invented by a man named Otto Titzling ("tit sling") who lost a lawsuit with Phillip de Brassiere ("fill up the brassiere"). This originated with the 1971 book Bust-Up: The Uplifting Tale of Otto Titzling and the Development of the Bra and was propagated in a comedic song from the movie Beaches.
CONSTRUCTION AND MANUFACTURING
Bras are built on a square frame model. Their main components are a chest band that wraps around the woman's torso, two cups to hold the breasts, and shoulder straps. The chest band is usually closed in the back by a hook and eye fastener, but may be fastened at the front. Some bras, particularly sleep bras or athletic bras, do not have fasteners and are pulled on over the head and breasts. The section between the cups at the front is called a "gore". The section under the armpit where the band joins the cups is called the "back wing".
Bra components, including the cup top and bottom (if seamed), the central, side and back panels, and the straps, are cut based on manufacturer's specifications. Many layers of fabrics are usually cut at the same time using a computer-controlled laser or a bandsaw shearing device. The pieces may be assembled by piece workers on site or at various locations using either industrial grade sewing machines or automated machines. Coated metal hooks and eyes are sewn in by machine and heat processed or ironed into the two back ends of the bra band and then a tag or label is attached. Some bras now avoid tags and print the label information onto the bra itself. The completed bras are transported to another location for packaging, where they are sorted by style and folded (either mechanically or manually), and packaged or readied for shipment.
The chest band and the bra cups are designed to support the weight of women's breasts, not the shoulder straps. Some bras, called strapless bras, do not use shoulder straps but rely on underwire and additional seaming and stiffening panels to support the breasts. The shoulder straps of some sports bras cross over at the back to take the pressure off an athlete's shoulders when arms are raised. Manufacturers continually experiment with proprietary frame designs. For example, the Playtex "18-Hour Bra" model utilizes an M-Frame design.
Constructing a properly fitting brassiere is difficult. Adelle Kirk, formerly a manager at the global Kurt Salmon management consulting firm that specializes in the apparel and retail businesses, said that making bras is complex.
Bras are one of the most complex pieces of apparel. There are lots of different styles, and each style has a dozen different sizes, and within that there are a lot of colours. Furthermore, there is a lot of product engineering. You've got hooks, you've got straps, there are usually two parts to every cup, and each requires a heavy amount of sewing. It is very component intensive.
Before the advent of modern fabrics, fabrics, including linen, cotton broadcloth, and twill weaves that could be sewn using flat-felled or bias-tape seams, were used to make early brassieres. Bras are now made of a wide variety of materials, including Tricot, Spandex, Spanette, Latex, microfiber, satin, Jacquard, foam, mesh, and lace, which are blended to achieve specific purposes.
Spandex, a synthetic fibre with built-in "stretch memory", can be blended with cotton, polyester, or nylon. Mesh is a high-tech synthetic composed of ultra-fine filaments that are tightly knit for smoothness.
Sixty to seventy percent of bras sold in the United Kingdom and the United States use underwire in the cup. The underwire is made of metal, plastic, or resin. Underwire is built into the bra around the perimeter of the cup where it attaches to the band, increasing the rigidity of the bra. The underwire improves support, lift, and separation. Wirefree or softcup bras support breasts using additional seaming and internal reinforcement. Some types of bras, like T-shirt bras, utilize moUlded cups that eliminate bra seams and hide the woman's nipples. Others use padding or shaping materials to enhance bust size or cleavage.
Manufacturing standards vary
To mass-produce bras, manufacturers size their bras to a prototypical woman, assuming she is standing with both arms at her sides. The design also assumes that both breasts are equally sized and positioned. Manufacturing a well-fitting bra is a challenge since the garment is supposed to be form-fitting but women's breasts can vary in volume, width, height, composition, shape, and position on the chest. Manufacturers make standard bra sizes that provide a "close" fit, however even a woman with accurate measurements can have a difficult time finding a correctly fitted bra because of the variations in sizes between different manufacturers. Some manufacturers create "vanity sizes" and deliberately mis-state the size of their bras in an attempt to persuade women that they are slimmer and more buxom. Scientific studies show that the current system of bra sizing is quite inadequate.
Variance in bra sizes
Types of bras
There is an increasingly wide range of brassiere styles available, designed to match different body types, situations, and outer wear. The degree of shaping and coverage of the breasts varies between styles, as do functionality, fashion, fit, fabric, and color. Common types include backless, balconette, convertible, shelf, full cup, demi-cup, minimizing, padded, plunge, posture, push-up, racerback, sheer, strapless, T-shirt, underwire, unlined, soft cup, and sports bra. Many designs combine one or more of these styles. Bras are built into some garments like camisoles, single-piece swimsuits, and tank tops, eliminating the need to wear a separate bra.
CORRECTLY FITTING BRAS
Because standards vary so widely, finding a correctly fitting bra can be very difficult for many women. Medical studies have also attested to the difficulty of getting a correct fit. Women tend to find a bra that appears to fit and stay with that size for a long period of time. As a result, 80–85% of women wear the wrong bra size.
Checking band fit
Checking cup fit
Bra experts recommend that women, especially those whose cup sizes are D or larger, get a professional bra fitting from the lingerie department of a clothing store or a specialty lingerie store. Generally, anytime a woman experiences a significant weight change, or if a woman has to continually adjust her bra or experiences general discomfort, the woman should get a new fitting.
SAGGING OF BREASTS
Robert Mansell, a professor of surgery at the University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff, reported that, "Bras don't prevent breasts from sagging, with regard to stretching of the breast ligaments and drooping in later life, that occurs very regularly anyway, and that's a function of the weight, often of heavy breasts, and these women are wearing bras and it doesn't prevent it." John Dixey, at the time CEO of Playtex, agreed with Mansell. "We have no medical evidence that wearing a bra could prevent sagging, because the breast itself is not muscle so keeping it toned up is an impossibility." John Dixey told interviewers. "There's no permanent effect on the breast from wearing a particular bra. The bra will give you the shape the bra's been designed to give while you're wearing it." Bras only affect the shape of breasts while they are being worn.
Deborah Franklin, a senior writer in science and medicine, wrote in Health magazine that, "Still, the myth that daily, lifelong bra wearing is crucial to preserving curves persists, along with other misguided notions about that fetching bit of binding left over from the days when a wasp waist defined the contours of a woman's power."
Franklin interviewed Dr. Christine Haycock a surgeon at the New Jersey Medical School and an expert in sports medicine. Dr. Haycock said that "Cooper's ligaments have nothing to do with supporting breast tissue... They just serve to divide the breast into compartments." She noted that most women's breasts begin to droop with age and that extremely large-breasted women are generally more affected. However, sagging is not related to ligaments or dependent on breast size.
A badly fitted bra can also contribute to health problems.
Large breasts and bra fitting
Bras and physical activity
Some occupations require women to repeatedly raise their arms above the shoulders. Volleyball, high jump, or long jump athletes must continually lift their arms above their shoulders. This can cause the shoulder straps to dig in, putting the athletes at risk for shoulder pain. Even smaller-busted women who repeatedly lift their arms while wearing poorly designed or badly fitted bras can experience shoulder pain.
To compensate, female athletes can wear athletic or sports bras. Judy Mahle Lutter, president of the Melpomene Institute, a Minnesota-based research organization devoted to women's health and physical activity, reports that "Larger-breasted women, and women who are breast-feeding, often have trouble finding a sports bra that fits, feels comfortable and provides sufficient motion control."
CULTURE AND FASHION
Modern bras were invented at the beginning of the 19th century but are not universally worn around the world.
After the feminist protest during the Miss America pageant on 7 September 1968, bra manufacturers were concerned that women would stop wearing bras. In response, many bra manufacturers' altered their marketing and began claiming that wearing their bra was like "not wearing a bra". During the 1960s, bra designers and manufacturers introduced padded bras and underwire bras. Women's perception of undergarments changed, and in the 1970s, they began to seek more comfortable and natural looking bras.
Each fall, Victoria's Secret commissions the creation of a Fantasy Bra containing gems and precious metals. In 2003, it hired the jeweller Mouawad to design a bra containing more than 2,500 carats of diamonds and sapphires, taking over 370 man-hours to complete. German supermodel Heidi Klum later posed in the bra, which at the time was the world's most valuable, at USD$10 million. In 2010, Victoria's Secret hired designer Damiani to create a US$2 million Fantasy Bra. It includes more than 3,000 brilliant cut white diamonds, totaling 60 carats, and 82 carats of sapphires and topazes.
Visible bra and straps
It is increasingly common in popular culture to see women wearing clothing in certain social situations that purposefully exposes a portion of their bra or bra straps. Actress Julia Roberts as the title character in the film Erin Brockovich frequently wore tops that revealed her Ultimo push-up bra and cleavage. In the television series Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw, the character played by Sarah Jessica Parker, wore a top that revealed a lace bra. Demi Lovato's appearance on Cosmopolitan's August 2013 cover in a plunging orange dress that revealed the underwire-buttressed centre of an ornate teal bra was cited by New York magazine as a sign that exposed centre-bra was becoming a surging fashion trend. The Fall 2013 Couture collection introduced by Versace prominently featured fashions that were open in the front, revealing underwire bras.
Other women have exposed their bras in public to draw attention and raise funds for charities like breast cancer research. Wearing clothing that reveals the wearer's bra or bra straps has become so common that Cosmopolitan and Seventeen created guidelines for women describing how to expose their bra straps or bras in an acceptable manner. The guidelines include avoiding flesh-toned, smooth-cup bras, so that the exposure looks deliberate and not accidental. They also recommend making sure the women's bra is in good condition and to wear a style that provides ample coverage. Other advice includes wearing a flesh-coloured bra or a bra that matches the colour of the sheer garment worn and don't wear a bra that shows through the garment's armholes.
Bras and youth
Firm, upright breasts are typical of youth. As such, they may not physically require the support of a bra. A Pencil test, developed by Ann Landers, has sometimes been promoted as a criterion to determine whether a girl should begin wearing a bra: a pencil is placed under the breast, and if it stays in place by itself, then wearing a bra is recommended; if it falls to the ground, it is not.
Girls may choose to begin wearing a training bra designed for pubescent or teen girls who have begun to develop breasts during early puberty. They are available in sizes 30AA to 38B.
In the early 1960s, 96.3% of female college freshmen bought bras as part of their back to school wardrobe. At the tail end of the 1960s when bralessness increased as a trend, the number had slipped to 85%. Only 77% of high school girls bought bras as they prepared to return to school.
SOCIAL ISSUES AND TRENDS
Consumers spend around $16 billion a year worldwide on bras. In 2012, women in the United States owned an average of 9 bras and wore six of them on a regular basis. That is an increase from 2006, when the average American woman owned six bras, one of which was a strapless bra, and one in a colour other than white. The average bra size among North American women has increased from 34B in 1983 to a 34DD in 2013. The growth in bra size has been linked to growing obesity rates, increased number of breast implants, increased birth control usage, oestrogen mimicking pollutants, the growing availability of a larger selection of bras, and to women wearing better fitting bras.
Percentage wearing bras
A Harris Survey, commissioned by Playboy, asked more than 1,000 women what they like in a bra. Among the respondents, 67% said they like wearing a bra over going braless, while 85% wanted to wear a "shape-enhancing bra that feels like nothing at all." They were split over underwire bras, 49% said they prefer underwire bras while 49% said they prefer wireless bras.
When a woman chooses to go braless, others may assume she's making a political statement or that she wants sexual attention. On the contrary, women who go braless may simply desire to feel more comfortable. Some women, especially those with smaller busts, prefer to go braless and can get away with it more easily than larger-busted women. Women may wear bras because their work dress code requires it, but actually prefer going braless. Some women feel uncomfortable wearing a bra and take off their bras when they return home.
To avoid unwanted attention, women who want to go braless can choose clothing like camisoles that conceal their breasts and nipples or adhesive silicone nipple covers. Depending on the social context, women may wear different kinds of clothing to hide or reveal the fact that they're not wearing a bra. Some outer garments like sundresses, tank tops, and formal evening wear are designed to be worn without bras or are designed with built-in support. In some social circumstances, a woman may choose to go braless even when it is obvious to the casual observer. Unhappy bra owners have donated thousands of bras to the Braball Sculpture, a collection of 18,085 bras. The organizer, Emily Duffy, wears a 42B and switched to stretch undershirts with built-in bras because standard bras cut into her midsection.
Opposition to bras
Bra opponents believe training bras are used to indoctrinate girls into thinking about their breasts as sexual objects. In their view, bras for very young girls whose breasts do not yet need support are not functional undergarments and are only intended to accentuate the girl's sexuality. Feminist author Iris Young wrote that the bra "serves as a barrier to touch" and that a braless woman is "deobjectified", eliminating the "hard, pointy look that phallic culture posits as the norm." Without a bra, women's breasts are not consistently shaped objects but change as the woman moves, reflecting the natural body. Unbound breasts mock the ideal of the perfect breast. "Most scandalous of all, without a bra, the nipples show. Nipples are indecent. Cleavage is good—the more, the better..." Susan Brownmiller in her book Femininity took the position that women without bras shock and anger men because men "implicitly think that they own breasts and that only they should remove bras."
In October 2009, Somalia's hard-line Islamic group Al-Shabaab forced women in public to shake their breasts at gunpoint to see if they wore bras, which they called "un-Islamic". They told women that wearing a bra was deceptive and against Islamic teaching. Girls and women found wearing a bra were publicly whipped because bras are seen as "deceptive" and to violate their interpretation of Sharia law. A resident of Mogadishu whose daughters were whipped said, "The Islamists say a woman's chest should be firm naturally, or flat."
Individuals opposed to bras in the United States organized a "National No-Bra Day", first observed on 9 July in 2011. The group encouraged women to go without a bra for the entire day. Women posted on Twitter comments about the relief they feel when taking off their bra. The lingerie firm Victoria's Secret commented that the day was not good for their business. More than 250,000 people expressed support for the special day on a Facebook page dedicated to the event.
Miss America protest
Hanisch said, "Up until this time, we hadn't done a lot of actions yet. We were a very small movement. It was kind of a gutsy thing to do. Miss America was this 'American pie' icon. Who would dare criticize this?" Along with tossing the items into the trash can, they marched with signs, passed out pamphlets, and crowned a live sheep, comparing the beauty pageant to livestock competitions at county fairs. "The media picked up on the bra part," Hanisch said later. "I often say that if they had called us 'girdle burners,' every woman in America would have run to join us."
At the graduates' table, Germaine was explaining that there could be no liberation for women, no matter how highly educated, as long as we were required to cram our breasts into bras constructed like mini-Vesuviuses, two stitched white cantilevered cones which bore no resemblance to the female anatomy. The willingly suffered discomfort of the Sixties bra, she opined vigorously, was a hideous symbol of female oppression.
Germaine Greer's book The Female Eunuch has been associated with the 'bra burning movement' because she pointed out how restrictive and uncomfortable a bra in that time period could be. "Bras are a ludicrous invention," she wrote, "but if you make bralessness a rule, you're just subjecting yourself to yet another repression." For some, the bra remains a symbol of restrictions imposed by society on women: "...the classic burning of the bras...represented liberation from the oppression of the male patriarchy, right down to unbinding yourself from the constrictions of your smooth silhouette." While women didn't literally burn their bras, some women stopped wearing bras as a form of rebellion or protest. By refusing to follow generally accepted norms, they intended to communicate their rejection of how society stratifies men's and women's roles.
Professor and feminist Iris Marion Young wrote that in U.S. culture breasts are subject to "Capitalist, patriarchal American media-dominated culture [that] objectives breasts before such a distancing glance that freezes and masters." Some feminists suggest that when a young girl begins wearing a bra, it symbolically changes her breasts into sexual objects.
SOCIAL AND LEGAL ISSUES
Plant High (Tampa) girls cross country coach Roy Harrison reported that out of concern for his student's safety, he would not follow the mandate. "We train all through August and September, when the heat index is 103 °F (39 °C), 105 °F (41 °C), 107 °F (42 °C) outside even in the evening and to me, it's a safety issue not letting boys run without their shirts and girls in sports bras." Coaches and athletes pointed out that sports bras, form-fitting compression shorts and running shirtless are common, as is wearing swimsuits and tight-fitting volleyball uniforms.
During 2012, Memphis, Tennessee Democrat Joe Towns attempted but failed to pass legislation that required female student athletes to wear shirts over their sports bras. Knoxville Republican Bill Dunn was shocked at the way the girl athletes dress.
...having several children who play sports, it's pretty shocking to me that you go to practices and games and young ladies are walking around in sports bras…would that be considered underwear?
In August 2011, Wendy Anderson of Utah sued her employer for sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In her suit, she claimed that Derek Wright, her employer, attempted to require her to adhere to a dress code that included a "No Bra Thursday". She alleged that he regularly discussed Anderson's breast size with her in front of other employees.
Richard Branson, the owner of Virgin Rail in Britain, caused a row among his female train attendants when he introduced new uniforms in May 2013. A number of them complained that the new blouses they are required to wear are too revealing and expose their brassieres to the public. Virgin Rail offered a voucher worth £20 to allow the unhappy employees to purchase a top to wear underneath the new blouses.
To read more about brassieres, please click on the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brassiere