Who invented the Bra?

Woman taking off her brassiere

Hello Readers,

I am going to start this post off with a question for you.Who invented the Bra?

This week I was watching one of my favourite shows the Great British Sewing Bee and if you haven’t seen it, in every episode they take 5-10 minutes out of the coverage of the competition to talk about the history of sewing and this week they talked about a particular woman who I think should be more famous than what she actually is. I have never heard of her and not a lot of people have. Now you are probably wondering who I could be talking about well her name is Mary Phelps Jacob later to be known as Caresse Crosby. Caresse Crosby is the women who invented the modern-day BRA. YES, women from around the world this is the women you need to thank for creating the brassiere that we know today. While researching this woman and learning about her life, it has made me wish that I knew her before. Her life at that time and to certain extent now has been so scandalous and seems like you could make a TV drama about her life.


     Before this Careese Crosby underwear became famous, all women had two options to wear underneath their clothing. Option 1: A corset. Option 2: NOTHING!!

Caresse Crosby was born Mary Phelps Jacob on the 20th April 1891 in America and moved to France later in life. Her first husband was Richard R. Peabody, whom which she had two children with. After he gave his service during World War 1 the experience that Richard had been through put a strain on their relationship and they soon separated but not divorced. They divorced two years later after she had met and had been dating  Harry Crosby for quite some time. Their very public relationship became quite a scandal in the Boston Society. Harry and Caresse married soon after her and Richard divorced. They then left for Paris living of Harry’s trust fund and lived a very bohemian lifestyle. They had open marriage with both of them having numerous relationships with other people, frequent drug use. Mary changed her name to Caresse in 1924 and a year later her and Harry started the Black Sun Press in Paris, France. It famously posted early works of many later to be famous authors such as Ernest Hemmingway, Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski to name but a few.

In 1929 her husband Harry died. It was unsure whether his death was because of a murder-suicide or a double suicide with one of his many lovers. Due to the uncertainty of his death it became a big scandal amongst newspapers.                                                                          Caresse continued to run the Black Sun Press. In 1936 see left Europe and moved back to America and married Selbert Young, who was 16 years her junior. While married to Selbert the couple dealt with their alcohol and drug addiction and cleaned up, however they later divorced. She then moved to Washington D.C. and began dating a black actor/boxer Canada Lee.

See what I mean this could be a TV Drama and I haven’t gotten started on her modern bra design yet.


Now how she got the idea for a modern-day bra was when she was 19 and was getting ready for one of many débutante balls that she would be attending at this time of her life. She had on a corset that was as is famously known very restrictive, tight and stiffened with whalebone, which wasn’t helped by the fact the she had rather a large bust. The corset also was poking through the dress she was going to wear, so she called for two pocket handkerchiefs and some ribbon and she sewed these pieces together and fashioned a very simple bra which meant that she was able to be supported in the breast area and be comfortable at the same time. Many of the girls at the ball which she attended were amazed on how free her movement was and wanted to know why. By the end of the night she had orders for her new invention.

She filed for a patent on the 12 February 1914 and in November of that year she was granted her the patent for what was called a ‘backless brassiere’. Her design had shoulder straps which attached to the garment’s upper and lower corners, and wrap-around laces attached at the lower corners which tied in the woman’s front, enabling her to wear gowns cut low in the back. In May 1920 she founded the Fashion Form Brassiere Company and she opened a two-woman sweatshop that manufactured her creation. She was able to secure orders with a few department stores but unfortunately her business never really took off. Her soon to be second husband Harry discouraged her from pursuing the business and she sold the patent to Warner Brothers Corset company for USD $1,500 which in today’s money would be $21,000

I believe that this women should be more famous than what she actually is. Her private life is something out of a mills and boon novel and to think she had this idea for something which majority of women of the world wear everyday so young and have the gumption to then Paton it and try to start-up a business around it and how many of us women know about her.

So ladies and gentlemen you know all about this amazing woman and I hope you spread the word. Please share this on Facebook and Twitter, let’s get the word out about this women.

I would love to know what you think of this woman. Do you think more people need to know about her or do you think she isn’t worth knowing about. Please leave your comments below.

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Nicky xxxx

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