Date: 1920s

Culture: French

Medium: silk, cotton

Credit Line: Gift of The Family of Mrs. M. Lincoln Schuster, 1977

Accession Number: 1977.363.18


This early brassiere is a feather-light dream in comparison to the heavy corsets that had previously been relied on to support the bust. Brassiere-like undergarments, such as Herminie Cadolle's breast girdle, had been developed in the late nineteenth century, but they were intended to be worn in combination with a corset. The invention of the modern brassiere is credited to Caresse Crosby (also known as Mary Phelps Jacob), who patented her creation in 1914. Like Crosby's brassiere, the 1920s brassiere shown here is soft and lightweight. Although it has an almost bandeaulike appearance when laid flat, there are small tucks that give room for some fullness of the breast. Such a delicate garment was clearly not intended for a full-figured woman, but instead for the boyishly slim flapper who was the ideal in the 1920s. Women who did not conform to that ideal had the option of securing their breasts in a sturdier bandeau.