I'm a sewing enthusiast in Beacon, New York, with a love of all things retro. This site is all about tutorials, tips, inspiration, and lots of spirited discussion about sewing as it relates to fashion history, pop culture, body image, and gender. My first book, Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing, is now out from STC Craft/Melanie Falick Books! Also look for my line "Patterns by Gertie" from Butterick.
So, bra shapes have clearly changed significantly over the past 60 years. No argument there. In the famous "I dreamed . . ." Maidenform ad campaign, you see the bullet shape that the 50s were known for.
These seamed bras push your breasts into the point of the cup, making the plane of the chest above your bra appear flat. Modern women find this whole idea quite weird.
Fast forward to 2011. The "t-shirt bra"--a molded seamless bra resembling two basketballs cut in half--rules.
As lingerie giant Victoria's Secret describes the above bra: "Special padding lifts you up and out, instantly adding up to 2 full cup sizes for maximum cleavage and fullness." It seems the whole point of the t-shirt bra is create the illusion of perfectly round breasts, while forcing your actual breasts out of the cup so they're perched above your bra. Kind of weird too, right?
The interesting thing is that each era seems to think that they've created a "natural" or "feminine" shape, when in fact both are quite manufactured. Just as body shapes go in and out of fashion, breast shape does too. And--it seems to me--the trend is influenced by the pornography of the day. Women of the 50s tried to emulate the pin-up girls that their men so adored. And we now live in the "Girls Next Door" era of grapefruit-shaped implants. Hence these crazy push-up bras with two-inch thick layers of molded foam.
I recently discovered the amazing Bali Flower bra (seamed but not overtly bullet-y), which has been in production for many years. It's listed on a lingerie site on a special "conical bras" page:
States the copy:"Whether it's nostalgia, the fashion runaways or the TV series Mad Men, those bullet-shaped bras are baaaaa-ck. We're by no means suggesting that this is the look of the modern woman, but why not enjoy a little dreamy escapism just for fun?"
It's interesting that this look is so on the fringes of "the look of the modern woman" that a site has to suggest that these are bras only worn for "escapism", like a Halloween costume or something. No, the modern woman wears what Oprah and porn has decreed we will wear: the t-shirt bra. Which is not costumey at all! No siree! It's just two lumps of foam strapped to your chest!
Anyway, I could probably write a book on this subject (we haven't even discussed the "no-bra" bra of the 60s!), but to boil this down to a blog post: bra shape is incredibly trend-driven, and tied up in all sorts of gender and sexual politics. And now, with the prevalence of plastic surgery, breast shape itself is changeable and trend-driven.
Do you agree? Do you see one shape as more "natural" than the other? Is one woman more "liberated" than the other?