You Can Thank World War I for Your Bra


Turns out World War I was responsible for more than Spanish flu and modernist novels read by college freshmen: The conflict also helped American women kick the corset and embrace the bra.

It is National Underwear Day (sure!), so NPR has a brief piece about the the war to end all wars and the advent of the brassiere. Patent-office credit for the first modern bra goes to Caresse Crosby, who supposedly rigged one together one evening when her corset just didn’t work with her party dress. But it took a 1917 plea from the War Industries Board to put corsets on the defensive:

Back to the War Industries Board’s corset ban, which freed women to work at physically demanding factory jobs — and 28,000 pounds of steel, enough to build two battleships. By the time the war ended in 1918, corsets were fading fast, and following World War II and another severe metal shortage, American busts were free at last.

Once that corset comes off, there’s no cramming the gut-flesh back in. So sometime today, take a deep breath and appreciate that you live in an era when the depths of your lungs occasionally get some oxygen.

Photo via Ruslan Kudrin/Shutterstock.

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