Is a form-fitting-undergarment designed to support or cover a woman’s breasts? Bras are designed for a variety of purposes, including enhancing breast size, creating cleavage, or for other aesthetic or practical considerations. Swimsuits, camisoles, and backless dresses may have built-in breast support with supportive bra cups.
Nursing bras are designed to facilitate breastfeeding. Some people have a medical and surgical need for brassieres, but most wear them for fashion or cultural reasons.
There is no evidence that bras prevent breasts from sagging and one study even suggests the opposite (weakening of the breasts’ supportive tissue),with the exception of wearing them during sports exercises.
Bras have gained importance beyond their mere functionality as a garment. Women’s choices about what kind of bra to wear are consciously and unconsciously affected by social perceptions of the ideal female body shape, which changes over time. Bras have become a fashion item and cultural statement that are sometimes purposefully revealed by the wearer or even worn as outerwear.
Bras are complex garments made of many parts. Manufacturing standards assume idealized, standard breast shapes and sizes that don’t match most bodies. Companies use vanity sizes, influencing the purchase of sizes that give the impression the wearer is slimmer or more buxom. In addition, international manufacturing standards and measurement methods vary widely.
Due to these challenges, many people have a hard time finding a correctly fitting bra. When they do find one that appears to fit, their tendency is to continue wearing the same bra size despite weight gain or loss. All of these factors result in up to 85 percent of those women who wear bras choosing and wearing the wrong size.
Due to the difficulty in finding a correctly fitting bra, a majority of women commonly experience discomfort while wearing a bra.
Some have protested societal expectations and sometimes school and workplace dress codes that require women to wear support garments. As early as 1873, the author Elizabeth Stuart Phelps advocated that women burn their corsets. This was echoed in 1968 at the protest during the Miss America pageant when women symbolically threw a number of feminine products into a large trash can. A reporter conflated their protest with Vietnam-era men who burned their draft cards, creating the trope of bra-burning feminists.
Women’s choices about what bra to wear are consciously and unconsciously affected by social perceptions of the ideal female body shape, which changes over time.
As lingerie, women wear bras for sex appeal. Bras can also be used to make a social statement as evidenced by Jean-Paul Gaultier’s designs and the cone-shaped bra Madonna wore outside her clothing on her Blond Ambition World Tour.
In the 1920s in the United States – the flapperera – the fashion was to flatten the breasts. During the 1940s and 1950s, the sweater girlbecame fashionable, supported by a bullet bra(known also as a torpedo or cone bra) as worn by Jane Russell and Patti Page.
In the early 1960s, smaller breasts gained popularity, and in the late 1990s larger breasts became more fashionable.
Iris Marion Young described preferences in the United States in 1990: “round, sitting high on the chest, large but not bulbous, with the look of firmness.” This is regarded as contradictory in several ways.
As outerwear, bras in the form of bikini tops in the 1950s became the acceptable public display in modern times.During the 1960s, designers and manufacturers introduced padded and underwire bras. After the Miss America protest in September 1968, manufacturers were concerned that women would stop wearing bras. In response, many altered their marketing and claimed that wearing their bra was like “not wearing a bra”.In the 1970s women sought more comfortable and natural-looking bras.
Victoria’s Secret commissions a fantasy bra every autumn. In 2003 it hired the jeweller Mouawad to design one containing more than 2500 carats of diamonds and sapphires; valued at US$10 million, it was the world’s most valuable bra at the time
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