unnamedBack in June, female students at a Montana high school staged a braless protest in support of a fellow student who claims she was sent home from school for not wearing a bra. In response, these girls stripped off their own bras before going to lessons, and some of the male students wore bras outside of their shirts. They argued that a bra is not part of the school dress code, and should not be made a mandatory item of clothing. However the school principal stated that the missing bra was not the problem, but instead she was sent home after another student complained her outfit was making them uncomfortable. The issue is not going away quietly though, and the Facebook page No Bra, No Problem, rapidly gathered support.

Bras have a history of being linked to attempts to police how women dress:

  • Invented in 1914, by Mary Phelps Jacob, from two hankies and a piece of ribbon, to escape the constricting corsets that were so popular at the time.
  • They¬†grew in popularity through the First World War as women moved into new and more active jobs, which required a greater degree of physical freedom.
  • Cup sizes didn‚Äôt come into existence until the 1920s.
  • Padded bras were the creation of Frederick Mellinger in 1947. He also invented the thong!
  • Bra burning as a political statement started at the 1968 Miss America Pageant, where ironically, the feminists were prevented from actually setting them on fire by policeman. They had to settle for symbolically binning the bras instead.
  • Sports bras turned up in 1977, and immediately provided a far greater degree of freedom.
  • In 2000 Gisele Bundchen wore the Red Hot Fantasy Bra, made from red satin and hand-cut Thai diamonds and rubies, it was valued at $15 million, and entered the Guinness Book of Records as the most expensive item of underwear ever created.
  • 2011 saw companies selling bras with cup sizes ranging up to L or even N!

So from a liberating new undergarment to a way to torture women’s bodies, to the ongoing debate over whether they are mandatory, what does a bra mean to you?

-Claire Parker
Junior Girl
Girls Museum Inc.

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