|
2
The Bra

A Funny Reaction to a Bright Invention

When electric lighting arrived on the scene in Victorian Britain, the technology wasn't embraced by everyone. Women in particular were concerned electric lamps would cast a harsh light on their complexions, rendering them less attractive.

Underwear can make even the most serious of us giggle. Why? Because these garments cover the private parts of a person's body. Let's just say what people don under their clothes can be the most revealing fashion statement.

Bras in particular hold a greater significance. Though women sported bra-like garments in ancient times, they didn't really pick up until the debut of Mary Phelps Jacob's "backless brassiere" in the early 1900s [source: MIT]. Her version of this undergarment redefined how women showcased or contained their breasts, depending on trends and time period. Phelps Jacob eventually sold her invention's patent to the Warner Brothers Corset Company, where the bra surpassed the corset in popularity, partially because corsets used valuable metal that needed to be used toward World War I. The bra obtained its characteristic cups later on -- Phelps Jacob's original invention intended to flatten the chest, not lift it up.

As women wore a greater diversity of bras, the device became linked to sex appeal, social class and style. Yet from the perspective of the growing U.S. feminist movement in the '60s, the bra symbolized viewing women as sexual objects. This is why groups planned to burn the undergarments outside the 1968 Miss American pageant. Such "bra-burning" came to typify the feminist movement, even though police didn't allow the protesters to actually set them on fire [source: Duron].

Our next invention brings the funniest ideas to life, sort of.

|