Progress of the bra:
-Women’s freedom of movement, choice in dress
-Women had been wanting a looser foundation garment so they could participate in sports, dances like the tango, etc. Now there are bras for every occasion and lifestyle choice.
-Cheap bras are available to women for practical, everyday wear
-Bras are cheaply made overseas
-More practical to wear than the corset
-The bra holds the breasts in place so obnoxious movement doesn’t happen.
-The corset was known to cause harm to the body. The bra is safe to wear.
-Bra industry is accommodating of the consumer’s desires; bras are becoming more comfortable to wear because of the consumer’s demand for comfort
Regression thanks to the bra:
-Use of disadvantaged low-wage workers in third world countries
-Before the bra, the corset was handmade, and eventually domestic industry took over the production of ready-made corsets. Corsets were made domestically by experts in the staymaking industry and fitted by expert fitters. With the bra, the manufacturers are removed from the professional sphere. Manufacturers today are tasked with copying the design that the designer gives them, instead of creating and designing the bra. Third world supply chains have cheapened the bra, sure, but this comes at a cost to low wage workers.
-Stigma attached to those who choose not to wear a bra
Women who decided not to wear the corset were denounced as communists, lesbians, and were regarded as unfeminine. While the braless are not quite subject to the same degree of scrutiny as corsetless women, there is still the sentiment that the absence of a bra makes one improper. Going in public without a bra may be viewed as sexually suggestive at best, and unsanitary at worst.
The bra, while a practical garment to wear, still confines women into boxes (or rather, cups). Being inside the box exempts a woman from possible scrutiny, while choosing to be outside of the box causes others to squirm in disgust that one isn’t following the norm. At worst, braless women will be labeled as tree hugging hippies. People think it acceptable to point out when a woman is not wearing a bra, and poke fun at her unconfined breasts. Going braless in the workplace would be seen as inappropriate and sexually suggestive. Unconfined breasts are regarded as vulgar and obscene. Visible nipples/nipple protrusion more so.
What did I find most compelling? The irony that the bra was viewed at times as a garment created by men to oppress women, but yet was invented by women, for women for the sake of giving women what they wanted: movement and comfort. However, the bra itself is not what we should be scrutinizing. We should instead be scrutinizing who or what decided upon the ideal body shape for women and how the bra and other foundation garments factor in. Standards of beauty have dictated to women and men what garments are acceptable to wear and which aren’t. If one does not follow these standards, one is delegitimized. Is this acceptable? Are arbitrary cultural rules simply harmful or do they serve a purpose? What would exist without these standards, these dress codes? And would we want to live in such a world?