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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A brassiere; commonly referred to as a bra ) is an article of clothing that covers, supports, and elevates the breasts. Since the late 19th century, it has replaced the corset as the most widely accepted method for supporting a woman's breasts.

Women wear bras for a variety of purposes, for support, to improve the shape of breasts, to reduce or to enlarge the perceived breast size, to restrain breast movement during an activity , to enhance their cleavage or to facilitate nursing. Most bras are designed to be form-fitting and to lift the breasts off the chest wall if they sag and to restrain their movement. Bra designers strive to produce a garment that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

For some people, the bra has become a garment with erotic significance and a feminine icon or symbol with political and cultural significance beyond its primary function. Some feminists consider the brassiere a symbol of the repression of women's bodies (see bra burning). Historically, when a young girl gets her first bra, it may be symbolic of her coming of age.


The history of the bra is inextricably intertwined with the social history of the status of women. Therefore it is important to realize how fashion has evolved, and how changing views of the body and especially the breasts have shaped that fashion.

At various times since recorded history women have used a variety of garments and devices to cover, restrain or elevate their breasts. Brassiere or bikini like garments are depicted on some women athletes in the seventh century BC in the Minoan era. Similar functionality could be achieved by both outerwear and underwear.

From the sixteenth century onwards the undergarments of wealthier women were dominated by the corset, which pushed the breasts upwards. In the latter part of the nineteenth century various alternatives were experimented with, splitting the corset into a girdle-like restraining device for the lower torso, and transferring the upper part to devices suspended from the shoulder.

By the early twentieth century garments more closely resembling contemporary bras had emerged, although large scale commercial production did not occur till the 1930s. Since then bras have virtually replaced corsets, although some prefer camisoles, and become a multi-billion dollar industry dominated by large multinational corporations. Over this time the emphasis has largely shifted from functionality to fashion.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Brassiere" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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