Various bras and gift bags

Buy cheap, get cheap, as my father always said.

Corsetry is comparable to shoemaking in the complexity of the product and the finesse required to produce exceptional results. Fine brassieres require more handwork than any other item of standard apparel in order to properly exploit the technical properties of various materials. Modern bras are a remarkable structural achievement. This seems to have become clear around the middle of the twentieth century. In the January, 1959 issue of CAPER, a second-string men’s magazine, we find this:

Caper magazine cover

Says Henry Plehn, president of Peter Pan brassieres and one of the best silhouette engineers in the business, “More engineering time, skill, and effort goes into a brassiere than into a major steel and concrete bridge because of the unique stresses and strains involved. Among the sections to be harmoniously united: cups, stitching, hooks, eyes, wires, straps, gores, bones, bands, trimming and lining. Among the structural materials: cotton, nylon, silk, plush, batiste, rubber, plastic, iron and steel.”

Back up for Mr. Plehn’s bra-bridge comparison was not long in coming. In his article BRASSIERES: An Engineering Miracle (Science and Mechanics, February, 1964). Edward Nanas writes:

In many respects, the challenge of enclosing and supporting a semi-solid mass of variable volume and shape involves a design effort comparable to that of building a bridge or a cantilevered skyscraper.

Bra designers must solve the problem of providing an uplift against vertical (downward) and sometimes tangential forces. They have borrowed from the design of suspension bridges, supplying vertical supports of wire or bone that are similar to a bridge’s piers. Wire cages for the cups duplicate wire ropes supporting the bridge’s roadway.

Mr. Nanas concludes:

The object of the designer then is to keep the bosom at a pleasing equilibrium in the face of gravity.

You got that right, pal.