Artist urges women to bring out dead bras
Guelph Mercury News
Wednesday, February 12, 2003, p. A2
JOANNE SHUTTLEWORTH - MERCURY STAFF GUELPH
It's time to bring out your dead -- your dead bras that is. Thursday has been declared Dead Bra Day by the Breast of Canada calendar creator-- a day to pitch those tired old bras hiding in the the back of dresser drawers.
"I don't know about you but I have a few of these things lurking in the dark. Bras with no elastic, held together with safety pins. It's a universal phenomenon. Women hang on to bras way longer than is useful," said Sue Richards, director of the Guelph art group Art Jam and co-creator of the calendar. She readily admits the day is of her own making.
The idea of the calendar is to promote breast health among women, and especially to encourage regular breast exams. Dead Bra Day, she said, has a light-hearted theme. "Especially in the depths of winter, I tried to create something fun, something positive. It's not all about looking for the lump," Richards said.
She suggested some creative ways women can dispose of their bras after the intimate underwear has served its purpose. Perhaps a bra tree, a bra fence, or a bra wall in a bar or eatery to draw attention to women's health issues, Richards said.
She also mentioned the Web site, www.braball.com, that includes the 'herstory' and photo gallery on another inspired project that makes used of discarded bras. Since January 2001, San Francisco artist Emily Duffy has collected over 18,000 bras, hooked them together end-to-end and wound them all in a huge ball over five feet in diameter. The Bra Ball then hit the circuit, raising money for breast cancer research, and awareness around domestic violence. "There's a lot of potential in Dead Bra Day," Richards said. "With space shuttles falling from the sky, avalanches claiming the lives of teenagers, and pending war, there's a lot of value in looking at the lighter side of life."
The History of the Bra
Back in 2500 B.C., warrior Minoan women on the Greek island of Crete began wearing a bra-resembling garment, and the corset can be traced back to about 2000 BC.
In the 1550s the corset became the dominant undergarment of support and restraint for the next 350 years.
By the 1820s, a "corset mecanique" was actually invented to squeeze women into their corsets with the help of pulleys, instead of servants.
In 1893 Marie Tucek patented the "Breast Supporter." The garment included separate pockets for each breast, straps that passed over the shoulders and fastened with hook and eye closures, making it the earliest known design similar to modern bras.
Dissatisfied with the idea of having to wear a heavy corset under a new sheer evening gown in 1913, socialite Mary Phelps Jacob of New York devised a backless bra made from two handkerchiefs, some ribbon and cord. She later sold the patent to Warner Brothers Corset Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The First World War (1914-18) forced women into the workforce. Many began working in factories and wearing uniforms, making daily corset wear a problem.
In 1917 the U.S. War Industries Board requested women stop buying corsets to reduce the consumption of metal. It is said said up to 28,000 tons of metal was conserved through this effort, "enough to build two battleships." In the 1920s Warner introduced a tight, chest-flattening bra, that was designed to flatten the breasts, rather than support them.
The 'sweater-girl' look, portrayed by actress Lana Turner during the 1930s, was the next fashion development, incorporating pointed rigid bras that maintained their shape. This was followed by 'falsies.' These were pads worn inside the bra that were designed to enhance the fullness of the bust. These evolved into the push-up bra, stiffened cups supported by underwiring.
By the 1950s the shape had become most exaggerated. Strapless bras also became popular at this time because of the fashion for off-the-shoulder outfits. The 1960s saw the women's liberation movement denouncing bras as a symbol of conformity and servitude and encouraging bra-burning rallies. The free love movement would see the bra abandoned altogether, resulting in the braless look. By the 1970s new technology, such as lycra, had seen bras become increasingly lightweight, durable and elastic.
Fitting Room Secrets
There's really no secret to finding a well-fitting bra. "All it takes is proper measuring," said Terri Lawson, a sales clerk at Silk and Satin in Stone Road Mall. Women need to measure in two places: around the rib cage just under the bust line, and at the fullest part of the bust.
"Most women -- about 80 per cent -- don't wear the proper size," Lawson said. "If you find yourself spilling out, either at the front, the back or the sides, your bra is too small." Lawson said to take the rib cage measurement and add five inches to get the band size. Then take the fullest measurement and subtract the band size. A one-inch difference means an A cup size; two inches is a B cup; three inches a C cup and four inches a D. "A proper fitting bra should feel comfortable, not binding," Lawson stressed. "You should be able to lift your arms without falling out."
Sue Richards says the Breast of Canada calendar has declared February 13th Dead Bra Day, a day to pitch those tired old bras hiding in the back of dresser drawers.
© 2003 Guelph Mercury. All rights reserved.