The Dresden-based German Christine Hardt received a patent for a modern bra this date in 1889. However, in 1914 socialite Mary Phelps Jacob patented an invention she created from some handerchiefs and a piece of pink ribbon one night before going out. This “backless brassiere” became the basis for the bras we know today.
The term brassiere was used by the Evening Herald in Syracuse, New York, in 1893. It gained wider acceptance in 1904 when the DeBevoise Company used it in their advertising copy—although the word is actually Norman French for a child’s undershirt. Early versions resembled a camisole stiffened with boning.
Vogue magazine first used the term brassier in 1907 and by 1911, the word had made its way into the Oxford English Dictionary. On November 1, 1914, the newly formed U.S. patent category for “brassieres” was inaugurated with the first patent issued to Mary Phelps Jacob. In the 1930’s brassiere was gradually shortened to bra.
Wearing a garment to support the breasts may date back to ancient Greece. Women wore a strip of cloth called a “breast-band,” a band of wool or linen that was wrapped across the breasts and tied or pinned at the back
Fragments of linen textiles found in East Tyrol in Austria dated to between 1440 and 1485 are believed to have been bras. Two of them had cups made from two pieces of linen sewn with fabric that extended to the bottom of the torso with a row of six eyelets for fastening with a lace or string. One had two shoulder straps and was decorated with lace in the cleavage.
From the 16th Century, the undergarments of wealthier women in the Western world were dominated by the corset, which pushed the breasts upwards. In the later 19th Century, clothing designers began experimenting with alternatives, splitting the corset into multiple parts: a girdle-like restraining device for the lower torso, and devices that suspended the breasts from the shoulder to the upper torso. (from Wikipedia)