Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Black Bra

Laura read to me an article from Fall 2010 25th Anniversary Issue of Elle "One Vision, the story of Dolce and Gabbana". What caught her eye was "they are best known for the simple black bra. It is the one piece that has underpinned nearly every collection that Dolce and Gabbana have ever done."
Dolce and Gabbana had begun in 1985 and Laura got the impression that Dolce and Gabbana had developed the black bra. Naturally this is probably what some marketing agent would have one believe. Just as Pavlov wanted dogs to associate bells with steak dinners, marketing always attempts such association. Ideally for Dolce and Gabbana, a woman wanting a black bra would go for theirs and believe them not only to be the authority but the originator.
I have taken an interest in the bra since my first encounter as a boy with Sears catalogue. I appreciate that colour photography came later but I just couldn't believe that the 'black bra' was something that came after 1985.
Thanks to Google I began to search the subject.
First it turns out that bras have been around since about at least 1400 BC, about 3500 years ago and slightly before 1985. We do not know the colour of the first bras that appear to have been introduced by female athletes in ancient Greece. It's further clear that the binding of breasts was not what Betty Friedan and Jane Fonda said it was, 'an instrument of torture designed by men' in that bizarre bra burning era. Today 2nd wave feminists would like to forget their youthful silliness.
Ida Rosenthall of Maidenform asked about bra burning in the 60's said that women over 35 liked her support : "Time is on our side."she said. Certainly bras sales in this billion dollar industry prove Ida knew more about women than say Betty or Jane. Feminism in general by blaming all the woes of women and the world on men did much to empower men but today women have accepted that freedom comes with responsibility. They are apparently wearing bras without being forced and held down by men to do so. It's a multi billion dollar business!
As a man I can say that given the short shrift that bras have when men and women are intimate this suggests strongly that men are as happy to look at braless women as women with bras. (However we don't look at women at today overtly because 2nd wave feminist bra burners introducted "lookism" as a criminal offence for which men are still being imprisoned indiscriminately in America.)
Personally, I kind of miss the 40's bullet bras and was much enamored by Madonna, thinking fondly of my air force father and rancher grandfather being nostalgic about this previous unsung era. Hooray Madonna!
The bikini was also developed in the 1940's. Wikipedia's History of the bikini says that it shocked when it was introduced to French beaches in 1947 but it had been around for 'millennia'. The article points to two piece athletic garments dating to 1400 BC in Greece and a Bikini Girl Roman mosaic dating to 300 AD. Crete women fashion of the Knossos Palace era with regard to breasts predates Victoria Secret by nearly 4000 years.
The modern bra was developed by a woman not a man as feminist would claim. Ms Crosby (damn her) circa 1915 is said to have developed the first modern bra with two napkins and ribbons. Around the same time another woman Ms. Jacobs was developing a more substantial modern bra.
It's apparent that the bra has been around since long before Dolce and Gabbana no doubt added some sexy design features. Italian men and women have long been trendsetters in the world of Romeo and Juliett. America in contrast has given us Hillary's pantsuits and Pallins parkas.
The history of Maidenform, the Rosenthall company, suggests truly that everything that we think about bras was probably developed by them before their bankruptcy in 1997. I'm not surprised given the parallel engineering history of the american automobile before the 80's offered most of what we like best in cars.
A 1960 fashion catalogue offers bikinis in every colour imaginable. The black, white and red colours have been the most popular bra colours. Yet in the 60's plum was a colour that bras came in. Interestingly gingham was used for bras during WWII because of the availability of that material. One imagines that black would predate the gingham colours and say calico which was an earlier available dye colour. Dyes have been available since thousands of years ago in China. Europe had it's dye guilds during medieval times. The Scots, bless their souls, introduced bleaching and presbyterianism. Brown was an early available dye colour. Purple dates well before it's popularity with Roman emperors as red predated it's popularity with of Catholic cardinals hundreds of years ago. The common aniline black dye for cotton was developed in 1860. Searching the history of the black bra I was only able to find specific reference to it going back to the 1960's. Vintage wear collections date black bras to the 1950's.
In the end I do believe that the Milan Italian fashion firm's black bra might well be very complimentary but historically not as explosive as the bullet bra.
As for men's bras they seem to be a recent phenomena. I suspect there are black men's bras. However Stanford and Boxer, unlike Maidenform and Dolce and Gabbana, do not appear to be trendsetters in male underwear development.
Further, black is ,despite it's theological implications, a forgiving colour and my suspicion is that historically women have factored this into their buying decisions. Christians may have clung to white bras but secular women may have voted for black bras early especially before the introduction of the home washing machines.
I personally as a man like black Stanfields and can appreciate that.
The recent Facebook, what colour is your bra campaign presupposes women today are not only wearing bras but are wearing colored bras. While I cling to my black Stanfords boxers, I will gladly support women whether they are or are not wearing bras, whether they are burning them or seeking their remnants in the ashes, or casting them off for one reason or the other.
Thanks to my discussion this morning I assure you I will be glad to see any Dolce and Gabana black bras on or off the rack!

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