1950s Bras – The Class Conscious BosomMarch 31, 2021
When we think of the 1950s bras, it is guaranteed that there will be one shape that comes to mind – pointy. Madonna on her Blonde Ambition tour, wearing her underwear as outerwear. That kind of shape. Not only will the most fashionable girl have conical boobs, but a small waist.
But is this really what most people looked like? I turned to an etiquette guide from 1957 to find out the truth of the matter. This book is entitled “An Intelligent Women’s Guide to Good Taste”, so we know it is both correct and definitive.
I have to strongly emphasis here that these are entirely the opinions of Mary Tuck. She’s the author of an essay about the subject in the book. Not mine, and not this website’s.
1950s Bras – You Don’t Need to See Her Face at All.
Mary Tuck explains that when the word “beauty care” is mentioned, most women will think of their faces, of makeup and cosmetics. But this is wrong. Passing a woman on a busy street “It’s the figure that is first noticed, the figure that is first judged, the figure that most clearly shows status, character, state of mind… You don’t need to see her face at all.”
Good to know, Mary Tuck. Good to know that you don’t even need to look at a woman’s face before you judge her. She goes on to helpfully explain:
“Think of those cosy, essentially English little bundles you will see any winter day on your nearest shopping street. Belted coats pulled tightly round non-existent waists, short, twinkling legs busily trotting along on stout and solid shoes. Think of the chest-flattened, mouse-coloured country girl with stick legs and gently rounded shoulders whom you will see standing shyly and gawkily in a corner at any country dance. Think of the sharply corseted needle-bosomed espresso girl, slick in her buttock-hugging pants. Think of the Queen Mary or double-jointed dowager stance, glimpsed across a lawn at Glyndebourne or seen, shadowy but imposing, in the card room at a débutante ball.”
Take Bosoms, for Instance
Take bosoms, for instance. A young American friend of mine, visiting England for the first time in 1947, became seriously worried about the future of the English race. Her reason?The non-existence of the English bosom. At that time bosoms were even less evident in the country than they are today. Years of clothes rationing and of short supply had made a whole generation un-corset-conscious.
Supplies were only just beginning to get back into the shops. Since then heavy advertising has wrought a transformation in the feminine profile of England. Sales of brassières have increased five-fold since the end of the war. Though an enormously high percentage of these sales (something like fifty per cent) are sold across the counter of our most popular chain store, still standards of fitting and variations in sizing have enormously improved.
1950s Bras – The Class D Bosom
Anyway, my American friend was being rather naïve. In America a bosom is quite simply regarded as a good thing. English bosoms are class-conscious.
There’s a certain very pointed 1950s Bras shape (there’s a mark’s and Spencer brassière which will get it for you very efficiently if you want it) which is undoubtedly rather Class D. It has a geometric, not to say abstract, look. The almost needle-fine points suggest no comfortable enveloping embrace, no womb-like maternal comfort, but rather an almost boyish aggressiveness together with a high degree of self-awareness. It’s usually worn with rather tight, finely knitted sweaters, though there is a slightly more sophisticated fashion for wearing it with great, loose, shapeless, thickly knitted masculine sweaters, which is meant to emphasise its impertinently and inescapably feminine nature.
1950s Bras – The Class C Bosom
The Class C bosom has a tendency to be ample, softly rounded, undivided. It goes with lacy jumpers knitted from patterns in Stitchcraft. The bra which produces it is usually made in flesh pink and can be bought easily at Barkers, Derry and Toms or Pontings. It has what is known to the trade as “deep diaphragm control”. That is to say, it is mounted on a great thick band of material below the bust proper in order to encase ample flesh more firmly.
1950s Bras – The Class C Bosom
“I have a suspicion, founded on no statistics at all, that the Class A bosom tends to be the most drooping of all. Look around at any hunt ball. The reasons for this are an interesting subject for speculation. I think that the most probable is that starchy feeding at fashionable girls’ schools produces unusually hefty figures in the adolescent Class A female.
The safest, most innocuous bosom shape to aim at this year is high, young and round. The natural contours of the healthy, high-set young breast are the ideal currently aimed at. The main snare is to avoid a too-pointed 1950s Bras look. The opposite snare is the snagged, shapeless look, due to insufficient support.”
Much like today then, really. Mary doesn’t mention anything about the Class B Bosom – perhaps it’s the one above. She also offers opinions about the English abdomen, and its appropriate support. Various “corsets” are discussed (and it’s interesting that she calls them corsets, not girdles, waspies or roll-ons).
Conscious and Unconscious Attitudes and the Faults that Blush Unseen
Finally in 1950s Bras, we come to issues like posture -“Conscious Attitudes” -and the importance of standing tall. Or if we cannot be bothered, at least to avoid the worst excesses of “Unconscious Attitudes” and the “absurd and giveaway errors of posture”. These include “The Débutante Slouch”, “The Thirties Teeter”, “The School-Marm Strut”, “The Pram-Pusher’s Straddle”, “The Teddy-Girl Sidle” and “The School-Girl Stomp.”
As for “The Faults that Blush Unseen” – do not be like the French. No man wants to experience your natural smell. Have a bath every day.