The origins and evolution of the bra

Shin, Woo Kyung (2009) The origins and evolution of the bra. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This thesis marks the first biography of the evolution of the bra from a designer and patternmaker’s perspective. Although the bra has a very long history, it only became a truly iconic garment in the latter half of the Twentieth Century. To some extent this transformation was driven by rapid social and economic changes, but the evolution of this highly technical garment is also inextricably linked to developments in technology which have led to improvements in materials, design and manufacture. Initially these developments were related to designing a three-dimensional product from a two-dimensional flat patternmaking process, but more recently the advent of the moulded bra has offered opportunities to create a seamless three-dimensional garment without the need to construct a flat pattern, and this has enabled both increased design possibilities and raised the prospect of a better fitting product. Through an investigation of the origins of underwear in general, and the bra in particular, this thesis reviews secondary source historical data to chart major changes in design, patternmaking, and technology from the first recorded uses of underwear to the current challenges facing bra designers and patternmakers in an increasingly globalised industry. This historical review culminates in the identification of two distinctly diverging trends in current bra design and manufacture, both of which face significant challenges in terms of training new designers and producing better sizing and fitting protocols. The two primary source studies which emanate from this historical review contribute new knowledge to each of these diverging directions in bra design. The first study provides an entirely new approach to the teaching, and subsequent current commercial practice of flat patternmaking for what many regard as the ‘traditional’ cut-and-sewn variety of bra. This study culminates in a new way of producing, learning and teaching the art of flat patternmaking, enabling underwear design graduates to leave university with the core skills they need to survive in a fast moving global industry. The second major study investigates the salient challenge of providing an excellent fit for both major types of bra across globally diverse and perhaps ethnically different body types. Consequently, it employs cutting-edge threedimensional body scanning technology to demonstrate how the design, sizing, and 2 fitting of both cut-and-sewn and moulded varieties of garment might be significantly improved in the future. Both primary source data studies therefore stand at the beginning of the future evolution of the most technically complex garment in human history, the not so humble bra.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: W200 Design studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Design
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
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Depositing User: EPrint Services
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2009 07:58
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2022 09:15

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