Saturday, July 29, 2017

Oh, patents! Mary Phelps Jacob’s brassière

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

In the United States, Mary Phelps Jacob’s 1914 patented brassière, US1115674, is usually credited as one of the first bra garments, separate from the corset. Bra lore informs us that it was originally cobbled from handkerchiefs, primarily in response to the dictates of early 20th-century fashion, which included plunging necklines, backless evening gowns, made of sheer and vaporous material.  The new brassière garment was designed “comfortable and cool”, with none of the constricting pressures of corsets or the whale bones that stiffened them, and stuck out under finer and lighter garments.

Indeed, the Phelps Jacob patent states, in regard the purpose of this brassiere invention, that it is:
…to provide a garment which is characterized by exreme simplicity, by freedom from bone so that it may be finished with laces or embroideries, for wear beneath a shear waist, or diapahanous gown, and which when worn is both comfortable and cool, and so efficient that it may be worn even by persons engaged in violent exercises, such as tennis; and which has other advantages that are characteristic for the invention herein set forth, some of which may be summarized by saying that it does not confine the person anywhere, except where it is needed. 
The included figure drawing from the Phelps Jacob patent shows the brassiere with its two trapeze-shaped pieces of cloth (10) sewn together, its straps (16) and ties (15) which are meant to be crossed in the back, and tied in the front.

The Phelps Jacob brassiere patent was assigned to the Warner Bros Corset Company for 1500$ where the commercial success of the brassiere, in the following years, was estimated at 15 million! (Phelps Family History)

Incidentally, Phelps Jacob is also known as Caresse Crosby (wife of Harry Crosby). Together, the husband and wife team were the editors of the Black Sun Press they founded, in Paris, in the 1920s. The Black Sun Press is known for having exquisitely published the early works of such famous post-World War I Lost Generation expatriate American authors as Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Kay Boyle, Hart Crane and Robert Duncan, plus more, then-struggling authors, such as  James Joyce, T.S.Eliot, and Ezra Pound.

Black Sun Press
Phelps Family History
Crosby, C. (1968) The Passionate Years (Autobiography) Southern Illinois Press.

No comments: