The bullet bra was first designed during the late forties wartime era and became even more popular during the fifties. Tightly stitching the bra cups into a circular or conical shape made the breasts project forward in a bullet or torpedo fashion.
While the style was worn by hometown mothers, it was also a pin-up girl favorite.
Nineteen year old socialite Caresse Crosby (born Mary Phelps Jacob, April 20, 1891 – January 26, 1970) is credited with the development of the precursor to the modern brassiere as a protest to the restrictive corsets. She patented the “backless brassiere” on November 3, 1914.
The innovative design as pictured below had shoulder straps that attached to the bra’s upper and lower corners and wrap-around laces attached at the lower corners which tied in the front. Caresse used pink ribbons for the laces.
It was with this 1930 patent though that the term brassiere was shortened to bra and began to look more like what we are accustomed to seeing today.
The size and pendulousness of the woman’s breasts was correlated to the letters of the alphabet and hook and eye fasteners began to be used in the thirties as well.
As with the girdle industry, the use of rubber and elastic products led to improvements in brassiere designs and options. The production of elasticized synthetic fabrics revolutionized the brassiere industry and provided never before seen comfort. Marketing of bras and corsetry became a major industry as fashion and Hollywood glamour dictated an uplifted bust line, narrow waist, and accentuated curves.
The World War II need for steel played a big part in the popularity of bullet bras during the 1940s when steel boned corsets gave way to a more streamlined undergarment. The use of military terminology during this time resulting in naming it after a torpedo or bullet.
Popular sweater girls Jane Russell and Rita Hayworth exemplified the bullet bra’s effects with their frequent covers for the weekly United States Army magazine, “Yank, the Army Weekly.”
The amply endowed Russell declined to wear the underwire bra that Howard Hughes had specially designed for her censorship plagued role in the 1946 film “Outlaw.” She complained it was too uncomfortable. Ironically, Russell touted the comfort of Playtex bras in the 1970s.
While some women continued to wear a corset during the fifties, many opted for a longline bra and open bottom girdle with garters to execute the hourglass silhouette so popular in the fifties.
Thanks in part to Madonna’s Blond Ambition World Tour and the current fascination with fifties pin-up girls and rockabilly fashion, retro bras and vintage lingerie has experienced a revival in popularity.