Cover image for Uplift : the bra in America
Uplift : the bra in America
Farrell-Beck, Jane.
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Publication Information:
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xv, 243 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
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Material Type
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TT677 .F37 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Over the years the bra has been stereotyped as an object of seduction, glamour, and even oppression. This title uses this item of clothing to gauge the social history of women and to understand the business history of fashion. It aims to provide a sense of the dynamic relationship of the bra to wider issues in society.

Author Notes

Jane Farrell-Beck is Professor of Textiles and Clothing at Iowa State University. Colleen Gau is President of CPRTex, Inc., a home-based conservation of textiles business and the author of articles on clothing and health.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In the 1890s, mail-order "bust girdle" advertisements were discreetly hidden in the back pages of women's magazines; by 1918, bras were a major staple of the fashion industry, with 52 different brands prominently displayed in department stores. In this good-humored yet careful examination of mainstream print advertisements and bra-industry publications such as the Corset and Underwear Review, Farrell-Beck, a professor of textiles and clothing at Iowa State University's College of Family and Consumer Sciences, and Gau, president of a home-based textile-conservation business, illuminate women's experience of this most everyday, functional yet still titillating and even scandalous garment. Less a history of the bra than a study of its relationship to history, the book traces public perception of the bra's foremost function: originally conceived as a garment meant to promote women's health, it came to be seen as one meant to improve their appearance. Bra design, the authors demonstrate, shifted endlessly in response to such factors as wartime rationing, the increasing number of women in sports and, of course, the feminist movement of the 1960s and '70s. Many of Farrell-Beck and Gau's discoveries are surprising: Who knew that the U.S. government commissioned Maidenform to design a vest for carrier pigeons during WWII or that one enterprising manufacturer marketed a bra with a tiny, zippered pocket intended to hold money? The 51 b&w illustrations add to the entertainment value of this fun, punchy book. (Dec.) Forecast: Uplift will appeal primarily to women's studies and pop culture scholars, and readers interested in the history of fashion. A word to the wise: don't confuse this work with another recent one sporting a similar title, Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Uplift is a fascinating and well-researched book that explores the history of the bra in the US from the 1860 to the 1970s, with an overview to the present day. Farrell-Beck, a professor of textiles and clothing at Iowa State University, and Gau, president of a home-based clothing conservation business, take a historic rather than a sociological or psychological approach to the subject of breast support, focusing on the development and marketing of brassieres. They discuss the evolution of the public's perception of the bra as a health improver to that of enhancing personal appearance. They describe the different approaches by both individuals and manufacturers to design appropriate breast support as well as brassieres created to accommodate the needs of breast cancer patients and pregnant women. The text is enhanced by ample black-and-white illustrations of patent diagrams, cartoons, and advertisements from both trade publications and fashion magazines. Includes an appendix of selected bra manufacturers, brassiere brands, and a glossary of foundation terms. For general readers as well as lower-division undergraduates through faculty and researchers. M. Fusich California State University, Fresno

Table of Contents

Some Developments in Bra History
Preface: Firming Up the Facts
1 The Birth of the Brassiere
2 Brassieres Win a Niche in Fashion
3 Breasts Lost and Found
4 Brassieres Rise, Stocks Fall
5 Dutiful Brassieres
6 Boom and Busts
7 Ban the Bra?
8 Wondering About Bras
App. A Selected Brassiere Manufacturers
App. B Brassiere Brands
Selected Bibliography