This is a little piece of lingerie that seems to have always existed in the female wardrobe. However, the bra was only invented at the end of the 19th century to free women from the corset, which had been restricting them since the Renaissance. First decried, the bra imposed itself since WWI. It shaped the women’s silhouette throughout the 20th century and never stopped changing their appearance, depending on technical innovations and fashion. Initially as a simple corset cut in two, it becomes flattened during the Roaring Twenties to erase breasts, then takes the shape of a shell after the WWII to mimic the pin-ups look. Adorned with push-up to emphasize Brigitte Bardot’s curves or padded to become a vertiginous decollete, this symbol of femininity is taken to task every time women emancipate or rebel themselves. The bra then becomes discreet, or even disappears as in the years 1960-70 when feminists throw it in the trash, or more recently during the Covid crisis when some women decide not to wear it anymore.
The bra, sometimes an essential element of fashion, sometimes doomed to grief, has crossed the twentieth century, and borders. A Western invention that has conquered every continent: exported by the colonizers, then by the GI’s, it has been adopted by all the women of the world. Today, 1.46 billion bras are manufactured every year. Reflecting the female condition, in its emancipation as well as in its regression, this little piece of fabric tells a history of the world and of women.
Sandra Rude is a writer and director of documentaries. She works for many French television channels: France Télévisions, Canal+, RMC, OCS, Toute l'histoire.
Passionate about history and culture, she has collaborated with the magazines Ubik, La Grande Librairie and Secrets d'histoire and has directed 52-minute documentaries on Louis Aragon, Michelangelo Antonioni and Monica Vitti, Erwin Rommel, New Caledonia, an American base during the Second World War, the Hôtel de Ville de Paris, or the characters of the Bible, in the light of the latest archaeological discoveries in Israel.
She also makes investigative documentaries and focuses on the major issues of globalisation: New Caledonia between identity tensions and the nickel crisis, the sale of passports in exchange for citizenship, the stranglehold of the big cruise companies in the Caribbean states, and the Rwandan economic miracle, 25 years after the genocide.
She is also a book author, having written "Hôtels" on the world's most beautiful palaces and "L'Hôtel de ville de Paris" for the Chêne publishing house.
Her next documentary for France 5 will be devoted to the Pacific Battalion during the Second World War.