Do you know who Poupie Cadolle is?
Well, don't beat yourself up if you don't recognize the name. Poupie is not a household name in the U.S. Poupie is the great great granddaughter of Herminie Cadolle of France. Herminie Cadolle is said to have "freed women" with her invention of the first modern bra. (Hey, somebody had to do it) Now, on with the story.
The first bra was invented in Paris in 1889 (the same time as the Paris Eiffel Tower). Back then it wasn't called a bra but instead a "Well-Being", then later it was changed to a "Chest Corset". It appeared in a corset magazine as a two piece under garment and was advertised as "providing support for the abdomen while leaving the stomach free". Herminie's garment effectively cut the traditional corset in two. The lower portion was a corset for the waist while the upper portion supported the breasts by means of shoulder straps. It's no wonder it didn't sell very well at first.
Herminie patented her invention and showed it at the Great Exhibition in 1889. By 1905 the upper half was being sold separately as a "soutien-gorge" the name that bras are still known by in France today. Herminie also introduced the use of rubber thread. Bras are complicated. They are made up of 14 different components - from hooks to lace to elastic--and 11-18 pieces of fabric.
The family business continues today run by 63 year old Poupie Cadolle who has unparalleled expertise in pushing, squeezing and flattering the breasts. Cadolle still makes made-to-measure bras priced at a cool 640 euros (902 dollars). She dresses film stars such as Monica Bellucci, Sophie Marceau and Sharon Stone for films and magazine covers to bring out the "best" of their torsos.
In the 70's, after panty hose almost destroyed the girdle and garter business, "the feminist onslaught against the bra all but razed the entire trade to the ground" (more than half of France's lingerie makers went bust) "France still has a reputation for refinery and elegance, and we're surviving" says Cadolle, who hopes for the return of the pointy bra, the kind of breasts flaunted by Brigette Bardot in the 50's and 60's. Not
Etymology: The French word brassière refers to a baby's vest (undershirt) or lifebelt, underbodice or harness. The word brassière derives from bracière, an Old French word meaning "arm protector" and referring to military uniforms (bras in French means "arm"). This later became used for a military breast plate, and later for a type of woman's corset. The current French term for brassière is soutien-gorge, literally, "held under the neck" or "throat-support". In French, gorge (throat) was a common euphemism for the breast. This dates back to the garment developed by Herminie Cadolle in 1905.