Bullet Bra History: The Best Secrets of Vintage Lingerie

Bullet bra history is more complex than you might expect. Did you know that bras, as we know them today, were only invented in 1917? Before that time, women mainly used corsets to support their busts. Fast forward a few decades into the 1940s and 1950s, a particular bra known as the bullet bra became very popular.

But what is a bullet bra exactly? Why were vintage bras so pointy compared to modern bras? Who wore bullet bras back in the day? Keep reading more below to find all your answers.

What Is a Bullet Bra Exactly?

Bullet bras might look strange and even ridiculous today, but in the 1940s and 50s, they were regular underwear. Bullet bras might conjure the images of the famous sweater girls of the 1950s with their very dramatic, almost rocket-like busts, but in reality, few women were walking around with such dramatic silhouettes.

The bras that the sweater girl models of the 50s wore were exaggerated on purpose and it would have been next to impossible for them to walk around and run errands as usual, lest they poke someone’s eye out or knock over a shelf at the grocery store. However, normal women did wear bullet bras back in the day, though the bullet bras weren’t as exaggerated as you might think.

bullet bra history

Bullet bras, also called torpedo bras, actually began during the middle of World War 2 in the early 1940s. However, the bras of this period were not quite the bullet bras of the 1950s. Instead, these early bras had more of a gentle point. They had more shape and structure compared to the bras of the 1920s and 1930s which attempted to squash down the breasts rather than lift and shape them.

It was only in the late 1940s when Dior’s New Look started to take off that real bullet bras began to come to light (and to a defined point).

The Shape of Bullet Bras

The shape of bullet bras was made possible due to spiral stitching. Spiral stitching, as the name suggests, involves stitching the bra cups in a spiral shape. This method of stitching would form the fabric of the cup into more of a cone shape. The reason why this exaggerated type of bra became popular is that the 1950s was all about creating the perfect silhouette.

Having a narrow waist was very popular at the time. To emphasize the small size of the waist, it would only make sense to lift and shape the bust. If you were to try and wear a modern bra with a vintage dress, you would notice that the silhouette wouldn’t look quite right. This is because modern bras aim to follow the natural curve of the breast which can make a woman’s bust look somewhat low and flat. Even a pushup bra wouldn’t be able to fix this problem because the cups are still too rounded.

The Details

An example of bullet bra spiral stitching.

By forming the bra into more of a spiral cone shape, the breasts would be lifted higher off the ribcage. As a result, a woman’s body would look longer, slimmer, and curvier. The typical bullet bra that a woman would buy in the 1950s would not give the dramatic torpedo shape that you might see from a sweater girl model. Instead, a normal, everyday bullet bra would simply shape and lift the breast to maximize the woman’s silhouette.

This, of course, would provide a quite glamorous vintage look that many women desired and it can even make a woman’s body look younger due to the lifting and shaping effect.

If a woman was unable to fill out her 1950s bullet bra or wanted to have a more dramatic shape, she could add bullet bra pads to her bra. These pads would fill out the bra and bring it out to a longer point. These bras usually had an underwire built-in for additional support and lift.

Bullet bras remained popular for quite a long time because many movie stars such as Marilyn Monroe wore them starting in the 1940s and continuing into the 50s. Many women who went to see these movies wanted to look more like their favorite movie stars and, as a result, the bullet bra’s popularity skyrocketed.

The Decline of Bullet Bra History

This popularity came to a point in the late 1950s and early 60s. However, bullet bras did not entirely disappear. The more dramatic point of these bras became softer over the years. However, most bras throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and even 1980s still had some kind of very light pointed or conical structure to them.

It was only much more recently, beginning in the 1990s, that soft, rounded bra cups became popular. and bullet bra history started to fade out. As a result, bullet bras today look quite strange because we are so used to the appearance of rounded bras. Even so, there are quite a few vintage reproduction companies that still produce authentic bullet bras.

As a result, even though bullet bras are no longer popular, they never entirely died out.

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