Whilst researching the history of undergarments for my “1930s” blog post, I discovered that cup sizes for brassieres weren’t introduced until 1935. This led me to think more about the development of bras up until this point in time, and how the bra progressed from the ‘mono-bosom’ shape, made famous by the Edwardians, to having separate cups. I didn’t have to look for long before discovering that Kestos were one of the very first brands to manufacture bras with separate cups.
Kestos was a British brand that was founded by a Polish designer named Rosaline Kiln in 1925. Kiln allegedly started experimenting with two hankerchiefs, and came up with the famous ‘Kestos bra’, which became the first bra with two defined cups. Kiln, however was not the first person to invent a bra by manipulating hankies, Caresse Crosby also created a ‘bra’ back in 1910. Although this design bore some resemblances to the Kestos bra that would come years later, it did not have individual cups and never really took off.
The Kestos design was considered revolutionary at the time as it was made of two overlapping triangular cups, shaped by light darts and straps that crossed over on the back and attached with buttons at the front. The style of bra suited the fashions of the time, creating a natural shaped bosom, and allowed for women to wear dresses with lower cut backs.
Although this design was clearly a huge step forward for women’s bras, I can’t help but think that ladies with larger busts must really have struggled as there is no way that such thin straps and two pieces of flimsy fabric would have supported their breasts.
Kestos regularly emphasised through their advertising the need for women to have the “line”, as well as “control”. As with the majority of old adverts (and in indeed modern adverts), Kestos drew on the woman’s body insecurities as well as the fashion, which dictated that a woman should have a high breastline.
The popularity of the new design continued to grow, and as such, “knock-offs” became the inevitable, as you can see from the below advert by Scandale.
Interestingly, the Kestos style bra has regained popularity in recent years, with indie designers such as Hopeless Lingerie drawing strong inspiration from the original designs.
Although I couldn’t wear this style of bra for practical reasons, I think the delicate style of the straps and the interesting shapes they create on the body are incredibly feminine.