Mary Phelps Jacob After decades of stuffing themselves into seemingly barbaric undergarments of a mostly corset-like nature, women around the world finally began to get fed up. In 1913, a New York socialite decided to do something about it: the first modern brassiere was created by Mary Phelps Jacob. She patented her design, and now the brassiere is a standard part of nearly every modern woman’s wardrobe.
Jacob came up with the idea for her brassiere after she bought an evening gown for an event she was planning to attend. At the time, women wore corsets stiffened with whaleback bones and steel rods. She tried on the dress with one of these corsets, however, and found that the whalebones poked out visibly around the plunging neckline and under the sheer fabric.
Jacob had a better idea. She took two silk handkerchiefs and some pink ribbon, and fashioned herself, with the help of her maid, the very first bra. Family and friends almost immediately asked Jacob to create brassieres for them, too. One day, she received a request for one of her contraptions from a stranger, who had offered a dollar for her efforts. She knew then that this could become a viable business. On November 3, 1914, she was awarded a patent for the “Backless Brassiere”. The undergarment name “brassiere” was derived from the old french word for “upper arm”.