So many dresses in the 1950s called for a strapless bra it seems a little strange at What Katie Did that we have a very small collection. To cut a long story short, bra fit, design and engineering has come a huge way over the last 70 years and it’s a huge challenge to make reproduction 1950s bras to modern fit expectations. Take away the straps and it makes things even harder!
If you're new to retro style hosiery, or hosiery of any kind, then the terminology can be confusing - but help is at hand!
Check out our guide to hosiery and all will be revealed.
1950s Cathedral Multiway Bra
Back in the 1950s there were still really only 3 cup sizes: B, C and D. If you were bigger than a D then you would be expected to go up a band size and sister size. This explains why stars like Jayne Mansfield with an (official, so might not be true!) waist of 21” wore a 36D bra. Marilyn Monroe’s most commonly worn bra size was also a 36D, while Sophia Loren wore a 38 band (more recent information says that she now wears a 34).
Luckily for 1950s strapless fashions, the bodices are generally cut very close to the body and frequently boned (even in the case of reproduction vintage dresses this is the case) so the dress would have done half the job in supporting the bust meaning the less than perfectly fitting bra only had a minor supporting role.
Last year I found a vintage strapless cathedral bra in Playclothes in Burbank which is only a few blocks from our LA boutique and one of my favourite places to source vintage pieces. While the bra actually fit, there was only a narrow band of elastic at the back which certainly would have not added much support. I brought it back for our designer Teri Louise to take a look at thinking she would say it was impossible to do anything with, but it turned out that wasn’t the case.
Our Thrill Bra incorporates the vertical cathedral boning of the original but that’s where the similarities end. Teri added an underwire, a powermesh band and shoulder straps that can be worn a variety of ways: traditional, halter, one shoulder, racer back and, of course strapless.
If you are a B-C cup then you should feel nicely supported in our Thrill bra. However, it is adapted from a vintage design so doesn’t have the support of a modern strapless bra so if you are larger in the cup please wear as it would have been worn in the 1950s: under a boned bodice.