News Article

Notes from the Undergarment

A history of bra fashion from Theda Bara to Amy Winehouse

Ah, the bra. Once upon a time, a scintillating cinematic peep was all we got. But this spring, discretion has given way to cups that not only runneth over, they seem purposefully bold, bawdy, and made to be seen-eth. Below, the breast (sorry!) and brightest of the support system's pop culture evolution. And may we just say (again, with apologies), thanks for the mammaries!

Theda Bara, 1917
In pre-Hays Code Hollywood, the silent-film femme fatale was able to — if not grin — nearly bare it all in naughty fare like Siren of Hell, The Eternal Sappho, and, here, Cleopatra.

Janet Leigh, 1960
Before she met her end at the Bates Motel, Leigh, as Psycho's Marion Crane, showed a scandalous amount of flesh (yes, it looks like a maternity bra now) in an opening scene.

Susan Sarandon, 1975
Dr. Frank-N-Furter may have been the sweet transvestite, but all eyes were on Sarandon as Janet Weiss, the good girl with the surprisingly bodacious bosom. Dammit, Janet!

Madonna, 1985
She would go on to celebrate her considerable assets with tassels, sequins, and, most famously, fabric cones, but the underwear-as-outerwear trend all began with a little lace.

Julia Roberts, 2000
Roberts scored an Oscar for playing single mom/paralegal Erin Brockovich, whose tenacity in fighting the Man was equal only to her fabulously office-inappropriate cleavage.

Sarah Jessica Parker, 2002
Of all the sartorial trends kick-started by Sex and the City (nameplate necklaces, anyone?), the visible, contrasting bra may be the most enduring. Long live tacky-chic!

Lindsay Lohan, 2007
Nothing makes people stop talking about your hair color, your career choices, or your love life better than playing a game of ''Whoopsy! Looks like I forgot to button up!''

Britney Spears, 2007
In ''...Baby One More Time,'' a then-17-year-old Spears wore a hot-pink sports bra. Recently, the now-mother-of-two performed live in...a hot-pink bra. Oh, the circle of life.

Amy Winehouse, 2007
In the wake of SJP, Gwen Stefani, and other I-see-London-I-see-France fashionistas, Brit soul sensation Winehouse often provides on-purpose peeks at her undergoodies.

Originally posted May 25, 2007 Published in issue #936 Jun 01, 2007 Order article reprints
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