If it weren't for bullet bras, there would never had been "Sweater Girls!" The bullet bra gave America's "Sweater Girls" that timeless, unforgetable, distinctive silhouette that forever shaped 1950's fashion and culture.


Prior to the 1940's, bras had very little to do with fashion, and more to do with simply keeping a woman's breasts suppressed and out of the way. In fact, ladies undergarments, at the time, actually worked to de-emphasized a woman's bust line, as apposed to emphasizing it. A perfect example of this was with the "Flapper Girl" look that became popular during the roaring 20's. The "Flapper Girls"  adopted a boyish look to their physique which included having a straight waistline, and bounding their breasts to give them a more flat-chested look.

By the time the 1940's was ushered in, the flat-chested look of the "Flapper Girls" had long faded out, and America was about to witness a new fashion trend that would soon put the emphases on giving women a more defining look to their bust line.

While Hollywood director and business tycoon, Howard Hughes, was filming his new movie, The Outlaw, he was unsatisfied with how Jayne Russell's breasts appeared in the movie. This lead Hughes to design his own bra for Russell to wear in the movie... the Cantilever Bra. Hughes' cantilever bra became the pre-cursor to the overly-emphasized "Bullet-Bra" which would eventually be introduced a few years later. When The Outlaw was released in 1943, Russell's appearance in the movie, with her overly-emphasized bust line, set the nation, along with the Hollywood movie censors, on fire.

In the mid-1940’s Frederic Mellinger opened a shop called "Frederick's of Hollywood," located on Hollywood Boulevard in Las Angeles. Through his shop, Mellinger introduced black lingerie into the United States, and created the world's first push-up bra.

Mellinger spread the idea that lingerie served the purpose of making a woman feel right in her body… a very modern idea indeed. Hollywood stars immediately started shopping in Frederic's shop, and eventually "normal" women would shop there as well.

Following the Second World War, material availability, production and marketing, and demand for a greater variety of consumer goods, led to the demand of newer designs for bras. Manufacturers responded with new fabrics, colors, patterns, styles, padding and elasticity. One of the newer designs that emerged from this era was the "Bullet Bra.

First introduced in 1949 by Maidenform, the bullet bra was a full-support bra with cups in the shape of a paraboloid with its axis perpendicular to the breast, and usually featured concentric circles or spirals of decorative stitching centered on the nipples. With the advent of the television set during the same time, television provided new promotional opportunities for the newly invented bullet bra, and played a huge part in the bras eventual popularity.

The bullet bra was quickly integrated into the look of Hollywood starlets, as it had become the bra of choice to wear under their tight sweaters. This was due to the fact that the bullet bra allowed women to add a cup size to their busts and provide an overly exaggerated pointed look to their breasts.

Hollywood fashion and glamour started to become a huge influence on women's fashion choices in the 1950's. This new trend was due to Hollywood starlets such as Patti Page, Marilyn Monroe, and Lana Turner, who eventually became known as “Sweater Girls” due to the knit sweaters they would routinely wear over their bullet bras. This new fashion trend quickly became popular, not only with the Hollywood starlets, but with everyday women as well.

Though the Bullet bra remained hugely popular throughout the 1950's, the over-emphasized, pointed look of the bullet bra would eventually and dramatically decline in popularity in the 1960's.

The decline of the bullet bra's popularity in the 1960's can partly be blamed on the new feminist philosophy that started taking root during the time, and which believed that bras were a sexist tool placed on women by men. During this time, in the 1960's, women started burning their bras and going bra-less. Also during this time, newer bra designs were also emerging as well. These newer designs included more lightweight, soft-cup bra designs. With both of these factors taking root in the 1960's, the bullet bra, along with its look, faded away.

Though the bullet bra, or the overly exaggerated look it produced, has never made a comeback, their has been a resurgence of the look among entertainers, as well as within retro-fashion world. The bullet bra's first major reintroduction came in 1990 when pop-singer, Madonna, wore a bullet bra designed by Jean Paul Gaultier during her Blonde Ambition Tour. Madona's "new" look generated new interest, and controversy, in the bullet bra once again. Then, in 1999, vintage lingerie company, What Katie Did, was the first company to put the bullet bra back into production, and it has again grown in popularity with brands such as Marks and Spencer, Rigby and Peller and Naturana producing their own version of the bullet bra.

Though the Hollywood "Sweater Girls" who once were synonymous with the bullet bra and it's look have long disappeared, other celebrities have since adopted the bullet bra look on occasion in modern days. These celebrities include America Ferrera, Amy Whinehouse, and Kate Perry. In 2017, Canadian filmmaker, Steve Cosmic, released am 80-minute documentary about the bullet bra titled Bullet Bra Sweater Girls. The documentary told a brief history of the bullet bra, and featured three young ladies who decided to wear bullet bras out in public to see how the garments made them look and feel.


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