Bullet Bras, Feminism and Womens’ Position in Society


Hi, I’m Katie from What Katie Did and welcome
back. Today I’m going to talk a little about Bullet Bras and how Bullet Bras and fashion
and feminism all come together in the 1950s. To begin with I was just going to talk about
Bullet Bras and the shape they give you, but I’m looking at it more deeply, it becomes
a little bit more disturbing than that. So prepare to think about this a little bit because
it’s interesting because obviously I dress hyper feminine and I enjoy what I wear and
I obviously have the choice of what I wear. But it is a very hyper feminine look and moving
forward, I’ll explain why this is why the Bullet Bra happened or was designed. When we go back to the 1940s and World War
II, then women had a very active role in society, not for the first time because they also had
a very active role in The Great War – World War I, which was 1914 to 1918. Where they
were often working, well middle class women were working for the very first time. Or as
the working class women would have worked, the poor would have worked, but a lot more
women worked than before then. And the same thing happened during World War II. When we
look at women during World War II, they are pictured working in factories with their hair
up, wearing overalls for the first time. We have the, We Can Do It slogan and women
were very, very active in the workplace and played a huge role in World War II. And then
when we move on to the ’50s we see women presented, basically going back to housewives again and
there was, after World War II there was a bit of argy-bargy from the men who obviously
came back from war, having fought for their country to find that the women had taken their
jobs. So the women’s role did revert more to being a housewife and the men’s role returned
to being the main breadwinner and working. And when we talk about feminism and women’s
rights, we tend to think of this happening in the ’60s and ’70s and I firmly believe
that it started, not even in the ’40s, but during The Great War, it actually gave women
a life outside the house. And obviously after 1940s it did make people feel a little bit
uncomfortable because it made the roles change very, very quickly. When we look at the shape
the Bullet Bra gives you, it does actually make the size of your bust bigger. Now you
have to remember in the ’50s, that this is before breast augmentation or boob jobs. So
there was no way of making your breasts bigger, really, apart from your bra. And also, bras only became fashionable really,
they only really took off after corsets stopped being worn during The Great War in the 1910s
because you couldn’t get the steel, all the materials to make corsets. So basically women
were working for the first time then and they started wearing bras then and they never actually
went back to wearing corsets. When the 1940s came, again, they were working. So again,
the shape where they wore became smaller and more flexible due to, not only due to the
lack of materials and things like rubber for corsetry, but because they were working and
needed to bend and needed to be a lot more mobile. But when you look at the shapes that women
wore from the ’20s to the ’30s, they were very, very sleek. The breasts weren’t… I
was going to say an erogenous zone, they weren’t actually put at the forefront. They were just
like another part of your body. They weren’t seen as a sexualized item and it wasn’t until
the ’50s that this hyper-sexualized shape appeared, which is this super hourglass shape.
And when you look at surveys and through history, it’s always said that men like a really curvy
shape because it shows that you’re fertile and you’ll be a good mother, you’ll be able
to give birth. And that is basically, it’s not men, it’s
not men thinking that consciously, it’s throughout history as you’re looking for a mate who can
keep the line going basically. So it’s in whatever’s underneath our old animal instincts,
is you can reproduce, whether it’s conscious or subconscious. That’s what it comes down
to. So women presenting this hyper, hyper curvy figure, then you’re making yourself
look healthy and fertile. And by wearing a Bullet Bra, that is increasing your bust and
you have to remember in the ’50s also, it was the era for waist cinchers. So you’d be
cinching in your waist, you be emphasizing your bust and you’d be wearing your girdle
to smooth out your hips, to give this super hourglass shape. And it’s awkward for me, thinking about it
because I always see myself as a strong woman, but then I am presenting myself as a fertile
cow or something like that! I mean what is going on here? I don’t know. I’m not going
to change the way I dress. I love the way I dress and have great fun with fashion. But
when you think about it, it is quite disturbing when you delve underneath. With bra manufacturing,
by the ’50s they’d only really been made for 30 years and there wasn’t a, well there was
development, but there wasn’t a huge amount of development. And when you look at the last
30 years, if you look at when women started wearing bras during The Great War, then it’s
only 30 years in between that and the Second World War and the beginning of the ’50s, when
the Bullet Bra came into fashion. And if we look at the same time period now,
you’re looking at the 1990s up to now and that’s the Wonderbra period, which again,
is quite interesting really, isn’t it? Because the ’80s was when women… we’d have the ’70s
when women were burning their bras and doing the whole feminist, that’s when it really
took off. And in the ’80s women really were invading the workplace and you had a very
masculine style and huge, huge shoulder pads and very strong fashion. But underneath it
all, they suddenly started wearing padded Wonderbras, which again, emphasized the female
shape and really pushed your breasts up and made them look bigger. So yeah, it is quite interesting and yes,
it is quite disturbing. Obviously back in the ’50s they didn’t have the technology or
the know how about the full Wonderbras. So if you actually wear a Bullet Bra, if you
wear a normal bra and measure yourself around and then put your Bullet Bra on and measure
yourself around, your measurements wearing the Bullet Bra will be bigger. And this is
something I found out by chance when I was making a dress and I was doing my measurements
and I was like, “Well my boobs haven’t grown, why has my bust size changed?” It was simply
because I was wearing a Bullet Bra. We’ve got our Bullet Bra here, plain satin
Bullet Bra, and for our Bullet Bras, they’re all made to the same pattern. So if it’s made
in a different fabric, it’ll still be made to the same pattern. So all our different
Bullet Bra styles, we got a Harlow and Maitresse and various other ones. They’re all made to
the same pattern. Having said that, even the fabric can make a slight change in fit. So
if you have one which is made of lace and one made from satin, it will fit very, very
slightly differently. And of course, if you’re wearing a Bullet Bra for six months, it will
stretch slightly. So if you don’t buy a new one, it will feel very slightly different
to this one. And it is a query we’ve had before, so I just
wanted to make that clear. But the basic Bullet Bra was just satin. There was no padding and
your breasts would mold to the shape and you have to remember that this was before the
time of breast augmentation and the natural breast is very soft and does squish in to
the satin shape. Another interesting thing I found out recently or within the last few
years was that when you first developed breasts, they do naturally come in a pointy shape and
as you get older then they become more rounded, which again, is a disturbing thought I guess. I mean when you look at the middle ages, women
used to get married when they were 13, as soon as they started having their periods,
they could be married off and would start having children. So the pointiness is again,
a sign that you’re young and fertile. So interesting and also disturbing. If you weren’t well endowed,
there were a lot of tricks to be had. Bullet Bra pads were extremely common and we do sell
Bullet Bra pads to fill out the ends. They were made in a variety of styles, whether
they just wear the tip or whether they wear the whole pads to fit in the bra cup. And also, padded Bullet Bras were made, this
one by Exquisite Form, which says, “With light foam rubber for perfect contour.” Now this
one has been in its box for decades and the foam rubber is really, really stiff now. But
that is your padded Bullet Bra and we also do a padded Bullet Bra, which is foam lined.
The foam is slightly more pliable, it’s three millimeter foam and that is specifically designed
for smaller busts because it gives you the shape without having to use any fillers and
it really stands up by itself. Bullet Bras really were made in their millions in the
’50s and it wasn’t just Bullet Bras, but it was also the outer clothing. So if you have a dress from the ’50s, you’ll
quite often find that the bust starts are positioned in the wrong place and if you wear
a modern bra, your breasts will be too low. So a Bullet Bra really can make a difference
when you’re wearing vintage fashion. And obviously the silhouette, even if you’re wearing reproduction,
if you’re wearing a blouse, a Bullet Bra can really give an authentic 1950s look. They
were made in all kinds of different styles. Although the Bullet Bra we make is based on
one of the most popular styles. But I’ve got a few here that I can show you. The first
is a complete disaster. Take a look at this one. This is the pull over the head, strapless
Bullet Bra and it’s under wired. The under wiring is very soft. You can’t even feel it
really. I think what actually is in there is spiral steel boning, like you put in shape
wear. It’s very, very pliable, so it wouldn’t really hold very much. And of course if you
can actually stretch this over your head, then you’re not going to get the support from
the band at all. So that is my strapless Bullet Bra. This is a variation on the more traditional
style. This is the four piece cup. Our soft cups are made from two pieces and this is
made from four pieces and it has the circle stitching, which all Bullet Bras have, to
give the shape. This is actually a whirlpool, which means
you have a circle stitch, which means it’s circles going round and round and round like
single circles. Whereas a spiral is actually stitched as a spiral all the way to the edges.
And in the ’50s there would have been machines to do this and of course, all the machines
have become lost over the years. And now our Bullet Bras are actually sewn by hand. But
previously, you’d have a machine set up to do the spiral stitching. Now this I just discovered
this morning and this is a really interesting piece and this is a breastfeeding Bullet Bra. As you can see here, you can unhook the top
to breastfeed and that’s amazing. We have been asked about breastfeeding bras before,
but we’re a niche market already and it’s hard enough to make bras as it is and sell
enough, with the minimums than to go into a very, very small area. I do remember many
years ago the Agent Provocateur actually did a postpartum range for breastfeeding mothers
and they did a breastfeeding bra. Also, Dita Von Teese did a breastfeeding range and postpartum
range and neither of them are still going. So if they can’t make it work, then it really
wouldn’t be viable for us, I’m afraid. This is one of my favorites, this is an underwired
version of the Bullet Bra, which is similar to… we have done a bra like this in the
past and we do actually have one coming up for Christmas in green and black lace, which
is quite exciting. But at the moment, we do have our Bizarre Bra, which features underwire
and the circle stitching. So that’s kind of a more modern take on the traditional soft
cup Bullet Bra. And finally, I have the long line bra. This one here, which again is quite
a simple design, but you can see quite clearly the split circle stitching on the cups. So I mean if you were growing up in the ’50s
you would probably be wearing a Bullet Bra. They were worn by absolutely everyone, so
it’s something you would have worn basically as soon as Second World War finished, the
bras started to become more pointy. So if you’re going for late ’40s look, you could
wear a Bullet Bra. And in fact our 1940 CC09 bra is almost as pointy as the Bullet Bra.
Bullet Bras really stayed in fashion all the way through to the mid ’60s, which of course
is when the pill came in and the women’s rights really did start to take off. So when we look
at the Bullet Bra, it is that hyper feminine era of the ’50s where women really dressed
to enhance their curves and celebrate their figures, which is great fun. And I know the pinup and the retro scene is
huge today and we all enjoy it because you can be a variety of sizes. It’s not restricted
to one body shape. But underneath it all that there is this question of why women were dressing
like that in the ’50s, when in the ’40s they had a very active role in society? And then
in the ’50s they kind of took a step back and were in the house, doing their house work.
And when you see them presented in magazines, in the 50s and in adverts, it is very much
as a housewife and not an active working role in society. I will be talking more about women
in the 1940s very soon, but in the meantime, that’s my little political talk on Bullet
Bras in the 1950s. If you do have any questions, please get in touch. And in the meantime,
take care and I’ll catch up with you soon.

3 thoughts on “Bullet Bras, Feminism and Womens’ Position in Society

  1. Love this video. I feel like modern feminism has given us a choice. One thing bothered me is the thing about medieval women married at 13. Its a myth the average age was 25. Even elite women generally weren't married until 16 or 17, after the point women were more likely to survive childbirth.

  2. Hi Katie!

    I love your videos! Could I ask a quick question about corsets? I wear the Morticia corset and find it very comfortable- doesn’t pinch or hurt my ribs. After about 3/4 hours though, I get a bit of back pain. Is this bad posture? I do tend to walk quite hunched normally!

    Thanks so much,

    Emma

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