The Wonderbra: History of the Fifth Greatest Canadian Invention

Our Guest Blogger, Samantha Marcelo, is a freelance and fiction writer living in Calgary, Alberta. Samantha has a keen interest in all things history-related, and wanted to share some remarkable historical inventions with the readers of

Here's her article:

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Last year, the CBC here in Canada asked its viewers to vote on the greatest Canadian invention of all time. Among the fifty items on the shortlist were the pacemaker, basketball and the alkaline battery. Yet, the item that ranked higher than all of those three was the humble Wonderbra. Why did more Canadians vote for the Wonderbra than for the pacemaker?

Women have been using bras in some form since the seventh century, though the corset had been the dominant choice from about the sixteenth century. Not only was this corset buried under several layers of clothing in the Victorian era, but it was also constricting and, hindsight suggests, a precursor to many health problems. In the 19th century, a number of early bras were developed, though nobody knows for sure who invented and marketed the first model. The first arguably "modern" bra was developed by Herminie Cadolle in France, which, though it resembled a two-piece corset, supported the breasts with shoulder straps. In 1910, a teenager in New York named Mary Phelps Jacob was inspired by a fashion conundrum. She had bought a dress through which a corset would have been clearly visible, so she fashioned a brassiere out of handkerchiefs and ribbon. Mary made some for friends, but decided to turn it into a moneymaking venture when a stranger offered her one dollar to create a bra. It was the first to be marketed under the new patent category of "brassiere."


In 1922, in an era when many women were drawn to flattening undergarments to fit with the androgynous fashions of the time, Ida Rosenthal developed the concept of cup sizing in bras. Starting the Maidenform company, she popularized the modern "uplifting" style of bra. However, during the Second World War, bras became more functional than fashionable. It wasn't until the 1960s that they became newsworthy again.

In the sixties, more revealing fashions and feminism came to the forefront. In 1964, a Canadian named Louise Poirier developed the first push-up Wonderbra for women who didn't want to bother with unattractive and cumbersome girdles anymore. Thanks to market research, Wonderbra filled the marketing void left by other companies who had stepped back, fearing the fabled bra burner. According to this research, most women didn't hate bras - they just hated how they looked and felt. Designed to be supportive yet sexy, the Wonderbra allowed women a more comfortable option to more restrictive undergarments like the girdle. The Wonderbra also marked a shift in advertising. Taking advantage of the immediacy of television, the Wonderbra was advertised as a cohesive package, promoting youth and confidence.

Circa 1975 WonderbraCirca 1975 Wonderbra

According to Wonderbra's website , the secret to Wonderbra's success is "Precision engineering." The bra's design incorporates "three-part cup construction, precision-angled back and underwire cups, removable pads called cookies, ‘gate back' back design for support, and rigid straps."

The Wonderbra revolutionized the way women thought about their bras and, not only that, but how they looked in them. Not bad for the fifth greatest Canadian invention of all time!

History Sources: CBC , Wonderbra and Wikipedia.
Images: Wikipedia 

Samantha Marcelo
Guest Blogger

Feb 25, 2008
by Anonymous (not verified)

the wonderbra

Great article from this guest blogger.I hope to read (and learn) more from her future articles.
And I thought that the bra came from an idea by old time sailors who saw polinesian women of the 18th century put half a cococnut shell on each breast as bras

May 20, 2008
by Anonymous


I am wearing a wonderbra as we speak...

Sep 9, 2008
by Anonymous



Sep 9, 2008
by Anonymous