Although brassieres first appeared in the United States around 1904 (the word itself first appeared in Vogue in 1907), it seems the impulse to improve on nature's deficiencies goes all the way back to the Greek goddess Hera. According to Teresa Riordan in her excellent account ''Inventing Beauty,'' Hera wore an early version of a push-up bra, described in the ''Iliad'' as festooned with ''brooches of gold'' and ''a hundred tassels,'' the better to divert Zeus from the Trojan War. With the development of Vulcanized rubber in the 1840's, the idea of pneumatically improved breasts came into being, but they were scoffed at as ''ridiculous contrivances'' by no less a connoisseur than Lola Montez in her ''Arts of Beauty, or Secrets of a Lady's Toilet.'' Inevitably, corsets and the like impeded access to the very delights they served to highlight, leading at least one redblooded male to make witty protest. ''Please leave off that breastplate,'' James Joyce wrote to his future wife, Nora Barnacle, during their courtship. ''I do not like embracing a letterbox.''
August 28, 2005
In case you didn't read the NYT Style Magazine, here's a link to the article about the hot topic: cleavage — and its dependence on undergarments: