Behind The Scenes

Protect Our Brassieres! WWII’s War On Lingerie

 

NMAH Archives Center Maidenform Collection 0585 Box 51 Folder 10 Photo of Maidenform tearsheet that appeared in 1/14/1943 Women's Wear Daily; "Brassieres ... a vital necessity"

When World War II broke out, men and women were both expected to give their all to support the war effort. For many women, that meant joining the ranks of the WAVES or becoming a defense worker. Women all over the country went to work building planes, ships, and other supplies for the men overseas. But if it weren’t for a plea from Maiden Form, they may have been doing it without their bras!

With the whole country rationing, the government’s War Production Board decided to try rationing Maiden Form’s supply of materials. But with the women of America hard at work, that didn’t go over so well. Maiden Form applied for a “Declaration of Essentiality,” arguing that America needs working women, and working women need their bras. The campaign succeeded, with the compensation that they substitute gingham cotton for fabrics like nylon, lace, and silk.

Maiden Form, Allo-Ette brassiere, 1943. Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.

You know who didn’t have to worry about brassiere use during the war? Pigeons! While Maiden Form was battling for bras for women, they also developed and produced a “pigeon vest,” which Signal Corps paratroopers used to transport homing pigeons behind enemy lines.  However snug they felt, the vest warned not to keep the pigeons confined for over six hours. So much for the 18-hour bra!

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