Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Imform* (for Inform*)

In the 1920s, Ida Rosenthal and her dressmaker friend Enid Bissett invented the bifurcated brassiere, and in the process formed the Maidenform company. "I'm a woman, hear me roar," one can almost hear Enid (who created the original design) saying. Or maybe it was Ida going: "I'm having a dream ... of my Maidenform bra!" Bissett had the "Boyish Form" that was popular back then, but was unhappy with the bandage-like wraps that had replaced the corset. Rosenthal was a more buxom bubbie, but every inch a feminist. Both were determined to liberate their sisters from the flat-chested flapper style of the day. With the support of Ida's husband William, this plucky pair kept abreast of the times and became important figures in the 20th century. Imform* shows up 29 times in OhioLINK, which puts it firmly in the B cup, er section, of the Ballard list. (A wonderfully detailed telling of this story is found in Harold Evans's 2004 book They Made America.)

(Picture of Ida Rosenthal, flanked by lanky swimsuit models, courtesy of the blog Dr. Caligari's Cabinet.)

Carol Reid

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