Documentary on One

The Common Thread (The Bra)

The Bra turns 100 this year. From the Backless to the Bullet, the Demi-cup to the Push-up, the brassiere has evolved from a simple breast support to a symbol of desire. We unclasp the story of the bra in Ireland - and caress our way through its history.


Documentary Maker: Louise Denvir

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Documentary maker: Sarah Blake

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The Common Thread (The Bra)

The bra, a garment which is literally closest to a woman’s heart, officially turns 100 this year.  It’s a common thread which binds women together, and there’s more to it than meets the hook and eye!  As fashion, lifestyle and women’s identity have changed over the past century, so too has this life changing invention.

Although the bra came into the spotlight as men went to war and women went to work, its not-so-humble origins can be found in the bedroom of New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob, just prior to her debutante ball. Mary was a woman who changed the lives of billions, as she officially patented the design in 1914. But the path to becoming a successful businesswoman wasn't smooth in those days.  We look at the rise, fall and rise again of this incredible woman, while one of Ireland's only bra designers discusses her own award winning, industry changing bra patent from her studio based in the heart of the Connemara Gaeltacht.  From lace to silk and cotton, it’s big business - it’s one of the most important garments in the global fashion industry.

But what's fashion without innovation in textile engineering and design? Dr. Deirdre McGhee is one of the world's leading breast health researchers and she explains how modern bra design helps to prevent an up to 9cm breast bounce in sport, while rugby players in Limerick tell us what the bra means for their training.

We also hear about how Irish women’s identity (and with it, their bra!) has changed over the past century, with NUI Galway’s Dr. Caitriona Clear. Though who better to celebrate the story of the bra than the Irish women who wear them? With stories of the famous Madame Nora’s on O’Connell Street, and Post-Operative bra fitting in Limerick, we look at bra fitting here and the women who buy them.

With time it affected the way women work, play and view themselves sexually. On this week’s Documentary on One, we celebrate 100 years of the bra and get under the clothes and into the bras of Irish women, as we find out what women across Ireland really think of their bosom support.

Produced and Narrated by Louise Denvir
Production Supervision by Sarah Blake
Sound Supervision by Mark McGrath

First broadcast 18th October 2014

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