Testing Vintage: 1950’s Inflatable Bra

It’s been a little while since we’ve tested out a vintage product and today we are back with a fun one. In every era and decade, shapewear has been worn in order to fit and alter the body into the fashionable style of the time. Even celebrities today are wearing shapewear to give them a more hourglass body shape and much like fashion, body shapes and styles come in and out of fashion. In the 50’s, the hourglass shape was the most popular and trendy and it’s rise to popularity has been linked to Dior’s ‘new look’ fashion campaign which all centered around a tiny waist and big hips and bust. While it’s unfortunate that not all bodies are accepted, those wishing to get the current ‘in style’ body can use shapewear. One such popular item, that’s rather odd by today’s standards, is the inflatable bra from the 1950s.

Some of the biggest celebrity icons of the 50s, including Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and Tempest Storm, were well known for their full and ample bosoms. Fortunately, for those not as well-endowered, the inflatable bra by Tres Secrete was a way of ‘faking it till you make it’. In 1952, the Tres Secrete inflatable bra designed by La Resista Corset Co (of Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA) was released to help women alter their body shape to fit the Dior New Look style. Inside the bra cups was a small removable “balloon”, and the bras were inflated by the wearer by means of a small straw, which was then quickly withdrawn and the valve pressed shut between thumb and forefinger. This bra became popular and was sold for well over a decade before new and more modern technology and materials were introduced.

On a whim, I came across an inflatable bra by the amazing Tres Secret so I had to test it out for myself. US lingerie pioneers La Resista Corset Co. of Bridgeport, Connecticut, had the answer to achieving the Dior New Look for those less well-endowed: inflatable assets under the brand name Tres Secrete. Tres Secrete had plastic pads inside the cups that could be blown up using a small straw. These incredible vintage images show models demonstrating how to inflate the bras and walking the catwalk while marketing men make the pitch to the buyers in the background. The marketing of the Tres Secrete bra was a collaboration between Symington and Supportu Supplewear, a wholesale distribution company based in Wigston, Leicestershire. Originally marketed as a fashion brand, when the ideal woman had the figure of Jayne Mansfield or Marilyn Monroe, the Tres Secrete found most of its market in women who had undergone mastectomy.

The bra I managed to find wasn’t in the white colour pictured in the images shared here, but in a black version. The fabric with the polka dot pattern is still used and the lining sports the same pattern. The lining of the bra is soft pink silk and nestled between the lining and outer fabric hides the inflatable balloon ready to be blown up. The balloon is made from soft plastic and I’m happy to report the valve still seals and works well. After leaving the balloon blown up for over an hour, it was still full, although when left overnight it did deflate a little. I would assume that ladies would have to top up their bosom balloons throughout the day. The cone-like shape the bra gives when inflated was very popular at the time and you can see how the ‘sweater girl’ aesthetic came out of such bras as this one. The hard over-wire bras are very strong and almost stiff and not a very modern shape by today’s standards. This shape can still be found if you shop for modern vintage lingerie, but in most shopping centres, you will be struggling to find this style.

Unfortunately, with vintage items which contain multiple pieces, the inflatable bra I managed to find only had one inflatable balloon so I don’t know what it would look like if both cups were inflated. In saying this, with only one cup inflated, we can see the difference between the inflated and normal cups. The difference is quite a contrast and the inflated cup certainly has a stronger cone-like shape which was fashionable at the time. I will be on the hunt for a spare balloon but I can’t imagine that being easy to find.

This has been a really fun product to test out and I love the logic behind the concept of an inflatable bra. I can see something like this being really popular with those who have had a mastectomy even today but I know there are already more modern alternatives on the market. The uniqueness of this vintage inflatable bra shows how far we have come in fashion, shapewear, body shape and innovative technology and materials. I am continuously on the hunt for weird and wonderful vintage items which I can test out so if you do find something, always feel free to message me about them.

I am very curious about wearing this bra for a whole day to see what that’s like but I think it’ll just be posted to my social media and perhaps a short follow up blog. Please keep an eye out for that coming out soon.


Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.




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