Incase you missed my first lecture on the Bra History Part 1 go ahead and check that out now so you're all caught up.
We covered 3000+ years, including the first cupless bra and sports bra. Riveting stuff I tell you!
Ready? Okay here we go with History of the Bra Part (2)
I don't think the Holy Roman Empire in 1370 would have liked me very much. Maybe I'm being overly sensitive. But rumor has it that the Roman Empire issued an edict stating, "No woman will support the bust by the disposition of a blouse or by tightened dress." That would have put a damper on bigbustsupport.com eh?
So, there weren't any formal, recognizable breast supporting going on during the middle ages. If women did choose to 'control' their breasts it was most likely done with a cloth 'binding'.
However, there was one noteworthy fashion trend that was born around the 1300's and that was...
The time has come to talk about corsets. I know I promised you "Bra History", however, corsets were the precursor to the bra, so it wouldn't be fair to skip over them, but I will be brief.
Once upon a time there was a Queen of France named Catherine de' Medici (she was actually born in Italy so that's why her name sounds Italian) who lived between 1519-1589.
Anyways, for some strange reason history has wrongly credited her with the invention of the corset. Maybe this stems from the fact that she "prohibited wide waists at court".
The fact is that corsets were already being worn by women of the upper class prior to this statement. (more than a hundred years before she came along)
Early corsets were designed to flatten and cover the breasts instead of push them up and out. It didn't take long though before the fashionable thing to do was to wear a corset that pushed the breasts up and out, almost to the point that they became chin pillows (I think I may have invented a new phrase for big boobs ;)
The corset continued to be used as the primary means of breast support for the next 300 plus years, especially among the wealthier class. (that's why we're covering 'corsets' in our bra history.)
There was a brief "time-out" from corsets in France during the French Revolution in 1789. During this time period it was very unpopular to be seen as an "aristocrat".
The reason for the decline in popularity of corsets can easily be explained with a simple mathematical equation. (I know, this is bra history, not math, but stick with me)
If, wealth = corset wearing aristocrat
wealth = guillotine
corset = headless aristocrat
Let's just say it was less painful to lose their corsets than their heads. So the corset went away for awhile. But the corset came back later and was instramental in the development of the bra.
1850s - This is when we start to see the evolution from corset to bra. There were two groups of activists that started working to make this happen, the Doctors and the Feminists.
Corsets caused a wide variety of health problems, such as a crushed lower chest, touching ribs, displaced kidney, and sagging bowels.
What is the matter with us women? I guess what my husband always says about us is true, "Women will always choose fashion over function."
Also, around this time period women were becoming more socially active. [Enter feminists stage left please.] Women at this time in the late 1800s became more interested in sports and recreation. Corsets made both nearly impossible. The corset, as a common placed undergarment was beginning to die.
So we've covered bra history from 3,000 BC to the 19th century and now the time has come to answer the question...
Lingerie manufacturer Frederick's of Hollywood reports that in 1996, the average size of bras they sold was 34B.
Currently, the average is a 36C.
And I'd bet my best bra that nowadays the average bra size is closer to a D cup
Similar data about the increase in average breast size comes from England, where busts grew from 36B to 36C in a 3 year period.
According to The Penguin Atlas of Human Sexual Behavior, breasts across Asia grew from 34A to 34C between 1980 and 2000.