Of all the vintage styles we wanted to nail, overwire bras have been pretty high on the list forever and ever...however they're kind of insanely hard to make, and despite our best efforts, our quest to find an affordable way to mass-produce the overwires came to naught. However, our friends at Playful Promises, having recently become the official seller and manufacturers of Bettie Page lingerie, have managed it (not without their own share of tears and headaches along the way, apparently).
Behold, the first set of overwire styles from the collection, available in both shorter and longline, with the latter going up to a 38F - praise be! These styles were shot by Playful's resident photographer Anna Swiczeniuk, with superstar alt-model Mosh.
Above: The black and peach longline overwire from Bettie Page lingerie
It might seem obvious from the name, but perhaps less so from looking at the images above - an overwire bra (as opposed to the ubiquitous underwired bras of today) has a curved piece of metal which sits around the upper edges of the bra, forming a V-shape between the breasts and creating shape and structure without the need for straps or underwires.
In the spirit of vintage repro, Playful Promises have kept it as close to the original designs as possible, with authentic touches like decorative circular stitching on the cups, and cushioning on the interior. The underwire is an update - instead of a single curved piece of metal, it's two which meet in the middle, meaning it can be folded for ease of storing.
Below: Vintage lingerie ads featuring overwire designs, from brands Celebrity and Berlei.
Now for a bit of history: the overwire style bra arrived on the scene around the mid-1940s, but achieved its height of popularity in the 1950s, as the austerity of the war years receded into memory. Dior's 'New Look', with its bared shoulders and plunging necklines, called for lingerie to be both strapless and shaping; for these purposes, the overwire was perfect, giving a perky appearance without more extreme silhouette created by the other instantly recognisable 1950s style, the Bullet Bra. (more on that in a future blog!)
Below: Spy-themed Maidenform advert for 'America's most famous bra'
Inevitably the overwire bra filtered into burlesque and pin-up imagery (as women in their underwear was a somewhat central theme in both!) - along with items like stockings, suspenders and bullet bras, which became objects of fetish. The good-naturedly racy imagery seems tame by today's standards, but the glamour model of the 1950s was the ultimate bad girl - and of course, the most iconic of them all has to be the inimitable Bettie Page, whose charisma, charm and good looks has won her fans worldwide. Bettie's legacy lives on, not just in film and media but also in the style cues we're still borrowing from her today.
The next drop of Bettie Page lingerie includes both plain black overwire sets, and an eye-catching scarlet - we think Bettie would have approved :)
Below: our overwire basque sample from many moons ago