The Skinny on the Longline Bra
The longline is a classic bra style which first gained popularity in the late 30s. As changes took place in fashion, bras evolved from the gossamer nothings worn by the flappers to more supportive and structurally complex designs. In contrast to the straight garcon lines of the 20s, the typical 30s silhouette was much more tailored and fit to the curves of a woman's body. The new styles in outerwear dictated corresponding changes in foundations and women began to expect more support and shaping from their bras. Longline bras not only offered improved lift to the bust, they also smoothed the waist and fit all the way to the top of a girdle for a complete and sleek fit. Early longline styles often were sewn with metal hooks or loops which could be attached to matching girdles creating a flexible, full foundation garment.
A 1938 ad for Maiden Form's Intimo Longline bra.
As technologies advanced and materials like nylon and elastic became available for lingerie construction, the shaping power of the longline bra improved. The wasp waisted fashions of the time were designed to fit a woman slimmed by her foundation garments and the glamour gowns and definitive party dress of the 50s were almost always accompanied by a longline bra. The style was typically fashioned with materials similar to those used for girdles with spiral steel boning, power mesh and no stretch panels strategically sewn in to create an elegant bust line while smoothing and contouring the tummy.
For a "Sweetheart of a Figure," wear Formfit's "Life" Longline Bra, 1950.
Formfit's 1953 longline style.
The longline continued to be a popular bra into the 60s. As women took to the work force they began to wear practical styles for all day comfort and shaping especially important under the fitted knits and wiggle skirts of the time. The contouring bras gave the wearer the perky sex kitten bosom and a smooth, body conscious line from the bust to the hip particularly when worn with the elastic waist band tucked into a girdle.
Silhouette's 1965 Stretch Strap bras. For the mod girl on the go!
Modern gals tend to over look the longline styles. These days women seem to wear them only under formal dresses and bridal gowns, when specific undergarments are deemed necessary. However, no matter how fancy the function or dressy the attire, the proper undergarments are always an important part of an outfit. If you want to emanate the 50s hourglass silhouette or the shapely sex appeal of the 60s it's crucial to start from the inside out with a nice longline bra and a shaping girdle.
In addition to serving a foundational purpose, longline bras also give an edgy look as outerwear. Pairing a sexy style with a jean jacket or bolero makes an adventurous fashion statement. Or wear a vintage longline bra under a sheer shirt for a flirty look, giving slightly more coverage than a basic bra without the bulk of a full coverage camisole.