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The Invention of "Bras"
by Janet Wilson Anderson
Among the esoterica in my library is a little gem called "Bust-Up"
by Wallace Reyburn, which is subtitled. "The Uplifting Tale of Otto
Titzling and the Development of the Bra." This little book tells
the details of Otto's work and company.
Seems Otto Titzling (no kidding!) developed the bra in 1912 for
Swanhilda Olafsen. Swanhilda was a singer of majestic proportions
who lived in the same boarding house in New York as Otto, who
worked in the garment business. Her need for a supporting garment
was the inspiration for Otto's breakthrough design. Over the years,
Otto's company developed the first "falsies", and padded bras,
adapted a sports protector from 1929 into the inflatable bra, and
developed a front-fastening bra, among others. (The latter failed,
by the way!)
In the early 30's a Frenchman Phillipe De Brassiere began producing
undergarments blatantly based on Otto's designs. Being a much more
fashionable gentleman who had been a dress designer before the Crash
of 1929, he enjoyed considerable success. Otto sued. Mountains of
documentation were presented during the four year court case.
But alas, Otto had neglected to patent his original 1912 design,
though he had patented all the modifications. It was a difficult
case and although Titzling did receive some damages relating to
certain details of manufacture, the court was ultimately
unsympathetic, and Brassiere really won.
During the trial both sides presented their designs on live models.
Phillipe's model was stunning and got a lot of publicity, among
which was a large blow-up of her in 'The Police Gazette' in a
revealing pose under the headline "I did it all for the Bra". And
the name entered the mainstream, appearing in the Dictionary of
American Slang in 1938, the year the case ended. Sad to say, Otto's
firm never recovered from the financial and emotional set-back.
He died in the forties, still insisting that he was robbed.
And that's why we wear "bras", not "titzlings"!
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