~ High Bodice ~
Being quite disappointed with the quality and fit of modern ready-made bras, which really seem to be more like torture devices than clothing ('innovation' isn't always a "good thing", in my humble opinion)... I decided to look into more comfortable, and decidedly more feminine alternatives. I wondered what women wore back then, before the Age of rubber, elastic, spandex, foam, polyester... yes, even before the Era of corsetry.
I found the typical corset to be terribly disgusting, not only because they're as uncomfortable as any modern bra, but also because of the tragic slaughter of Whales required to provide the boning for them.
In their day, corsets were extremely popular, making many fortunes for ambitious entrepreneurs playing on women's vanity and competition for male attention. This c1888 advertisement was for Lewis Schiele & Co., of New York. They offered 150 styles of corsets... But alas, I don't care for them.
I've found several better options however: 1) home-made bras (like bikini tops, etc.)... 2) vintage halter top patterns that I could sew to fit myself... 3) the Mary Phelps-Jacob patented pattern, maybe (since I'm so fond of 1920s style fashions)... 4) and most intriguing of all for me -- old-fashioned bodices.
Historically, Bodices are close-fitting tops, usually made of comfy materials like silk, velvet, or cotton muslin. In those days, a "bodice" was not just an important component of a larger garment. Most of the vintage ones were rather fancy, because they were designed to wear over a chemise, slip, or blouse; and they were frequently constructed with matching skirts, mantles or jackets, etc., to make complete ensembles. I have found many absolutely gorgeous specimens by browsing through museums online, and I hope to have the opportunity soon, to make my own versions.
But some of them were more simply made and intended for wearing underneath blouses, like bras. One rarely finds examples of knitted bodices, like this one from an old book of hand-copied patterns which were somehow miraculously preserved for posterity:
I suppose that knitted Bodices could be quite comfortable (after all, most modern bras and other underwear are usually created from finely knit fabrics). And a hand-knitted one should be of better quality than anything mass-produced. They may be made to fit perfectly, and without all the horrible hardware used in store-bought ones; yet like any knit fabric, this type of Bodice should have great ease and comfort. One might even find a way to substitute any fine jersey -- such as t-shirt material -- and simply cut the pieces out and sew up the seams, thereby sparing oneself a lot of time, expense, and effort.
If done just right, knitted bodices ought to provide enough support for smaller bosoms at least. In Winter, they could be made of cashmere ;) ... And some of them might even be designed well enough to wear in plain view, for Summer. Come to think of it, knit Bodices with matching Bikini bottoms might make terrific swimwear, too! Everything depends on the actual quality of the fabric itself, along with the fit.
Anyway, I like the idea and would like to experiment with some designs. And when I stumbled across this unusual one, I thought it worthwhile to bring it out of the Library and into the sewing room.