Making a better bra on the inside: learning from the master bra maker

You may know that I have been working on the concept of an internal bra, so recently I decided to go to Paris to see the original source of the brassiere:  Madam Poupie Cadolle, whose family has been in the bra business since 1889 when her ancestor Herminie Cadolle first patented it. I wanted to see what they had learned after nearly 125 years, and see what might apply to the work I am doing with biomaterials such as purified silk mesh (Seri scaffold) and acellular dermal matrix such as Strattice. When I explained the concept of the internal bra to Madame Cadolle, her reaction was “C’est formidable!” We had a very interesting conversation and I found that we shared a lot of the same ideas.


For example we share equally a sense of the inadequacy of the cup size system, which has been in use since the Warner Brothers Corset Company patented it in 1935. Cadolle’s bras are all custom made now, but the widely cited statistic that most women wear the wrong size bra has to do with more than a poorly conceived sizing system. The way that bras are designed is problematic in ways that actually create long term problems.


An example of this is the roll of skin (and sometimes fat) at the front of the arm and above the edge of the bra. According to Mme. Cadolle, it is the elastic in the cup and the band there that forms this – an interesting conclusion since it was Maison Cadolle that first introduced elastic “rubber threads” more than 100 years ago. The problem of the “anterior auxiliary roll” as plastic surgeons call it can be a difficult problem to fix, so if it can be minimized by better bras then I am all for that. Another problem related to elastic is shoulder strap grooves; if the elastic portion of the strap is only in the back, according to Cadolle, grooves will not develop even in large-breasted women.


For the internal bra, it was interesting to me to hear that she also believes that a well shaped cup requires a seam. I have been trying to figure out how to shape mesh materials into a nice cup and had concluded that a pleat or dart was helpful. It may turn out that biomaterials such as Seriscaffold that can be used like fabric will be advantageous for this reason. Interestingly, she also prefers woven silk.


In France, bras are known as “soutien-gorges,” but an early name for them was “le bien-être,” or “the well-being.” whether on the inside or the outside, I believe that a properly designed bra should certainly contribute to a sense of well-being.

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