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bra 1986.246/3

Black lacy lingerie is often seen to represent female sexuality par excellence, at least from a stereotyped male perspective. Such underwear can be the obvious present chosen by an earnest suitor or a guilty husband, and both flatters and patronises. The brassiere originated as the "bust improver" in the early twentieth century, incorporating a pair of padded circles with shoulder straps, and retailed by stores like D H Evans in the 1920s (see advert below). Overtly feminine and lacy underwear was first manufactured en masse in the 1960s, often in pastel colours (see below), and in fussy flouncy styles like the "baby doll".

This sophisticated bra is trimmed with black polyester machine-made lace, and forms part of a lingerie set with matching slip and knickers. It was made in France by Jeune Europe and then retailed in London at Harvey Nichols. Harvey Nichols originated in 1813 with Benjamin Harvey's Knightsbridge linen draper's shop, and now has stores in towns like Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Leeds as well as the celebrated flagship store in London. It is still regarded as the pre-eminent retailer of sophisticated and expensive women's underwear.

Full item descriptions:

"bra & briefs & petticoat" [1986.246/3], Jeune Europe, Harvey Nichols
"bust improvers" [1947.1650]
"bust improvers" [1947.1651]
"brassiere & bra" [1993.21], Dorothy Perkins