New Jersey’s connection to women’s bras
On January 9th, 1886 a woman was born in Belarus who would help change the shape of America (or at least its women).
Ida Cohen was a seamstress who moved to New Jersey as a young woman and opened a small dress shop in Hoboken. She married William Rosenthal, and the two of them, along with a woman named Enid Bissett, started a custom dress business. They started sewing bras into their dresses they sold, and customers liked them so much that the Rosenthals started to make them separately from the dresses, later giving them away for free with the purchase of a dress.
Due to customer demand, they started selling the bras separately, under the name “Maidenform." They built a factory in Bayonne in 1926, producing bras to “help women look and feel better in their clothes.” The company swam against the stream of popular culture. In the 1920s, women were adopting the “flapper” look and binding their breasts. Maidenform bras were designed to accentuate women’s figures as opposed to hiding them; William was an amateur sculptor and helped design the shape of the bras to make woman look more feminine (which is why the named their business “Maidenform”).
By 1928, they were selling 500,000 bras a year, and by 1950 they were selling 12 million. At one time, Maidenform had 30% of the domestic 'shapewear' market. Maidenform remained a family owned and family run business after the deaths of its founders. The family lost control in 1997 when the company went through bankruptcy.
Maidenform is now owned by Hanes.
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