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Tired of wearing the whalebone- and steel-rod corsets that were popular in the early part of the 20th century, New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob determined to find a more comfortable alternative. The unlikely woman inventor took two silk handkerchiefs and, with help from her maid, sewed them together using pink ribbon and cord. The resulting undergarment was soft and light, and it conformed to the wearer's anatomy far more naturally than the traditional corsets.
Jacob's design, which she named “Caresse Crosby,” was the first brassiere to enjoy widespread use, and it catapulted her into the ranks of the famous female inventors. The brassiere's popularity did not peak until long after Jacob sold her patent, but her discovery made life more comfortable and more convenient for millions of grateful women.