Caresse Crosby ~ An Uplifting Story

Day 348 of Colourisation Project – April 20

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication. 

Necessity, they say is the mother of invention.

The modern day bra was borne out of one woman’s resolute resistance to the “boxlike armor of whalebone and pink cordage” that was the 19th century corset, and what can only be regarded as a garment of torture designed to contort women’s bodies into an unnatural posture. It created a ‘monobosom’ effect and heaven knows what it did to the musculo-skeletal system.

Somebody had to save women from the cruel societal expectation to conform to an absurd 19th century ideal of beauty. And that somebody was Caresse Crosby, a young American socialite who invented the brassiere to wear at her New York society debut in 1910 and went on to become the first recipient of a US patent for the the ‘Backless Brassiere’ in 1914.

Caresse Crosby

Photo: SCRC Morris Library SIU Carbondale ~ Caresse Crosby c 1925 ~ Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Lightweight and comfortable to wear, Crosby’s design naturally separated the breasts. As per her US Patent Application Number 1115674, her invention was “well-adapted to women of different size … and…so efficient that it may be worn by persons engaged in violent exercise like tennis.”

By 1920 Crosby had founded the Fashion Form Brassière Company in Boston but at her husband’s insistence, Crosby sold the business to The Warner Brothers Corset Company of Connecticut for $1,500. Warner went on to earn more than $17 million from the bra patent over the next three decades.

Crosby who was a descendant of the steamboat inventor, Robert Fulton, once wrote, “I can’t say the brassiere will ever take as great a place in history as the steamboat, but I did invent it.”

Thanks to Caresse Crosby, I think we women can all breathe a little easier!


Born Mary Phelps Jacob on this day, April 20, 1891, she changed her name to Caresse at the whim of her second husband, Harry Crosby. A woman ahead of her time, Crosby became a patron of the arts, a poet, a publisher and social activist. Along with her husband Harry, she founded Black Sun Press, which proved instrumental in publishing early works of many famous authors, including Archibald MacLeish, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Duncan, Anaïs Nin, Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller.

Anaïs Nin described her as “a pollen carrier, who mixed, stirred, brewed, and concocted friendships,” while Time magazine described her as the “literary godmother to the Lost Generation of expatriate writers in Paris,” during the 1920s.

Crosby’s life was nothing short of extraordinary…but that’s another story… Just google her!

Caresse Crosby died of pneumonia related to heart disease in Rome in 1970 at age 78.


“That night at the ball, I was so fresh and supple that in the dressing room afterward my friends came flocking around. I gave them a peek and outlined the invention. From then on we all wore them.”   –Caresse Crosby

This entry was posted in Colorization, Colourisation, History, Photography, USA, Women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Caresse Crosby ~ An Uplifting Story

  1. violent exercise like tennis?? lol. Now I hadn’t heard of this remarkable lady til this evening, you are certainly educating me! I always believed the now proven myth that Howard Hughes had invented it for Jane Russell, am glad to find out the truth, what a fab woman, off to read more on google. 🙂 Oh and she looks so much better after your colouring.

    Liked by 1 person

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