The brassiere appeared on the fashion scene about 1904 or 1905. Of course, women wore brassiere-like garments before this date, but they went by other names depending on the time and place in which they were worn. In the 19th century, these garments were called bust supporters, breast girdles or bust corsets. During the second half of the 19th century, these garments were worn by a minority of women, primarily dress reformers, who felt that the tight fit of a corset was too restraining. The majority of women continued to wear corsets until the very late 19th and early 20th century, when the brassiere and its forerunners became popular among European and American women.
The term brassiere was first used in advertising copy by the Charles R. De Bevoise Company in 1904 and included in a 1905 patent by Gabrielle Poix. In French, brassiere referred to a child's vest or undershirt and/or a woman's bodice. Both Poix and De Bevoise probably borrowed this French word to bestow a certain cachet on their product, which was a wise marketing move. Who wouldn't prefer wearing a brassiere over a breast girdle? During the 1930s, brassiere was shortened to bra, the term still in use today.