Beauty by Numbers: Bras

Kate Sullivan, Allure magazine

Bras are busy undergarments: Lifting, separating-even seducing. Below, a peek at their well-rounded history.

Number of tassels on the breast covering that Hera, the Greek goddess, wore to distract Zeus from the Trojan War in Homer's The Iliad.

Year a Brooklyn woman invented an insert, made of coiled wire and padding, for a corset that made the breasts look bigger. She filled the pads with bark, grass, or curled hair, which she believed would be sweat-resistant.

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Decade training bras for adolescents were first made.

Year the word "brassiere" first appeared in Vogue, in reference to a breast-shaping garment worn in addition to a corset.

Years later that Macy's opened a brassiere department.

Actress Clara Bow's age when she went braless in the 1927 film It. "She's top-heavy with 'It,'" a character remarked in a scene where Bow's nipples are visible through her shirt.

Year producer Howard Hughes had a cleavage-emphasizing bra designed for actress Jane Russell after complaining on the set of The Outlaw: "We're not getting enough production out of Jane's breasts."

Years later that Russell revealed in her biography that she had instantly hated Hughes's painful bra, thrown it behind her bed, and worn her own retooled bra instead. But it was Hughes's construction, the cantilever bra, that became known as "the bra that saved Hollywood."

400: Approximate number of women who protested the 1968 Miss America pageant by throwing what they called "instruments of female torture"-Playboy magazine, heels, and bras-into a trash can. Their intention was to burn them all, but the police intervened. Nonetheless, the phrase "bra burning" was born.

1977: Year the designers of the "jock bra" (later known as the Jog Bra) were inspired by the shape and function of the jockstrap.

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1990: Year Jean Paul Gaultier designed Madonna's cone bra for her third tour, Blonde Ambition.

15,000: Number of bras sold in three days after Oprah Winfrey endorsed the Enell sports bra in 2001.

Rank of the Wonderbra, a padded push-up style introduced in the 1990s, in the Canadian Broadcasting Company's 2007 list of the top 50 Canadian inventions of all time.

Rank of the pacemaker.

Season of The Cosby Show in which an angry Clair Huxtable unstuffs daughter Vanessa's new bra. Husband Cliff's contribution to their argument: "And don't put those tissues back in the box!"

Number of years ago the average American bra size was a 36C. Today, it's a 36DD.

Episode of Seinfeld in which Kramer and George Costanza's father, Frank, collaborate on a bra for men and argue over whether to call it "the bro" or "the manssiere."

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$12.5 million:
Value of the Victoria's Secret Heavenly Star Bra, created in 2001; it's still the most expensive bra ever made. Its centerpiece is a 90-carat emerald-cut diamond worth $10.6 million.

Percentage of women who said in a 1995 survey that they would buy a new bra for a special occasion.

Percentage of women that experts estimate wear the wrong size bra.

Year two former Microsoft employees developed an algorithm for fitting bras. True&Co shoppers answer an online survey and are matched with a bra. The slogan: "No fitting rooms. No measuring tape."

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