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Early 20th Century underwear

Designing and making 1950s bras and slips

The images on this page illustrate some of the steps involved in designing and making bras and nylons slips in the 1950s. Several people working in the factory were involved in the slip manufacturing process - from laying, cutting and marking-up to sewing, pleating and pressing. 

The bra article describes the close collaboration between retailer, designer and manufacturer and shows in detail the various stages of making a bra including colour matching, quality control of the fabric, labelling and packing.

The article says:
The development of St Michael brassieres into what are - within the framework of the mass market - essential fashion garments, is a story of patience and achievement. If a St Michael bra today offers 'comfort and glamour' instead of 'bones and misery', it is not through luck; it is because executives in the department had the vision to plan a system of grading which would fit the great majority of women in over-the-counter - not fitting room - purchases.

PDF versions of both articles are available to download - see links below.

You can also download the M&S Fashion Timeline (PDF) which lists significant dates in the Company's history, particularly focusing on the development of its clothing and fashion brands.

See discussion and activity ideas page for suggestions on ways in which this material can be used to prompt further research.