The Wonderbra is a push-up bra that plunges at the front center, pulling the breasts together to create an elevated cleavage line. Based on the concept of the padded brassiere, the Wonderbra was introduced in the United States in 1994 and was quickly imitated by numerous competitors. The bra encouraged the trend in the United States in the late 1990s and early 2000s favoring high, pushed-up breasts.

The first padded brassieres were introduced in the 1960s, at a time when full-breasted women like actresses Jane Russell (1921–), Jayne Mansfield (1933–1967), and Marilyn Monroe (1926–1962) were considered the sexual ideal. Females who were not fully endowed in the bust area began stuffing their brassieres with facial tissues to enhance the look of the breast size. Recognizing a possible market for those women who wanted to look bustier than their natural figure allowed, lingerie manufacturers began designing lines of bras with cups that were padded with synthetic, or man-made, fibers. Since the 1960s padded bras have been so popular that one style or another has remained on the market.

The Wonderbra was created by Canadian designer Louise Poirier in 1964. With fifty-four separate elements, the bra was designed to dramatically alter the shape and direction of cleavage. The bra was not marketed for nearly thirty years. In 1994, after becoming a huge hit in Great Britain, the Wonderbra was introduced in the United States by the Bali Company, a division of the Sara Lee Corporation. The bras became an immediate sensation, drawing much media attention for the dramatic reshaping they gave to even small-breasted women.

Wonderbras are designed in three shapes, referred to as "degrees," so that women may choose the desired degree of enhancement. The first degree is found in lift bras that are lightly lined. The second degree appears in the padded and add-a-size models. The third degree, the design with the most dynamic shape enhancement, comes in the form of push-up bras. Push-up bras feature puffy padding known as "cookies." On some models the cookies are actually removable.

In 2001 Wonderbra introduced the Air Wonder model for "high altitude cleavage." With this futuristic model, a woman can pump up her bra cups to the size she chooses. A mini pump is included in each package.


Fontanel, Beatrice. Support and Seduction: A History of Corsets and Bras. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1997.

"Our Heritage: How It All Began–Wonderbra." Sara Lee Intimate Apparel. http://www.balinet.com/history_wonderbra.html (accessed on August 27, 2003).

[ See also Volume 4, 1900–18: Brassiere ]

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