The bullet, or cone bra, is one of the most infamous pieces of underwear. The bullet bra was designed in the late 1930s, but because of WWII, it wasn’t really seen until the 1950s. Maidenform was the brand that really catapulted the bra into the mainstream. Their ads featured women looking confident and strong wearing the bra. One great detail of their bra is the spiral stitch to “round as it accentuates”. This accentuated silhouette fits in with the ultra-feminine look of the 1950s.
By the 1960s, however, a more boyish look was becoming popular on the runway, especially with the rise of “Mod”. Flat chested frames were starting to become desirable for the chic, IN look. The cone bra was out and rather forgotten about, except in jest. Usually, trends that fizzled out fast, but were still memorable tend pop up again with artists who are looking for something new.
Most people associate the cone bra with Madonna. Created by Jean Paul Gaultier and
first seen on his runway in 1982, Madonna famously wore it on her “Blond Ambition Tour” in 1990 and it became synonymous with both Madonna and Gaultier. She choose to wear it during the “Express Yourself ” part of the show, as well as in the “Express Yourself” music video. The song, of course, is about empowering women, telling them to be strong and independent.
Madonna took the cone bra off her shelf and revamped it for her MDMA tour in 2012. Most recently on the runway, Stella McCartney put the head-turning bra on her 2017 runway.
It is interesting to see the change in symbolism that has formed around the cone bra. In the 1950s, it stood for femininity and absolute beauty. Thanks to Madonna and Gaultier, the cone bra completely changed context, now promoting female independence and strength. It probably will become a little muddled in the future, with some people associating it with the misogyny of the 1950s, while others choose to see it as an empowerment tool, like Madonna. I move towards the latter, hoping that women who decide to wear the bra will do so because they feel empowered.
Cone Bra Style Icon: Madonna