This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

Wonderbra / © McCord Museum, Montreal

The power of the push-up.

Some products are so potent their names have defined a category. Think Kleenex for tissue, Teflon for non-stick, and Vaseline for petroleum jelly. The same goes for Wonderbra and women’s intimate apparel. Wonderbra was the 1964 brainchild of designer Louise Poirier of the Canadian Corset Company. The product’s name hinted at the revolution her brassiere would spark in the age when four women in ten still wore girdles. To its credit, the Montreal business realized modern women wanted something more in line with the era’s revealing new fashions as well as the new-found independence of women themselves – something feminine yet freeing, stylish yet supportive. Wonderbra fit the bill. Featuring fifty-four design elements, the undergarment is a lacy brassiere based on a push-up construction that “lifts and supports to comfortably create a fuller form” – qualities that marketing research suggested modern women wanted. It was indeed a hit. By 1979, Wonderbra dominated the Canadian market. Women lined up to buy it when it was later released in the United States. Wonderbra remains a favourite around the world, a wearable symbol of social freedom that brought the women’s undergarment business out of the closet, launched the new multi-billion-dollar intimate-apparel industry, and earned the brand loyalty of countless women.

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