According to Wikipedia, The concept of covering or restraining the breasts dates back to 6,500 years ago in Greece. Minoan women on the island of Crete 4,000 years ago wore garments that partially supported yet revealed their bare breasts.
A bra-like device to give a symmetrical rotundity to the breasts was patented (nr 24,033) in 1859 by Henry S. Lesher of Brooklyn, New York; although it is recognisably a bra, the design looks uncomfortable by current standards. In 1889 Herminie Cadolle of France invented the first modern bra, a two-piece undergarment called le bien-�tre (the well-being). The lower part was a corset for the waist, the upper supporting the breasts by means of shoulder straps. By 1905 the upper half was being sold separately as a soutien-gorge (“breast-supporter”, using a euphemism for breast that usually means “throat”), the name by which bras are still known in France. Cadolle’s business is still going strong.
The brassiere was at first an alternative to the corset, for neglig�e or at-home wear, or for those women who had medical or political objections to corsets. However, after the straight-fronted corset became fashionable in the early 1900’s, a brassiere or “bust supporter” became a necessity for full-busted women, as the straight-fronted corset did not offer as much support and containment as the Victorian styles. Early brassieres were either wrap-around bodices or boned, close-fitting camisoles (both worn over the corset), and were designed to hold the bust in and down, the corset providing upwards support.
1907, was the year when the word brassiere was first reported in an American copy of Vogue. Most of the major designers of the era have tried to lay claim to designing the first bra. What is certain, is that all the designers promoted a simple breast retaining garment as better for the newer simple straight dress styles. The first modern brassiere to receive a patent was one invented by a New York socialite named Mary Phelps Jacob in 1913.