Mary Phelps

PHELPS, Mary, American socialite, d-1970. Better known by her married name Caresse Crosby later. When a debutante and attending balls, she made a backless brassiere using 2 hankies and a bit of ribbon. After the promotional effect of Mary wearing this style of clothing it became popular. Mary then obtained a US patent in 1914 and she manufactured and sold them, but did not do well financially. However, considering the earlier invention of a ‘soft-top corset’ by Kate Morgan in England (patented in 1903), Caresse had no doubt seen MORGAN’S advert in the Vogue Magazine in New York in 1909. Many historians erroneously quote Caresse Crosby as the inventor of the brassiere, she was neither the inventor nor Caresse Crosby at the time of designing her item. Her forename Mary was changed to Caresse some years later at the request of Harry Crosby her wealthy husband.  Caresse sold her patent for $15,000,  Morgan also got little out of it.

Socialite Inventor

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