Futuristic but with a vintage, provocative, scenographic, decidedly sensual soul: the cone bra made famous by the combo formed by Jean-Paul Gaultier and Madonna in the early nineties is still among the most emblematic silhouettes in the history of fashion and continues to inspire contemporary looks confirming itself among the favorite designs of celebrities. Thanks to a change of course when it comes to choosing the red carpet dress, with more and more divas opting for archival fashion, this now widespread passion for the vintage designers has helped to give new luster to garments that have literally made the history of costume and, if i nineties are among the favorite decades to draw from, the eccentric French designer – who in those years gave life to some of the most spectacular and unforgettable fashion shows ever – retains a place of honor in the hearts of fans.
The ancestor of cone bra by Jean-Paul Gaultier dates back to 1941, when in America the Perma-Lift brand began to sponsor a new style of bra that promised an unprecedented combination of sensuality and comfort: it’s called bullet bra –bullet bra – for its conical and pointed shape, but also because the name is fitting to reflect the historical period. The Second World War was underway and required great physical and moral strength from everyone: women occupied the places left empty in the factories while men fought on the front, there was a need for lasting underwear. And at the beginning, thanks to the design held together only by the seams without the need for underwire, the bullet bra was born with this goal; the game of seduction and the woman’s growing awareness of her own charm and the use of it as power will come later, in the context of an increasingly liberating climate. And so images of Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and all the great divas of the Fifties in their pointed bras come to mind, enhancing the already buxom shapes and outlining a new female figure. In fact, the concept of sex symbol. But the cone bra is not only for pin-ups and actresses, it also suits the demure girl next door, it spreads like wildfire until it becomes an intrinsic symbol of femininity.
Subversive, provocateur and lover of sensuality, Jean-Paul Gaultier, one of the greatest visionaries in the history of costume, takes up this element in the 1980s and takes it to the extreme, ending up making it the most identifying sign of his collections. The cone bra debuted for the first time in the 1984/1985 Autumn Winter ‘Barbès collection‘: the exasperated shape completes a decidedly eye-catching orange gathered velvet dress, with a historic corset fastening on the back. The result is bold, hyper-sexy and exquisitely kitschy, a mix that will lay the foundations for all of Jean-Paul Gaultier’s aesthetics for the collections to come. From season to season, the designer imagines new variations on the theme, already for Spring Summer 1985 the volumes become more moderate and the toe drops while the geometry of the bra gives structure to dresses as soft as peplums.
Its most iconic iteration, however, remain the satin body with conical bra presented on the catwalk in 1987 and sublimated by Madonna, who in 1990 wore them in more than one variant on the occasion of the world tour of Blonde Ambition destined to go down in history. What not everyone knows is that the designer would later say that he originally designed this model for his teddy bear Nana. The silhouette makes a comeback in the Spring Summer 2007 fashion show, which celebrates the 30th anniversary of the foundation of the maison by paying homage to some of the most iconic looks: the typical cone shape is now revived in satin with concentric stitching, in contrast with bustier dresses and pearl necklaces for sophisticated and somewhat boudoir atmospheres, now in its original version, with a torpedo-shaped tip in a velvet dress in shades of purple.
In general, the shape she is beloved. In 2019 Bella Hadid – a big fan of the nineties – sported a cone bra in black satin with suspenders and floral stockings recreating a perfect moment of vintage-glam sensuality with an inevitable homage to put of Madonna. In 2021 Kylie Jenner walked the Parsons Benefit red carpet alongside Travis Scott wrapped in a vintage Jean-Paul Gaultier dress with iconic cone bra straight from the Eighties, reconfirming the passion of the Kardashian-Jenner clan for the sinuous second-skin effect look by the designer, who also dressed Kim on several occasions. At the VMAs 2022 the singer Lizzo presented herself with a dress with a black corset, pronounced cones and transparent details from the Fall Winter 2022 collection by Jean Paul Gaultier, recently Megan Fox and Rihanna also joined to pay homage to the king of camp sculptural reinterpretations of historic design.
But that’s not all, although in the collective imagination the cone bra remains the prerogative of Gaultier, over the years there have been designers influenced by his unconventional vision, starting with another brand known for its surrealist and visionary approach: Elsa Schiaparelli. The current creative director of the brand, Daniel Roseberry, seems to be a follower of JPG given his eccentric and exaggerated reinterpretations of the cone bra, which from an unexpected twist on a denim jacket was transformed into a flamboyant black and gold armor for Couture Spring Summer 2022.
Most recently, Balmain’s creative director ed child prodigy of fashion Olivier Rousteing: between bustiers and sculptural dresses that recreate the plastic effect of gold and silver, he signed the Haute Couture collection of JPG for Fall Winter 2022, starting from the most revolutionary silhouettes in the history of the brand and from that somewhat camp approach to fashion that has always distinguished him. Of course the cone bra deserves a place of honour, now in the context of more androgynous or sartorial looks, now combined with jeans and baseball caps that reveal its more street and contemporary potential.