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Sweater Girls - Titbits
8868    Dibyendu Banerjee    03/03/2020

The term Sweater Girl was originally coined by the reporters of the Hollywood movie world to describe a Young Lana Turner, as she appeared in a tight sweater in her debut film ‘They Won’t Forget’ in 1937. Soon they began to attribute the term to the sex symbols of the silver screen, like Jayne Mansfield, Jane Russell, Anne Gwynne, Diana Dors and others, who followed the popular fashion of wearing tight sweaters over the cone shaped bras with pointed tips, known as the bullet bras. Gradually, it became an iconic look, which every woman wanted to carry and every man wanted to see.

Lana Turner
Lana Turner in They Won’t Forget

The look of Lana Turner as the sweater girl opened a new horizon for the Hollywood film industry to find more attractive looks for their leading ladies in their films. While filming his movie ‘The Outlaw’, Howard Hughes was unsatisfied with the appearance of Jane Russell’s breasts in the movie.


He, therefore, designed a new type of bra, the Cantilever Bra, which became the pre-cursor of the overly-emphasized Bullet Bra. With the release of the Outlaw in 1943, Jane Russell’s appearance in the movie, with her overly accentuated bust line, set the screen on fire.

Jane Russell
Jane Russell in ‘The Outlaw’
Jayne Mansfield and Gina Lollobrigida
Jayne Mansfield & Gina Lollobrigida

In the meantime, in the middle of the 1940s, Frederic Mellinger opened his shop called ‘Frederick's of Hollywood’ on Hollywood Boulevard and brought a revolutionary change to the traditional look of a lingerie, when he introduced black lingerie in the United States and also created the world's first push-up bra. Subsequently, when in 1949, ‘Maidenfrom’ introduced their Bullet Bra, it dramatically changed the concept of the bold look of the Sweat Girl. The bra fully supported with the parabolic cups, usually featured concentric circles or spirals of decorative stitching centered on the nipples.


Immediately, it became a craze for the starlets to wear it under their tight sweaters to give them a more daring look, as it allowed women to add a cup size to their overly emphasized pointed look to their breasts.

Sweater Girl

The sweater girl look of the starlets took no time to become popular among the everyday girls, which was viewed by a section of the society as an indication of moral degradation of the post WWII youth. However, the fashion cemented in American pop culture and annual sweater girl pageants and beauty contests started to take place all over the country from 1949.Even during the 1960s, the sweat girl look was very much in style and women wearing tight sweaters over the bullet bras were a common sight in educational institutions, offices and on the busy streets, apart from the television shows, commercials and magazines.

Jayne Mansfield and Dan Dailey
Jayne Mansfield and Dan Dailey in ‘The Wayward Bus’ (1957)

In September of 1968, Francine Gottfried, an obscure clerical worker, briefly attained international celebrity status as ‘Wall Street's Sweater Girl’, as she was regularly mobbed by large crowds of gawking men and newspaper reporters. They used to await her arrival at the Wall Street subway stop each morning, to have a good look of her curvaceous figure, covered in a tight sweater. One day it reached the climax, when Police was constrained to close the streets and escort her through the mob, which damaged three cars as men climbed on their roofs to gain a better view. Finally, the girl had to resign from her office to become a go-go dancer.

Sweater Girl
Wall Street's Sweater Girl, Francine Gottfried, walks to work as a large crowd follows her

However, the sweater girl look, emphasized with bullet bra, dramatically declined by the late 1960's, partly due to the new feminist philosophy, which believed that bras were a sexist tool imposed on women by men. During that time, women started rallies, burn their bras in protest and choose to go bra-less. It was their protest against the physical and cultural restrictions imposed by bra over many years. Gradually, as more light-weight and soft- bras emerged, the bullet bras with a daring look declined in popularity and with the bullet bra no longer being in fashion, the sweater girl look also became out of fashion, it was never the same again.

Elizabeth Taylor
The Bullet Bra Effect – Elizabeth Taylor
Turkish Bath Tragedy behind a Museum
Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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