American socialite teenager Mary Phelps Jacob solved a problem experienced by women of her time who wore uncomfortable corsets that were stiffened with whalebone.

Fashion was changing, and Mary liked wearing the new looser dress styles. One night she was getting ready to go to a debutante ball and saw that her corset was visible through her dress and also showed at the plunging neckline.

She told her maid to bring her two handkerchiefs, some pink ribbon, a needle, and thread. She then made the handkerchiefs and ribbon into a simple brassiere. At the ball, the other girls took notice and wanted to know how she moved so freely.

The next day she showed her new garment to her friends and they all wanted one. Then, someone she didn’t know wanted to buy one and offered her a dollar, which was a lot of money at the time. She realized that her invention could become a viable business.

Mary filed for a patent on February 12, 1914, and in 1920 opened the Fashion Form Brassiere Company. She ran the company for several years but it never got off the ground. Her husband discouraged her, and persuaded her to close it. She later sold the patent to the Warner Brothers Corset Company for $1,500. The company went on to earn more than $15 million from the patent. Much later Mary wrote, “I can’t say the brassiere will ever take as great a place in history as the steamboat, but I did invent it.”