Family Money: Are you evading UK tax?
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.
Some British expatriates think they’re being smart by
“neglecting” to inform the UK Inland Revenue Department that they’ve
left the UK. They reason that they can continue to receive their State
Pension with indexed increases every year, and don’t have to bother
making changes to their mortgage or rental arrangements.
At the same time, they imagine that they can move
substantial amounts of onshore capital into tax-free offshore investments,
and draw down an income from those investments in the country where they
are actually resident, without incurring any liability in UK. They want -
and expect to achieve - the best of both worlds.
Well, sooner or later their plans will come unstuck -
even if only when they die and their heirs try to unravel the estate
through probate and the UK taxman appears over the horizon wanting his
share. A worse scenario is running the risk of prosecution for
deliberately defrauding the IRD. Avoiding tax is one thing; evading it is
In fact, the very first step you should take towards
becoming an expat should be to the UK’s Inland Revenue to sort out your
tax liabilities. The IRD should be informed in advance of your departure
by completing form P85 to declare that you are going. (A range of guidance
leaflets and forms may be downloaded from the IRD website,
To avoid tax on your foreign earnings and income, you
must be non-resident in the UK for a period of one complete UK tax year
(6th April to 5th April), as discussed in the IRD’s guidance leaflet
IR20. Otherwise, if you are away for less than a full tax year you will
remain liable to UK tax.
You also have to be careful how long you stay in UK
during subsequent visits. Some barroom tax experts quote the 180-day rule
whereby you’re permitted to return to UK for not more than 180 days in
each tax year without attracting income tax liability. But there’s also
a less well-known rule whereby temporary visits to UK must not exceed 90
days per annum aggregated over four years.
Also, the local tax authorities in the new host country
must be informed of your imminent arrival - although in practice in
Thailand, this will only apply if you take up legal employment here and
apply for a work permit.
Those who think they’re smarter than the local
immigration and tax man by doing a visa run every 90 days may eventually
come unstuck also, despite the fact that expats have been getting away
with this practice for years, largely because the bureaucracy was not up
to keeping tabs on everyone.
This is changing with the gradual introduction of
inter-departmental computerisation, and there are indications that the
government is going to clamp down on expatriate tax evaders, despite
protesting letters to the newspapers that because expats are spending all
their money in Thailand, they should be welcomed instead of being
harassed. (How these same correspondents would feel about Asian and
African immigrants to UK getting around immigration rules and evading the
taxman is never mentioned, of course.)
Existing onshore investments
Expats who leave the UK with pre-existing individual
savings accounts (ISAs) are allowed to continue to hold these during their
time living and working overseas, but are not allowed to make further
investments into them while non-resident.
Similar exclusions apply to onshore pension
contributions. This is the most widely misunderstood and abused area: the
expat thinks that if he doesn’t tell the pension provider that he’s
now resident offshore, he can continue to make contributions and
eventually draw down the pension to his onshore (or even offshore!) bank
account. If the onshore provider or the IRD find out that he is not
actually resident in the UK, he’ll be in a spot of trouble, for
technically committing tax fraud. Pleading ignorance is no excuse. The
pension is frozen and all contributions made during the time he was
overseas must be returned.
Given that the pension must be frozen until the
plan’s maturity date or the contributor’s return to UK residency, it
is essential that expats seek professional advice to plan ways in which to
make up for any retirement income shortfall.
Some ‘clever’ expats imagine that they can transfer
the frozen pension offshore to gain tax advantages. In practice, IRD
approval has to be granted to move a tax-efficient onshore pension
offshore - and then only to a pension provider approved by the IRD, which
means one offering a plan comparable to the onshore one. And the providers
generally thought of as being offshore - insurance companies in the Isle
of Man or Guernsey for instance - do not offer “approved” pension
Onshore corporate pensions can be transferred to
onshore personal pension schemes, over which you may have greater control,
and access to 20% of the ‘pot’ upon reaching the age of 50 - but it is
generally not worth attempting to transfer a ‘frozen’ onshore personal
pension scheme offshore. The hassle typically outweighs the small
advantage. Better to wait for the plan to reach maturity and take the
However, UK expats should consider continuing Class III
contributions to the State Pension whilst resident abroad to ensure full
benefit upon reaching retirement age - but should also bear in mind that
overseas State Pension entitlements do not increase on an indexed basis,
so this potential shortfall has to be considered in their financial
Snap Shot: Inspiration and Larry Dale Gordon
by Harry Flashman
Have you a favourite photographer? No? Well, you
should! Everyone should have a photographer whose work stimulates you to
greater heights. For me, I have many whose work I enjoy - Norman
Parkinson, Helmut Newton and Jeff Dunas all rate high, but one
photographer who inspires me not only with his images, but also with his
words, is Larry Dale Gordon.
Now when I say that your favourite photographer’s
work should inspire you, that does not mean that you should rush out and
slavishly copy their work. Don’t laugh, I have seen it done so many
times in camera club level photographers who have been most upset when I
mark them down for copying, rather than being creative.
When I say “inspire” I mean that you look at the
work and say to yourself, “How did he/she do that?” You should look at
the end result and work out how you can use that technique to produce your
own shot. Half the fun in photography is working out “how to” with the
other half being the enjoyment of looking at the final image.
So why does Larry Dale Gordon inspire me? There are
many reasons. First off, he is a self trained photographer, who believes
that the way to learn is to do it. Let me quote you from one of his books,
“I learned photography through experience; by putting film through the
camera, peering through the lenses, trial and error, and pondering every
facet of light. It’s the only way. If you think there is another way, or
a faster way, write a book telling how and you will make considerably more
money than by being a photographer.” These are very wise words. Cut them
out and stick them on your bathroom mirror and read them every day! In
fact, a renowned Thai photographer, Tom Chuawiwat, used to tell me that
professional photography was the only job where the client paid you to
I’ve tried to see just what it is about Larry Dale
Gordon’s pictures that appeal so much to me and I’ve come up with two
basic concepts. Simplicity and Colour.
Look at the photograph I have used to illustrate this
week’s article. A classic. The couple on the pontoon, looking at each
other, silhouetted against the water in the background. Unfortunately,
this newspaper is a black and white medium, so just imagine, if you will,
what that shot looks like with the water a golden orange with the black
shadows and silhouette. It is a simple, uncluttered shot with only one
colour in it. But that one shot Larry Dale Gordon has sold many times over
through his stock agency. Why? Because it is classic and timeless and
there is absolutely nothing to detract (or distract) from the couple in
Now before you rip out with two friends at sunset and
try and duplicate this shot, read the second paragraph again! Let’s not
make slavish copies! But instead, let’s look at how we can accomplish
the effect of a monochromatic picture and silhouette. This can actually be
done any time of day, but to make it easier for you, pick your favourite
beach or riverside at a time when the sun can be behind your subject - be
that people or things.
Now you need a tricky filter, called a “tobacco”
filter. On that bright sunny day, with the light behind your subject(s)
hold this brown/orange filter over the lens and pop the shutter. Stick it
on Auto if you will, the camera will do the rest. Even experiment with
different colours to get strangely wonderful or weirdly dreadful results.
The only point to really remember is to get the light behind the
subject. You will be able to get this “pseudo sunset” look any time
after 3 in the afternoon. Try it and amaze your friends with a classic
silhouette - and if you don’t tell them about Larry Dale Gordon, I
Modern Medicine: Eat and grow thin
by Dr Iain Corness, Consultant
Here we are, almost at the end of the first month of
the New Year, 2003 and already many of you are having problems with
sticking to your new year’s resolutions, aren’t you? For most, it was
a case of losing some extra kilo’s that were probably stacked on over
the Xmas-New Year break, and to make it a little easier for you, here are
some of the no-no’s and what you can substitute for them in your diet.
You do realise that your weight is dependent upon what passes over your
gums, and nothing to do with what you breathe or bath in, don’t you!
Let’s look at fatty foods first, and the first shock
and disappointment for the health conscious salad freaks is that ordinary
mayonnaise is very high in fat. There is nothing to be gained by eating
rabbit food if you douse it with mayo, oily dressings, cream sauces or
sour cream. Now don’t give up on the lettuce - you can use low fat
mayonnaise, vinegar and lemon juice instead.
You probably do know that cheese should not be on your
menu, but you can have reasonable (small) quantities of ricotta and
cottage cheese and low fat cream cheese. But be honest with yourself. OK?
So you want to eat meat? That can be done, but you will
have to avoid the fat on the outside of meat and duck and chicken skin.
You must also give sausages, bacon and salami a bit of a wide berth too,
but you can have lean cuts of meat such as ham, beef and turkey and
chicken breast. It is also best to trim the fat off the meat before
I often advocate an Asian diet for people who are
watching their weight, but that does not include such Asian favourites as
fried Dim Sum items, spring rolls (except Vietnamese ones) or prawn
crackers. Steamed Asian Dim Sum items are fine.
Others in the no-no category are deep fried or battered
foods, pies and pasties, crisps and hot chips (french-fries). These should
be replaced by foods that are cooked without fat or with a minimal amount
of poly or mono-unsaturated vegetable oil, so look at substituting grilled
fish and meats, rotisserie chicken (but take the skin off) and dry-fry
meats. You can have oven baked chips, if you must have chips with your
In cooking and spreads you should try and get away from
large amounts of margarine, butter, oil, cream, peanut butter, dripping
and lard for all the UK folk, and coconut cream (so that rules out the
southern Thai curries). The recommendation is to limit oil or margarine to
one tablespoon a day, and it should also be poly or mono-unsaturated.
Fortunately, fruit and vegetables, particularly raw or
steamed, or even roasted using an oil spray only, are fine to include in
your daily diet. But remember that too much of too sweet fruits is not all
that good for you either! It really is the ‘all things in moderation’
By the way, all these dietary restrictions are also
good for anyone who is trying to lower their cholesterol levels, or even
triglycerides (the other blood fat). Of course, if you do not know what
your levels are, and you are over 40 years of age, come and get your
levels done. Today!
Heart to Heart with Hillary
I know you like chocolates, but last year we took some
chocolate candy and some of those strange jellied candies in little cups
(and some real food) out to the orphanage. None of the children wanted the
chocolates and all quickly devoured the jellied candy. Do Thais -
especially the ladies - not have taste for chocolate? I thought all women
loved chocolates. And if they do, where is a good place to buy quality
A stranger in a strange place
How could you possibly be a stranger here? Thailand
is the most welcoming country in the world, just remember to bring your
wallet, Petal (and champagne and chocolates for Ms. Hillary). Actually,
whether Thais like chocolate depends upon where they come from. The Esarn
peoples tend not to like sugary sweet things and chocolate is amongst
that. By comparison, the southern Thais have a much sweeter tooth.
Hillary? Well now, where do you get nice chocolates? It’s easy, you just
pop down to the big supermarkets like a good boy and you will find quality
boxed chocolates there. Wrap them securely, with a label addressed to
Hillary, c/o this newspaper and I will get them. Thank you in advance, and
also a big thank you for remembering the children less fortunate than
This year I went on holidays for a few days in Jomtien,
instead of Chiang Mai. The beach road has certainly changed since I was
there last, but the vendors were just the same, pestering us with fairy
floss, wooden planes, sunglasses, hammocks, som tum, tod mun pla and ice
creams. But there was something different there too, as we noticed that
the police were coming along the beach and the vendors would go scurrying
off like sandcrabs and disappear. However, about ten minutes after the
police swoop, the vendors were all back again. Where do they go to
Hillary, when the police come? They just disappeared like magic! Is it
illegal for them to be on the beach?
Beach vendors are a curse and spoil my little forays
to the land of deck chairs and banana boats. Hillary would imagine that
they should have some sort of a permit, just the same as the beach
concessionaires have - which costs money, by the way. The vendors all rush
across the road and up the side sois to elude the police. I commend the
police for helping clear the beaches, but I am just a little worried that
I will next be woken up by a policeman asking if I would like to buy some
peace and quiet. But that would never happen, would it! Not in Thailand,
now that complete transparency is here.
I read much about the problems people seem to have with
the songtaews and even though I only come here once a year I felt moved to
write to you, following my experience with one the other day. Wishing to
only go a short way to the market and then return, I hailed a bus and
explained what I wanted. A fare was agreed upon and the trip was carried
out successfully, with him waiting for me at the market. I was a little
longer than I expected, but he took it all with good graces. When I
returned home I gave him more than the agreed fare, because of the extra
waiting time, but he refused to take the extra! Unfortunately I did not
get his number, but I just wanted to let others know not to judge them all
I am delighted to hear this, as undoubtedly the
drivers do get painted in a bad light, but I must also add that some of
their vehicles look as if they have been painted in a bad light too! For a
tourist venue, the drabness of our public transport, as frequent as the
songtaews may be, is appalling. Hillary would like to see the city fathers
suggesting some bright florals, rather than the dull rusting monochromes
we have right now. Thank you Nancy for taking the time to tell us of this
ambassador for our city.
I just can’t believe that the letters you get are
real. Nobody is that silly, or are they? Every week you publish all these
letters from people with problems. I don’t believe the number of people
or the number of problems. Could you confirm or deny this? By the way you
will be helping me win a bet.
First of all, your point about “silly” letters -
you wrote in! Is your letter “silly” too? You should not be too
surprised that this column publishes letters from people with problems, as
that is what ‘Agony Aunts’ are all about, Petal - solving problems for
people with problems of the heart. Secondly, could I confirm or deny what?
That people have problems? That people write in? Anders, my mailbox is
full every week. Finally, and most importantly, betting is not legal in
this country, so I cannot make myself party to such illegal goings-on.
Please report to your closest police station and turn yourself in,
that’s the lad!
Bits ‘n’ Bobs
BEWARE THE BAR ROOM EXPERTS!
There are hundreds of them soiling barstools in
countless establishments across our Fair City. I thought I had heard
it all before, but these pathetic specimens are surprisingly
creative, more ubiquitous than mosquitoes, but far less intelligent.
How you can get a ten-year visa by being polite to the Immigration
Officials?; how you can survive on 50 baht per day and live like a
king?; how you can earn a Western salary teaching English? (hmm,
given UK teachers’ salaries, they may have a point); how you can
buy a work permit from the farang vagrant outside the Marine Bar for
1,000 baht?; how you will not suffer dual pricing if you learn to
say:’ Sawadee krap!’?. The list goes on. From an observer’s
perspective, there is certainly some entertainment value in their
tripe and stopping people being suckered has its own rewards.
The best one I have heard in recent times is that
according to the ‘Treaty of Amity’ between the US and Thailand,
an American citizen can not only buy land in Thailand, he can do so
for below market value, provided he pays the cash in full to a
certain well connected American ‘gentleman’ in a South Pattaya
bar who will handle the ‘paperwork’. Yeah right: none for you
ten for me, none for you ten for me, none for you...
POLITICALLY INCORRECT QUOTE OF THE
To any follower of the late Dean Martin, the
famous American crooner and would be actor, it should come as no
great surprise that he was ‘alcoholically-challenged’, according
to PC speak: arguably a drunk or dipsomaniac in honest parlance.
At a dinner given in his honour before he passed
on, each of the speakers made glowing speeches in tribute to this
icon. Not one reference was made to an over-indulgence in the grain
juice until the now late and great Tommy Cooper, the accomplished
British comedian and revered magician, stood up. He began with
similar platitudes as the previous speakers, but then stunned the
celebrity audience into silence by saying something along the lines:
“Yeah, I’ve known Dean for years. Hear about that whisky diet he
went on? He lost three days!” It was only when Dean Martin broke
out in hysterical laughter at the quip that the previously silent
audience gave a standing ovation.
Were Tommy Cooper alive today and dared to come
out with something so ‘outrageous’, although giving much
pleasure to the brunt of his joke plus millions around the world, he
would probably never have worked again because the PC lobby would
have ensured his career was ruined. I wonder how many young budding
talents will never share their humour and entertain the world
because of the PC virus? One would be too many...
LOVE IS IN THE AIR...
...in abundance it would seem. The door slamming has
now stopped as my Domestic Executive (that’s PC speak for ‘maid’) is
back with her beau. I am not at all sure if she is at the top of this
young man’s list but she must be (as I am sure he has been many times),
well up there. The first time he reappeared, I left them to it inside as I
sipped a cup of Earl Grey whilst training my temporary ‘Business
Assistant’ to discreetly traditionally massage me in my al fresco office
without upsetting nosey passers by. Up stormed one of lover boy’s harem
and she was audibly out of sorts. Fair play to the lad, out he came,
tucking his shirt in on the march. The meeting in the soi did not last
long as he squatted before the irate girl and spoke in a whisper. I was
about to applaud his diplomatic achievement but decided against it as her
left moon boot caught him in the back of the head as he strode
triumphantly back to no doubt finish what he had started inside.
Unruffled, he went back in, albeit looking slightly disorientated. Anyhow,
according to my D.E. later, all in the garden of love is rosy as she now
understands ‘her’ man. There is nothing new about this behaviour as
twenty years ago in UK I had two ‘permanent temporaries’ and a live-in
in UK. The only difference was that none of them knew of the others’
existence. It must be a cultural thing causing the Thai not to vehemently
deny when found out. It worked for me, apart from the tyre-slashing
ANAGRAM OF THE WEEK
Tony Blair: Tory in Lab.
Personal Directions: Our most valuable asset? Our brain
by Christina Dodd, founder and managing director
of Incorp Training Asssociates
So much of our time these days is directed towards
staying fit – exercising – joining the local gym and the local team in
just about whatever sport you want. There are numerous ways to get trim
and lose weight to stay healthy … and to finally fit into those rather
tight jeans you bought five years ago! Everywhere you go people are
promoting healthy activities, healthy foods and drinks, healthy pastimes,
a healthy environment and so on. Just in the area near my house huge slabs
of concrete were recently poured and I thought, what are they building
now? To my surprise a few weeks later, these concrete areas have become
outdoor exercise parks where the locals gather to do aerobics together, or
Tai Chi or other forms of exercise. Driving past one morning I thought –
it’s refreshing to see people getting involved like this!
The one thing, however, that sticks out like a sore
thumb when we look at all this physical activity going on (of which I am
100 percent in favour) is that we always jump to exercise our body much
more quickly than we jump to exercise our brain. The poor old brain
doesn’t seem to get a look in at all. We think that it can take care of
itself and nourish itself without any outside assistance. After all,
it’s a brain and it sits in our head. That’s where it is and it can
look after itself. That’s where our knowledge is – and our knowledge
of course comes automatically – it’s like turning on a tap to get
So many of us don’t realize that just as we have to
exercise our bodies to improve health and fitness and overall physical
ability, so too do we need to exercise our brains or our minds in order to
improve our thought processes, our mental and intellectual capabilities.
Indeed physical activity plays a role, and an important one at that, in
contributing to a good state of well-being and mental health. But we need
to go one step further and exercise our mental capabilities in order that
we can improve upon the one most valuable asset we all possess but under
utilize – our brain!
When was the last time you did a cryptic crossword or
challenged yourself with a difficult puzzle to solve? How much time of
your day do you spend as the receiver of information as opposed to the
sender or initiator? How often do you read a thought provoking book or
write down your ideas on a subject that interests you?
If you sit and think about these questions, you’ll no
doubt realize that for most of the time we behave passively. At night we
will watch a movie or whatever we can find on the TV. We will read the
paper – or skim through the paper. We want others to provide the
stimulation because at the end of the day we’re tired. At work most of
us will be repeating the previous day’s routine.
The majority of people do not have an original thought
in their day because of the way their life is and therefore there is no
value added to their intellectual or mental capability. Imagine if we
didn’t have television for a day or a week! People would riot in the
streets. But it’s a remarkable thing how much has been taken from us by
television. There are pluses and minuses here, but overall we have really
suffered intellectually as a result of television.
I remember, as some of you also can, when growing up
there was no TV. And because of this we found ways of entertaining
ourselves as kids through inventing games with our friends for example, or
through reading and making things with our hands. The world was a
different place then and we really had to use our head to get ahead.
The less we have to think, the less we will think.
We will forget how to tap the tremendous resources that exist in our
brains. The longing for learning will no longer be and we will live in a
world of non-thinkers. What a dessert, what a wasteland with little hope
A colleague of mine is very passionate about getting
the message across to people and young people, in particular, to use their
“brain power” to get ahead in this world. Instead of sitting and
waiting for others to provide them with the means to a successful and
meaningful existence, they should be honing their mental capabilities and
working it out for themselves. They have to be self-starters, proactive,
planners, ideas-people, thinking original thoughts and then finding ways
to proceed – not copiers of others, but self-made individuals.
The means to do this is at our fingertips and it takes
application and the desire to learn. It takes the desire to push aside, if
you can, all the clutter of what is fed into our lives every day. A
monumental task to say the least, but a necessary one and one filled with
a certain amount of urgency. The last time I sat in a room filled with
seventy students who were in their third year at university I thought to
myself, where are the thinkers? Where are the ones with original thoughts?
We all carry around with us one of the most valuable
assets of our lives – our brain. The full power and force of the
brain is still not understood regardless of the extensive research and
study over the many decades. It is that intricate and that complex. So
shouldn’t we be paying a little more attention to it? We only have one
so instead of thinking of fitness only in terms of our bodies, let’s
think fitness in terms of our mental and intellectual capacity. Be
proactive as opposed to reactive and take on tasks that challenge the mind
– and exercise it - rather than put it to sleep!
For more information I can be contacted at cmedodd @chmai.loxinfo.co.th
and until next time, have a great, proactive week!
Social Commentary by Khai Khem
The learning curve
I’ve arrived at the age in life where I have finally
learned everything. Of course I experienced a similar feeling when I was
16, but I was wrong. I’ve learned more since then. For instance, I know
that frantically passing the pickup truck full of construction workers in
the next lane will not get me to the office any faster. I’ve learned
that no matter how many times I plead with the maid to put things away in
their proper places, I will spend the rest of my life performing
When the neighbor’s dogs howl like wolves all night
long, I’ve learned to sleep with the TV set turned up to full volume so
that my noise is louder than theirs. When the pack of relatives from
Issarn descend for a visit, I rent a cheap hotel for the duration.
The ‘Red wine diet’ doesn’t work. It is, however,
the one I like best since as long as I stick to it I remain so sedated the
fact the seams in my trousers are straining doesn’t seem so important.
I’ve even come to terms with Pattaya’s baht-bus and
motorcycle taxi drivers and have given up all hope our city will ever have
a civilized bus system. A recent straw poll told me that locals and
tourists actually like this system. It’s cheap, fast, and easy for Thais
and somewhat of a novelty for overseas visitors - as long as fisticuffs
don’t come into play over the price of the fare.
These days Pattaya seems a lot cleaner. Of course at my
age my eyesight isn’t what it used to be. Without eyeglasses I can
hardly see the food on my plate, so if I don’t peer too closely, the
piles of garbage and construction litter simply blend into the visual
I’ve also learned not to give advice. I used to
enthusiastically volunteer it, but now the very thought that someone might
actually take it makes me cringe. Too much responsibility.
Information and knowledge is like wealth; it’s
accumulative. With all that info at the ready it’s so tempting to want
to pass it on (information that is, not the money). I can’t help it. I
look at other people, and it becomes clear to me exactly what they’re
doing wrong. So, I used to tell them. It was exhausting. Someone once
said, “It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always
think you’re the smartest person in the room.” No, actually it’s
An acquaintance once mentioned to me he has only one
rule in life – “Never tell anyone else what to do.”
A few years ago I would have told him to get a new
philosophy. I saw him as a sort of laid-back guy, easy-going but a little
na๏ve. What a crazy idea. If everybody minded their own business,
what would we all talk about? What would happen to the economy? Telling
people what to do has become a form of wealth creation and economic
stimulus. Where would all the politicians go? What would all the voters
do? The voters tell the politicians what to do, and the politicians tell
the heads of state what to do, and the heads of state squabble with all
the other nations telling them what they should and should not do. Turn on
the TV. Most of the programming is created around telling people what to
do and how to think.
After a few years of walking on the noisy streets of
Bangkok and Pattaya, my hearing isn’t what it used to be either. The
upside of that is that now I not only withhold advice, I ignore it too.
I’ve learned that when people start telling me what to do I just point
to my hearing-aid and mutter something about batteries. Works wonders on
the telephone as well. Click, click, “Sorry, my mobile phone is in a
dead area”. Old friends now greet me at parties with an aside to the
other guests; “Blind, deaf and dumb,” and hand me a drink.
Women’s World: The brassiere
by Lesley Warmer
A women’s breasts have gone in and out of style many
times, sometimes being minimized and hidden from view, others times
maximized to their fullest potential. But they have always played an
important role. Usually to be endowed with large breasts is seen as a
benefit in more ways than one. I’m sure every lady has experienced the
problem of finding a comfortable bra that also looks good, especially if
you are more than adequately endowed. One of the first steps is to get the
correct fitting; more than 60% of women are walking around in the wrong
air bra with removable pads that are half gel and half air and can be
inflated or deflated with a pump.
This must have been a problem for the Amazon warrior
women in Greek history; they used to burn the right bosom off so that in
battle it would not interfere with the handling of a spear or a bow and
arrow. Hence the name Amazon, which means “breast less”. Luckily they
didn’t have to go into M & S looking for a bra.
There is evidence that the bra dates as far back as
2,500 BC, when Minoan women on the Greek island of Crete wore a garment
similar to a bra, which lifted their breasts out of their clothes, leaving
In later years ancient Roman and Greek women strapped
on a breast band to reduce their bust size.
I have already covered the recent history of the
original undergarment designed to keep the breasts in place. This was the
rather unhealthy corset comprised of whalebones and steel rods. This
painful device was designed to narrow an adult women’s waist to as
little as 13, 12, or 11 inches, supposedly attributed to Catherine de
Medicis, the wife of King Henri II of France. She decided that she would
ban thick waists at court attendance in the 1550’s, and this fashion
lasted for approximately 350 years.
Historians like to believe that the first real
substantial bra with cups was invented by a woman name Marie Tucek, but
nothing ever really came of it, possibly because of the name. She patented
her bra in 1893 and called it a “breast supporter”. It looked very
similar to the modern bra. There were separate pockets for the breasts,
and straps that went over the shoulder, which were fastened by
The first modern brassiere to receive a patent and be
recognized was invented by Mary Phelps Jacob in 1913. She was a modern
young society lady from New York. Rumour has it that having purchased a
sheer evening gown for one of her social events she found the corset with
whalebones totally unacceptable under the dress. So with the help of her
maid she designed an alternative, with two silk handkerchiefs and some
Mary’s new undergarment complimented the fashion of
the day, flattening the breasts, and she soon had many orders from friends
and family wanting the same. On November 3, 1914, a patent for the
‘Backless Brassiere’ was issued. Mary named her company Caresse Crosby
but she soon got bored with being a business lady and sold her company to
Warner Brothers Corset Company for 1,500 US dollars.
As I mentioned, the bra is like any clothing fashion;
it changes with the times. The fad in the roaring 20s was the flat-chested
“flapper” they used to bind the breasts.
Around this time Ida Rosenthal, an immigrant from
Russia, founded a company called Maidenform. She realized that all women
did not fit into the same cup size category. So she with the help of her
husband William painstakingly grouped women into different cup sizes, and
produced bras to fit females throughout all stages of life, from puberty
World War I dealt the corset a fatal blow and did the
bra a favour when the U.S. War Industries Board called on women to stop
buying corsets in 1917. It freed up some 28,000 tons of metal! After the
First World War, woman decided that they wanted a youthful, boyish look so
bones were definitely out.
In the 1940s and 1950s the bra started to become more sexual and less
functional. This was down to movie stars like Jane Russell and Jayne
Mansfield who became sex symbols and not afraid to be seen in sexy
underwear. During this period pointed breasts were what was in and this
was achieved with the help of an ‘inflatable bra’, that was blown up
with a straw and plugged with a stopper (sounds ghastly).