Vol. XI No. 4
Friday 24 January - 30 January 2003

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Updated every Friday
by Parisa Santithi

 



COLUMNS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Snap Shot

Modern Medicine

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Bits ‘n’ Bobs

Personal Directions

Social Commentary by Khai Khem

Women’s World

Family Money: Are you evading UK tax?

By Leslie Wright,
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 quite another.

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, www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk).

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 schemes.

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 benefits then.

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 planning also.


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 learn!

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 the photograph.

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 won’t!


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 cooking.

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 steak.

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’ thing again.

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

Dear 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 boxed chocolates?

A stranger in a strange place

Dear Stranger,

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 ourselves.

Dear Hillary,

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?

Sandgroper

Dear Sandgroper,

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.

Dear Hillary,

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 by one.

Nancy

Dear Nancy,

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.

Dear Hillary,

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.

Anders

Dear Anders,

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 WEEK

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 incident...

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 running water.

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 for survival!

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 mini-search-and-rescue operations.

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 blur.

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 awful.

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 Part I

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 size bra.

An 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 them exposed.

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 hook-and-eye closures.

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 ribbon.

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 to maturity.

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).




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