The iconic and quite bizarre bullet bras first showed up in the 1940s, and were explicitly meant to accentuate a woman’s figure. Bullet bras were a key part of the whole “sweater girl” look (a busty and wholesome “girl next door” whose tight-fitting outergarments accentuated her artificially enhanced curves), popularized by midcentury movie stars like Lana Turner, Jayne Mansfield, and Jane Russell.
The other thing about bullet bras is (according to this brave reporter) they forced the wearer to stand up straight, at all times. Yeah, definitely not stiff or uncomfortable at all. We have a feeling that these women knocked over lots of drinks at cocktail parties.
By the 1950s the shape of many bullets bras had become extremely exaggerated, which necessitated pads (or falsies) to keep the cone cups from looking deflated when being worn. Well into the 1960s the bullet bra was still going strong. By the late 1960s and early 1970s a more natural silhouette had come into fashion and soft cup bras were selling more readily (and they were more comfortable, too).
Madonna brought the bullet bra back into popular culture with the Jean Paul Gaultier-designed costumes she wore for her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990. There are few old school makers of bullet bras still churning out these bras today. There’s even a whole new crop of cone bra makers for people who love vintage silhouettes, although this is admittedly a niche market in the post-Wonderbra era.