‘Hoorah for the Bra’ traces an uplifting history

Andrea Winter
David Hartstein

Graphic designer and Washington University alum Cheree Berry recently published “Hoorah for the Bra,” a book full of perky bra pop-ups based on her senior art thesis.

“Hoorah for the Bra” seams together social history, illustration, graphic design, historical photography and pop-ups.

“It’s a celebration of this undergarment and a celebration of women at the same time,” said Berry.

The book traces bra-history decade by decade from the invention of the first bra in 1914 through the 21st century.

A pop-up of pancakes captures the flat look that was prized in the ’20s. An ice cream cone pops out from Madonna’s body to represent the “erotic missile” look she pursued in her “Blond Ambition Tour.”

The book is fastened shut with an actual bra-clasp. Instructions on how to unclasp a bra with one hand are provided for “all you boys out there.” Berry said that at one interview for a design firm in New York City her male interviewer became very embarrassed after having serious difficulty in trying to open the book.

Berry said that she was inspired by pop-greeting cards and an adult pop-up book on people’s phobias.

“I wanted to make something interactive, not two dimensional, with an element of surprise. Pop-up books and bras just came together. I don’t think of bras as an accessory, but a must. The bra is such an item of mystery that it was fun to bring it out of doors,” said Berry.

During her senior year, Berry had students fill out questionnaires about their bra wearing experiences. “She did a lot of research, young girls and grandmas. It’s not one-sided but a very broad scope of the genre which is pretty good,” said Scott Gireky, creative director and lecturer of the Visual Communications Research Studio.

Art students do not typically publish their senior thesis, but there have been a few exceptions over the years in other medias such as Web design.

Berry said that her professors were very encouraging.

“It was a really ambitious project, but Cheree was a hard worker and so self motivated that I said great, let it rip,” said Professor of Art Sarah Spurr.

Gireky agreed.

“With Cheree’s work there was always some cleverness to it. Something unique about it that made you smile, but nothing over the top,” he said.

The published book is very similar to the work Berry submitted at the University. Berry spent more time her senior year researching and developing the written content than she did on creating the artwork. The text is the same, but she enhanced some of the design. Also, she had to make some concessions to keep production costs down. The original had a pop-up with real lights accompanying the phrase “Your head lights are showing.” She regrets that she had to leave the lights out in order to keep the book’s price around $20.

Berry said the University prepared her well for her career as a graphic designer.

“We’d really get to know our products. We’d have to research and conceptualize our products. It wasn’t just about making something visually pretty,” she said.

She spent most of her senior year in the Lewis Center with other art students, drinking St. Louis smoothies, listening to the Dirty Dancing sound track and working on her thesis.

“We were cliquey in the art school because we were so isolated. I am super excited for Wash. U. art school kids to get on campus and be more a part of the community,” said Berry.

After graduating in 2000, Berry worked as a graphic designer for Kate Spade in New York City. She tried publishing the book directly after college but after a failed attempt did not return to the pursuit until 2005.

“When you’ve just graduated, publishers just don’t want to take you seriously,” she said.

Berry currently lives in the Central West End and runs her own stationary business, Cheree Berry Paper. She has recently spoken with students in the art school about how important senior theses can be for careers.

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