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The Innovation Behind the Sports Bra

The sports bra, then referred to as the ‘jog bra’, was created in 1979 by Lisa Lindahl, Hinda Miller, and Polly Smith. The three women reunited earlier this year after being nominated to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. According to Lindahl, the original inspiration for the invention came from her sister in the form of the question, “Why isn’t there a jockstrap for women?”

Tomorrow's World Today Sports Bra 1
Photo Credit: National Inventors Hall of Fame

Prior to the invention of the sports bra, female runners would wrap elastic bandages around their chests in order to help alleviate discomfort while running. Both Lindahl and her sister were avid runners and, once her sister posed the previous question, Lindahl began sketching out design specifics for the new invention. Once she had started to come up with the design, she reached out to her childhood friend, Polly Smith. At the time, Smith was renting a room from Lindahl while she worked as a lead costume designer at the Champlain Shakespeare Festival in Vermont. Miller was brought on board as well because she was working at the same festival as the assistant costume designer.

The inspiration for the final product, once again, came from the idea of a jockstrap. The story goes that, while Lindahl and Miller were sketching up different prototype ideas, Lindhal’s husband came into the room wearing a jockstrap around his chest. At first, it was simply a funny joke, but then Lindahl tried it on herself and realized that they may have discovered the perfect outline for their prototype. In an interview with CBS News Radio, Miller stated, “We had no limitations. We didn’t know you couldn’t sew jock straps together because in costume design, creativity is the highest value and you do things out of the box. And as everyone said, that was out of the box.”

Tomorrow's World Today Sports Bra 2
Photo Credit: National Inventors Hall of Fame

Using the jockstrap as inspiration, they tweaked their design to use a firmer fabric and elastic in order to have higher support. After getting their invention, which they named Jogbra, patented in 1979 they realized their next challenge would be the proper store placement. They quickly realized that the invention should be in stores where exercise and sporting equipment were located, rather than in women’s undergarments stores.

They worked hard and were able to both secure a spot for their garment at sporting goods stores and market to show the need for their product. They were even able to turn a profit in their first year which is very difficult to do. Not only have they been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, but ‘Jogbra Inc. Records’ biological materials are also held at the Archives Center of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. According to Runner’s World Magazine, “The sports bra has had an immeasurable, cumulative impact in the lives of ordinary women…Without a garment designed to support our bodies properly, millions of [women] wouldn’t have taken up running.”

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