Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bra Science

A very interesting thing you (or at least guys) don't often think about are bras.

In 1863, Luman L Chapman patented a corset substitute with breast puffs and shoulder-brace straps that tied in back. Seen below, this was the first bra, although the term 'brassiere' was not introduced for similar garments for another forty years.

The bra size of a woman is determined by measuring around the body, just under the arms, and above the breasts. The "cup size", a concept introduce in the 1920's, is determined by measuring around the body, at the point where the breasts stick out the most. Subtract the bra size from that measurement. If the difference is 0, the cup size is AA. If it is one inch, the cup size is A. If it is two inches, the cup size is B. If it is three inches, the cup size is C. If it is four inches, the cup size is D. If it is five inches, the cup size is DD. If it is six inches, the cup size is DDD or F. There can be tremendous variations in what a cup size is between different bra manufacturers.

Bra's took a huge step in pop culture, when eccentric billionare, Howard Hughes, developed the cantilevered bra to better show off Jane Russell's cleavage in the movie 'The Outlaw'

Who can forget the taboo-breaking image from the 1999 Women's World Cup Soccer final, when American, Brandi Chastain, "spontaneously" celebrated The United States defeat of China by mugging Nike's line of women's underwear to millions.

As it turns out, there's a lot of R&D involved in making bras better, especially in the area of high performance sports bras. Just as with running shoes, they now take video analysis of women with different breast sizes running to analyze areas for design improvement. On stop motion video each breast makes a figure eight type motion with the breasts themselves receiving a considerable amount of torque, tension, and acceleration/deceleration with each stride. Research has shown up to 56% of women experience breast pain when exercising as an average sized breast can move close to 5 inches on the chest wall, which can be reduced 50% with a good sports bra. Over time, permanent stretching of the supporting elements (Coopers' ligaments) may result in an accelerated drooping of the breasts.

I learned reading about this a couple of interesting factoids (which I'll relay in case you're ever on Jeopardy):

- The first sports-bra (the "Jogbra") was originally designed by two women, from two jockstraps sewn together (one of the women who conceived it is now a Vermont state senator of all things)

- Sports-bras are a $400 million dollar a year business

- Murals from Sicily in the 3rd-4th century shown women exercising in gymnasiums wearing something resembling a sports bra


1 comment:

marcy said...

yeah, this sports and breasts sagging thing is a stress. I work out, but its my biggest fear. Seems the damage is done or so. How else to stop it? And dont say plastic surgery ;-) ...