The Origin of Sports Bra


The Origin of Sports Bra

You may don't know the chafing, strap-slipping and soreness that women a generation before us felt when they ran or did some other form of body movement.

That's because we have sports bras, probably the most under-estimated item in any woman's closet.

That high-intense aerobics class would be a multitude of different in your demi bra. (Black eye, anyone? ) And weekend athleisure wear summarily wouldn't be a thing.

Two New Jersey women — Montclair-natives Lisa Lindahl and Polly Smith — and Canadian-born Hinda Miller in the summer of 1977 stumbled across an idea that would help revolutionize women's participation in sports.

The contrivance has been quietly collecting compliment ever since. Most recently, the women were listed among the 2020 inductees into the National Inventors Hall of Fame — along with the inventors of Ibuprofen and the hard hat.

"Naturally, it's pretty clear, [the sports bra] has been very important in terms of participation and getting more women to feel pleasing being active, " said Marty Maciaszek, director of communications for the National Sporting Goods Association.

That all might not have occurred if it weren't for a fateful summer and an unlikely player.

Lindahl took up jogging, following the suggestion of a friend, in her late 20s when her body stopped spontaneously burning calories with no effort, as they tend to do.

It was the late 1970s and when many women were burning their bras or merely choosing not to wear them, Lindahl needed one.

She was far from an player when she starting working out. She had followed her then-husband to Vermont where she worked as a part-time secretary, did stain glass art in her basement and had a painting studio in a spare bedroom.

Her first time around the 1/10th of a mile a track at the University of Vermont, she couldn't even run the whole way. "The first time I made it around that runway 10 times, I thought I had won the Olympics, " she said.

She stimulated her sister to also take up running and one fine day her sister called and asked Lindahl what she did to tame her bouncing bosom. Wearing a brassiere that was one size too small helped however the straps slipped.

"We laughed and said, why isn't there a jockstrap for female," Lindahl, 71, said in a telephone interview from her home in South Carolina.

"I remember hanging up the phone and thinking 'that isn't such a foolish idea' , she said. "I pulled out my pocketbook and wrote down a list of what we needed -- something that would minimize breast motion, not be chafing and the straps wouldn't fall off. "

Lindahl's childhood friend, Polly Smith, with whom she had attended Montclair Kimberley Academy, occurred to be staying with Lindahl that summer while, Smith, who was a apparel stylist, worked at the Champlain Shakespeare Festival.

Smith and Lindahl used to cut physical education class together. "So she was in wonder at my new running self, " Lindahl said. "When I explained what I needed, it caught her notice. She liked the design challenge."

After several unsuccessful attempts, Lindahl's husband, at the time, came in with a jockstrap slung over his shoulders to poke fun at them. While the women stopped laughing they recognized that might be the solution.

Hinda Miller, Smith's helper, went to the University of Vermont's bookshop the next day and bought two jockstraps. They stitched the pouches together and used the thick elastic to support the breasts from below. It was the first working archetype of their invention.

They called their sports bra the Jockbra and later the Jogbra and sold it to sporting goods shop. "We knew nothing about the business or what we were doing," Lindahl said. "People were so bountiful in helping us and teaching us."

The sports bra inventors will be selected for the National Inventors Hall of Fame in May.

"One of things that actually stands out about them, is they veritably did impact society," said Rini Paiva, executive vice president of Selection and Recognition for the hall of fame. "Their invention undoubtedly changed how half of the population approaches physical activities and just activity in general -- which in turn has an impact on their health and well being."

"Also, they created an business" Paiva said. "That industry didn't exist in advance of they came up with their invention."

A bronzed sports bra is kept on exhibit at the Royall Tyler Theatre at the University of Vermont. And two others are equipped with the Smithsonian and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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