Category Archives: Bras

The New Frontier of Intimate Apparel: Revisiting The Sports Bra as a Standalone Category
by Andrew Sia

This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the sports bra, first invented in 1977. This is definitely the golden age of the sports bra and it has been two years since we first featured this garment in our journal. I was producing sports bras a long time ago and have forgotten when we first started production. At one time, a sports bra was something good to have but definitely not a must to carry in one’s clothing line. Whether a name brand or store-brand, you would find them at random.

Picture from Sweaty Betty

But the world was very different then. People were not so health conscious. A visit to the gym for a workout was only part of the life of the elites. People changed into sportswear before exercising and would then change back into street attire afterwards. In those days the dress code was very important.

Back then, the choice in sports bras was very limited and available sizes were also quite limited. The bra was meant to flatten the breasts and stop them from moving during a workout. I can’t recall if there were cup sizes. Most likely they went by band size and we labelled them small, medium and large. Perhaps we were only serving a small group of customers and we didn’t need to make more sizes to cover a wider demographic.

Although the construction was relatively intricate, I would say the limited styles were uninspired and the fabric selection unflattering. The bra came in basic underwear colors, mostly white.

In the past twenty years, average bra sizes have jumped, from 34B to 34DD, a difference of four sizes. This information comes from an industry survey and I’m not going to argue with it, although I would want to say that the band size may have increased by one size as well, to 36. If you look at a typical order today, the size range is moving up, both the cup sizes and the band sizes.

Weight gain, breast implants, eating habits and lifestyle choices are all basic reasons for this trend. There are more players throughout the supply chain, from manufacturing to retailing, and the emphasis on customer education to customer service and a larger selection of product categories have all helped expand this industry. Today we have a market that is more demanding than ever.

According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), athletic participation rates continue to rise. The number of teams competing in NCAA sponsored sports reached an all-time high of 19,086, a 6-fold increase over a 20-year period.

According to Cotton Incorporated Sports Apparel and Lifestyle MonitorTM, walking is by far the most popular fitness activity for women, with the other activities listed below:

• Walking – 80%
• Cardio training – 47%
• Aerobics – 41%
• Running – 37%
• Dancing – 34%
• Yoga – 33%

Access the complete version of this article and much more when you subscribe to the Intimate Apparel Journal, your go-to source for the latest in intimate apparel fashion design, engineering and construction methods.

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Sports bras in general

General Sports BrasAmong all bras, the sports bra provides additional
support for females during physical exercise.
Its construction is stronger than the typical bra,
minimizes breast movement, reduces discomfort
during exercise, and reduces potential damage to
breast ligaments. Some sports bras are designed
to be worn as outerwear during exercise, such as
jogging. They also help larger breasted women during sports or exercise.

About breast motions 

Breast motions can be reduced with different bras and it‘s been proven that sports bras are the most effective. women reported less discomfort with bras in general and with sports bras in particular. However, not all sports bras are created equally and a woman should be properly fitted.

Breast Motions

The study confirmed that breasts move in three planes of motion during exercise: vertically, horizontally, and laterally, in an overall figure-8 motion. Over time, unrestrained movement of large breasts may contribute to sagging. Motion studies have revealed that when a woman runs, more than 50% of the breast’s total movement is vertical, 22% is side-to-side, and 27% in-and-out.

It was commonly believed that a woman with small to medium-size breasts benefits most from a compression-type sports bra, in which each cup is separately molded, and women with larger breasts need an encapsulation-type sports bra, which press the breasts close to the body.

The 2007 study found that encapsulation-type sports bras are more effective
at reducing total breast motion during exercise than compression-type bras. encapsulation bras reduce motion in two of the three planes, while compression bras reduce motion in only one plane. But it ‘s advisable to first try out the type of sports bra that ‘s most suitable to the type of sport performed.

Levels of control for related sports

Different sports, workouts and general physical activity call for different sports bras and with varying levels of support and performance:

• Yoga and walking are considered low impact activities and require only “light” control.

Sports Bras Yoga

• Cycling, power walking, jogging, dancing, tennis, resistance training, and weight lifting are considered medium impact activities, and require “medium” control.

Sports Bras Aerobic

• Soccer, crossfit, boxing and kick boxing, lacrosse, field hockey, volley ball, basketball, cheerleading, endurance sports, and cross training are considered high impact activities, and require “ultra” control.

Sports Bras Impact

Learn more about Sports Bras with the March 2015 issue of the Intimate Apparel Journal!

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Soft Bra Patterns

The underpinning knowledge that is required to draft all soft bra patterns is contained in the July 2014 issue of The Intimate Apparel Journal.

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This basic 34B bra block will be used to construct a series of bra styles in the future. The profile of each pattern has a sympathy to the natural body shape and the measurement specifications relate to key breast and body measurements.

The soft bra block draft has to have a recognised start point and this is a 34B wire which forms the cradle shape. The wire used in this draft is a shape which is identical to a number of UK high street wired bras from companies such as M&S, Arcadia Group, George, Next, etc.

The following 2 photos of the sampled draft pattern are cut in
rigid lace nylon with a 250gm stretch net fabric in the wings. In future styles drafted from this block, the chosen fabric handling characteristics would have to be carefully considered and integrated into the pattern shapes. For instance if a softer stretch net was used in the wings the pattern would have to be reduced in length.

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The cup profile of this block is quite projected but this can be modified when drafting new styles in the future. The side seam has been placed close to the cup for stability.

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This wing shape is called a ‘ballet’ back.
It is a supportive, classic shape that suits the full cup shape of this bra.

The patterns for constructing this style of bra is available in the Intimate Apparel Journal!

See the summary of the July 2014 issue here:
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E-Commerce Startups are Data-Driven

E-commerce lingerie startups today are inspiring change in the industry with their data-driven perspective! See how the innovations of some of the most successful e-commerce startups have changed the way we shop for intimates online.


“The challenge: Make shopping for intimates online, well, a little more intimate. Here are the e-commerce startups angling to do just that.”
– Jill Krasny

Compelling Bra Trends 2014

In the July 2014 issue of the Intimate Apparel Journal, we list of some of the most notable trends in bras today!
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Sports bra resurgence – Lots of colors, most with removable pads, softer, more figure enhancing versus figure squashing. vSX sports bras are one of the new leaders, and Dillard’s Modern Movement sports bra are also a must-see. Under Armour is moving fast to catch up and dominate this category.

Bandeaus are back – Of course they have never left at Fashion Forms, but they are now showing up everywhere in all-over laces and padded in the sportswear and junior shops as well as intimate apparel departments.

Longer line bras – They are now made with softer fabrics and laces and the styling is coming back. They look outrageously sexy when done in lace and enhance natural body shapes. Nordstrom has quite a selection of these.

The T-shirt bra – They are also making a comeback thanks to Victoria’s Secret’s new campaign. The bra was born in 1990 at Cacique/Limited and changed the bra industry in a big way. You can say that I am biased because my team and I at Cacique invented this phenomenon.

Don’t forget about lace chemises – All-over soft laces showing up in hot colors in many stores. Some of the best are by Honeydew, Betsy Johnson and In Bloom.

See what other intimate news covered in the July 2014 issue of our journal!

Playtex “Cross Your Heart” Bra

The Playtex “Cross Your Heart” bra structure has a vintage feel that’s very on trend at the moment with the elastic frame detailing.

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Learn all about the fit, stitching, measurements, patterns, and materials for this particular style with the May 2014 issue of the Intimate Apparel Journal.

The Quell Test

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“The Quell Test” from the 80’s was used to measure a bra’s correct underband length. It was attached to the bra’s H&E fastening and suspended against a ruler, then promptly measured before distortion could occur.

We tested this system with 26 bra samples and found it fairly accurate. We came to the conclusion that it could be a useful tool on the factory floor for testing a manufacturing line, but not for random use as an OC testing device.

Learn more about IA technology from the past with our May issue!

The Art of Grading

Grading may apply to the most trivial of details in a garment.

Think of a ribbon bow sewn to the centre front of a bra. On the designers original bra the size of the chosen bow suited the garment, but when the bra is graded up in size the size of the ribbon bow may be too small and become “lost” on the garment. This may also applies to things such as bra strap widths, Hook & Eye fastenings and more.

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Learn the specific measurements and details about size grading in all aspect of the bra with “The Art of Grading” in the May issue of The Intimate Apparel Journal!