The Story Behind the Invention of the Sports Bra

The sports bra is a piece of athletic wear that is often overlooked, yet it has revolutionized women’s participation in athletics. This garment was born out of necessity when women realized that their regular brassieres did not provide adequate support for physical activity. In this article, we will explore the story behind the invention of the sports bra, its design challenges and benefits, and its impact on women’s athletics. We will also discuss the different levels of control provided by compression, encapsulation, and combination bras. Join us on a journey through the history of the sports bra, and discover how this undergarment has become an iconic symbol of women’s liberation.


The history of the sports bra is rooted in the need for proper support during physical activity. Women have been wearing undergarments designed for support for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that the sports bra, as we know it today, was invented. Lisa Lindahl, Hinda Miller, and Polly Palmer Smith were frustrated with the lack of support offered by their regular bras while running, so they set out to find a solution. Lindahl’s husband jokingly suggested she wear a jockstrap, which inspired the creation of the first sports bra, the Jockbra (later renamed the Jogbra). From there, the design evolved to include moisture-wicking fabrics and different levels of control. The sports bra has since become not just an undergarment, but a symbol of women’s empowerment and liberation, impacting women’s athletics and beyond.

The Need for Support

Women have been wearing undergarments for centuries, with each era having its own unique styles and materials. However, the lack of adequate support in traditional brassieres for physical activities like running was a major concern for women. The bouncing and discomfort caused by regular bras not only made exercising difficult but also led to injuries and long-term damage to breast tissues. As women began to participate more in sports and other physical activities, the need for supportive undergarments became even more pressing.

The history of women’s undergarments is a fascinating one, with styles and materials changing over time to reflect the cultural and societal norms of the era. From the rise and fall of corsets as fashion to the evolution of panties from the 19th century to modern times, women’s undergarments have gone through significant changes. However, it wasn’t until the invention of the sports bra that women had a comfortable and safe option for physical activity.

The need for support in undergarments has always been important for women, whether it was to achieve the perfect silhouette or to protect breast tissues during physical activity. The evolution of women’s undergarments from corsets to sports bras is a testament to the changing attitudes towards women’s bodies and their ability to participate in physical activities. The sports bra has not only revolutionized women’s participation in athletics but has also become a symbol of women’s empowerment and liberation.

The Birth of the Sports Bra

The sports bra was invented in the 1970s by two women who were tired of exercising while wearing uncomfortable, ill-fitting bras. Hinda Miller, a recent graduate of the University of Vermont, teamed up with costume designer Lisa Lindahl and Polly Smith, a friend and fellow jogger, to create a prototype of the first sports bra. They called it the Jogbra, and it was made of two jockstraps sewn together with a bit of stretchy fabric in the middle.

The Jogbra was a hit among the women in their local running club, who found it to be much more comfortable and supportive than traditional bras. However, it wasn’t until the women entered a 10K race wearing their Jogbras that they realized they had created something truly revolutionary. Other women at the race were amazed by the Jogbras and wanted to know where they could get one for themselves.

The Jogbra soon went into production, and the women formed a company called Jogbra, Inc. to manufacture and sell the sports bra. At first, they had trouble convincing stores to carry the Jogbra, as most retailers didn’t believe that women would be interested in a specialized bra for sports. However, once women started trying on the Jogbra and experiencing its benefits for themselves, the demand for the sports bra skyrocketed.

The invention of the sports bra was a game-changer for women’s athletics. Before the sports bra, women were often forced to wear uncomfortable, restrictive bras while exercising, which could lead to discomfort, chafing, and even injury. The sports bra allowed women to exercise more comfortably and with greater freedom of movement, which in turn helped to encourage more women to participate in sports and other physical activities.

The Jogbra and the sports bra have come a long way since their humble beginnings in the 1970s. Today, there are countless styles and designs of sports bras available, each offering its own unique combination of comfort, support, and style. The sports bra has become an essential piece of athletic wear for women of all ages and fitness levels, and its impact on women’s athletics and overall health and well-being cannot be overstated.

Learn more about the history of women’s undergarments and how they have evolved over time to meet the changing needs of women in different eras and cultures.

Evolution of the Design

The sports bra has come a long way since its inception in the 1970s. The earliest sports bras were made from two jockstraps sewn together, providing minimal support and compression. However, as the popularity of women’s sports increased, so did the demand for better-fitting and more supportive sports bras.

In the 1980s, the first encapsulation bras were introduced, which featured individual cups for each breast. This design provided more support and reduced bounce, but it was still limited in its ability to manage moisture and minimize movement restriction.

As technology advanced, so did the design of sports bras. Moisture-wicking fabrics were introduced to help keep athletes dry and comfortable during intense workouts. Additionally, new materials were developed that provided both compression and encapsulation support, allowing for greater freedom of movement while still offering maximum support.

Today, there are a wide variety of sports bras available on the market, each with its own unique design and level of support. Some feature adjustable straps and underwire, while others are wireless and seamless. Some are designed for low-impact activities like yoga, while others are meant for high-impact sports like running and basketball.

The evolution of the sports bra has been driven by a combination of technological advancements, changing attitudes towards women’s athletics, and a growing demand for comfortable and supportive athletic wear. As the sports bra continues to evolve, it will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in the lives of female athletes around the world.

New technology in undergarments has been key to the evolution of the sports bra. Materials such as spandex and moisture-wicking fabrics have revolutionized the design and comfort of sports bras. The history of women’s undergarments, from corsets to modern-day panties, has also played a role in the evolution of the sports bra. As attitudes towards lingerie and athletic wear have changed over time, so too have the design and construction of the sports bra.

Design Challenges

Design Challenges
Design Challenges of sports bras are numerous, and the most pressing challenges are comfort, moisture management, and movement restriction. The design of a sports bra should provide the wearer with support and comfort during physical activity. To achieve the required level of comfort, the fabric used should be breathable and moisture-wicking, which means it should move sweat away from the body. Movement restriction is another design challenge, as sports bras should limit the motion of the breasts during exercise to avoid injury. Achieving the right balance of support, comfort, and movement restriction in a sports bra design is key.

Comfort and Support

Sports bras are designed to offer comfort and support during physical activity. One of the biggest challenges in sports bra design is finding the right balance between comfort and support. Many women complain about the discomfort caused by sports bras, which can include chafing, rubbing, and digging in. However, it is also important for sports bras to provide enough support to prevent breast discomfort and injury during exercise.

To address this challenge, sports bra designers have experimented with different materials, such as moisture-wicking fabrics, and different design features, such as adjustable straps and underwire. Some sports bras are designed with compression, which helps to minimize bounce, while others use encapsulation, which separates and supports each breast individually. Combination bras, which use both compression and encapsulation, are also available.

When it comes to comfort, fit is key. Sports bras should fit snugly but not be too tight, as this can cause discomfort and restrict movement. The band should sit level around the ribcage and not ride up, while the straps should be adjusted to ensure a secure but comfortable fit. Some sports bras also feature padded straps and cups for added comfort.

The goal of sports bra design is to provide the right amount of support and comfort for women during physical activity. With advancements in materials and design, sports bras have come a long way since their invention and continue to evolve to meet the needs of women today.

Internal link: changing lingerie attitudes

Moisture Management

Sports bras are designed to provide adequate support and comfort to women during physical activities. One of the challenges faced by sports bra designers is moisture management. It is essential to ensure that the bra can effectively manage sweat and moisture to avoid discomfort and skin irritation. Moisture management can be achieved through the use of moisture-wicking fabrics that draw sweat away from the skin and allow it to evaporate quickly. The use of breathable fabrics also helps to improve ventilation and reduce moisture buildup.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in developing sports bras with responsive properties. These bras are designed to adapt to the wearer’s moisture levels to maintain comfort and support during physical activities. They use biomimetic analogies to mimic the behavior of natural materials that respond to moisture. Responsive sports bras are still in the development stage, and there is limited research available on their effectiveness.

Moisture management is also essential for women who engage in water-based activities such as swimming. Swim bras are designed to provide support and comfort in wet environments. They are made from materials that are resistant to chlorine and saltwater and have quick-drying properties.

Sports bra designers must consider moisture management as an essential factor in their designs. The use of moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics and the development of responsive properties are critical in ensuring that women can perform physical activities comfortably and confidently.

Internal Link: The Rise and Fall of Corsets in Fashion

Movement Restriction

Movement restriction is a common problem faced by women during physical activities. Traditional bras are not designed to handle the rigorous movements of sports, often leading to discomfort and even pain. To address this issue, sports bra designers have developed several features to minimize movement restriction.

One design feature is the use of wide straps, which help distribute weight more evenly and reduce pressure on the shoulders. Another is moisture-wicking fabric, which helps keep the body cool and dry during exercise. Additionally, some sports bras have adjustable straps and band closures that allow for a customizable fit.

Compression bras are a popular option for women who want to minimize movement during high-impact activities. These bras apply pressure to the breasts, reducing their movement and providing support. Encapsulation bras, on the other hand, separate and support each breast individually, preventing movement in all directions. Combination bras offer a mix of compression and encapsulation, providing both support and minimizing movement.

Despite the importance of movement restriction, it is also essential to ensure that the sports bra does not impede movement. A well-designed sports bra should allow for a full range of motion, enabling the wearer to perform at their best.

The evolution of sports bra design has made it possible for women to participate in a wide range of physical activities without discomfort or pain. The sports bra has become an essential piece of athletic wear, providing support and minimizing movement, and allowing women to focus on their performance.

Click here to learn more about the evolution of women’s underwear design.

Levels of Control

Levels Of Control
When it comes to sports bras, there are different levels of control that women can choose from depending on their needs. Compression bras are designed to press the breasts against the chest wall to limit motion. Encapsulation bras, on the other hand, have individual cups that surround each breast to reduce movement. Combination bras combine both compression and encapsulation to provide maximum control. Each type of sports bra has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to choose the right one for your specific needs. For more information on women’s underwear design, check out this article.

Compression Bras

Compression bras are designed to press the breasts against the chest wall, reducing movement and providing support through compression. This type of bra is ideal for low-impact activities such as yoga or walking. Compression bras typically have a pullover design with no hooks or closures. The fabric used in compression bras is often stretchy and breathable, allowing for comfort and ease of movement. Some compression bras also feature adjustable straps for a customizable fit. Compression bras are a popular choice for women with smaller cup sizes who are looking for a comfortable and supportive bra for light exercise. However, for high-impact activities such as running, women with larger cup sizes may require more support than a compression bra can provide. It is important to choose a bra that is appropriate for the level of physical activity and cup size.

Encapsulation Bras

Encapsulation bras are designed to support each breast separately, reducing movement in all directions. These bras are typically made with individual cups to provide a more natural shape and support. The cups are designed to encapsulate the breast tissue, holding it in place to reduce bouncing and provide maximum support. Encapsulation bras are ideal for women who have larger breasts and require more support during physical activity.

Some of the key benefits of encapsulation bras include reduced discomfort, improved performance, and prevention of injury. These bras are designed to provide maximum support with minimum movement, reducing the risk of injury during physical activity. They are also designed to be comfortable, with features like adjustable straps and moisture-wicking fabrics that help keep the skin dry and cool.

Encapsulation bras come in a variety of styles, including underwire and wireless options. They can also be padded or unpadded, depending on personal preference. Many brands offer encapsulation bras in a range of sizes, making it easier for women of all shapes and sizes to find a bra that fits comfortably and provides the support they need.

Encapsulation bras are an important innovation in sports bra design. They offer superior support and comfort, helping women stay active and perform at their best. As women’s athletics continue to evolve, it’s likely that we’ll see even more advancements in sports bra design and technology.

Hollywood lingerie trends have also been impacted by the popularity of sports bras, with many women now choosing to wear them as everyday bras due to their comfort and support. Encapsulation bras in particular have become a popular choice for women who want a bra that offers both style and functionality.

Below is a table outlining some of the key features of encapsulation bras:

Feature Description
Individual cups Cups designed to support each breast separately
Encapsulation Design that holds breast tissue in place to reduce bouncing
Maximum support Designed to provide maximum support with minimum movement
Comfort features Adjustable straps and moisture-wicking fabrics for comfort
Range of styles Underwire, wireless, padded, and unpadded options available

Combination Bras

Combination bras provide the benefits of both compression and encapsulation bras, making them versatile and suitable for a wide range of physical activities. They typically have separate cups for each breast, which are designed to encapsulate the breast tissue, and a compression layer that helps to keep the breasts in place. This design provides a balance of support and comfort, making it a popular choice for athletes. Combination bras often feature adjustable straps and hook-and-eye closures for a customizable fit. Some also have additional features such as moisture-wicking fabric and padded straps for added comfort. Combination bras are ideal for women who need more support than a compression bra but prefer more freedom of movement than an encapsulation bra. They are also a good choice for women with larger cup sizes who need extra support during high-impact activities such as running and jumping. Combination bras offer a versatile and practical solution for women who need support and comfort during physical activity.


The benefits of wearing a sports bra during physical activity are numerous. Reduced discomfort is a major advantage, as sports bras are designed to minimize breast movement and provide support. This can help prevent chafing, pain, and discomfort during exercise. Additionally, sports bras can lead to improved performance by reducing distraction and allowing for greater freedom of movement. Finally, wearing a sports bra can prevent injury by providing necessary support and reducing strain on the breasts and surrounding tissues. It’s no wonder that the sports bra has become a staple for women who participate in physical activity.

Reduced Discomfort

The sports bra has become an essential garment for female athletes due to its ability to reduce discomfort during physical activity. The discomfort caused by traditional bras during exercise can be attributed to their lack of support and inability to prevent excessive movement of the breasts. The sports bra, on the other hand, is designed to provide maximum support and minimize breast movement, thereby reducing discomfort. The combination of a snug fit and breathable fabric also helps to prevent irritation and chafing, further reducing discomfort. Additionally, sports bras are available in a variety of styles and designs to suit different body types and personal preferences, ensuring that every woman can find a sports bra that meets her needs. The reduced discomfort offered by sports bras has contributed greatly to the increased participation of women in sports and physical activity.

Improved Performance

Sports bras not only provide comfort and prevent injuries but also improve performance. By reducing breast movement during physical activity, sports bras allow women to move more freely and with greater ease, improving their overall performance. This is especially important for high-impact activities like running, jumping, and aerobics, where breast movement can cause significant discomfort and affect performance. According to a study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, wearing a sports bra during exercise can improve a woman’s running economy by reducing breast motion. Another study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences found that wearing a sports bra improved women’s performance in a variety of exercises, including step aerobics, jogging, and sprinting. The benefits of improved performance extend beyond the gym or sports field, as women who feel more comfortable and confident during physical activity are more likely to continue with their exercise routine and lead a healthier lifestyle overall.

Prevention of Injury

The use of a properly fitting sports bra can prevent exercise-induced injuries such as breast pain, discomfort, and even sagging. During physical activity, the breasts move in a figure-eight motion, which can cause strain on the ligaments and skin of the breast. This strain can lead to pain, discomfort, and even tissue damage. A sports bra provides support and reduces the amount of breast movement, which can prevent these injuries. Research has shown that wearing a sports bra during exercise can reduce breast movement by up to 78%, compared to wearing no bra at all.

Sports bras can also prevent chafing and irritation, which can occur when the skin of the breast rubs against clothing or other skin. Chafing can lead to redness, soreness, and even bleeding, which can be uncomfortable and painful. A sports bra provides a barrier between the skin of the breast and other surfaces, which can prevent chafing and irritation.

Wearing a sports bra can prevent discomfort and distraction during exercise, which can improve overall performance. When the breasts are not properly supported, they can bounce and move excessively, which can be distracting and uncomfortable. This discomfort can lead to a decrease in performance and motivation. A sports bra can provide the necessary support and comfort, which can improve performance and motivation during exercise.

It is important to choose a sports bra that fits properly and provides the necessary support for your level of physical activity. A properly fitting sports bra can reduce the risk of exercise-induced injuries, prevent discomfort and distraction, and improve overall performance.


The invention of the sports bra has not only revolutionized women’s participation in athletics but also received recognition in the form of awards. In 1990, Lisa Lindahl, Hinda Miller, and Polly Palmer Smith, the inventors of the Jogbra, were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In 2000, the Jogbra was included in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s “Treasures of American History” exhibit. The sports bra has also impacted women’s athletics, as seen in the Women’s World Cup Final in 1999, where Brandi Chastain famously celebrated her game-winning goal by taking off her jersey and revealing her sports bra. The sports bra is not just an undergarment but a symbol of women’s freedom and empowerment, influencing women’s stylistic choices in clothing and their participation in athletics.

Award-Winning Inventions

The invention of the sports bra has not only impacted women’s athletics but has also been recognized as an innovative and revolutionary creation. The Jogbra, the first sports bra created by Hinda Miller, Lisa Lindahl, and Polly Smith, won the Human Ecology Design Award in 1977. This award recognized the sports bra as a functional and practical garment that met the needs of active women.

In 1990, the sports bra was further recognized when the Booby Trap, a sports bra designed by Renelle Braaten, won the Industrial Design Excellence Award from the Industrial Designers Society of America. This award acknowledged the sports bra as a significant invention that enhanced the lives of women and promoted physical activity.

More recently, in 2020, the sports bra was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the most influential inventions of the past century. The sports bra was praised for its ability to support women in their pursuit of physical activity and for its role in promoting gender equality in sports.

These awards demonstrate the impact and significance of the sports bra as an innovative and empowering invention. The sports bra has not only revolutionized women’s athletics but has also been recognized as a symbol of women’s liberation and empowerment.

Impact on Women’s Athletics

The sports bra revolutionized women’s participation in athletics. Prior to the invention of the sports bra, women were forced to wear uncomfortable and unsupportive undergarments while participating in sports. This lack of proper support often led to breast pain and even injury. With the introduction of the sports bra, women were finally able to participate in sports without experiencing discomfort or pain.

The sports bra played a significant role in advancing gender equality in athletics. In 1972, Title IX was passed, which prohibited sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving federal funding. This legislation opened up opportunities for women in sports, and the sports bra played a crucial role in allowing women to participate comfortably and confidently in these activities.

The impact of the sports bra can also be seen in major sporting events. In the 1999 Women’s Soccer World Cup Final, Brandi Chastain famously ripped off her jersey and fell to her knees in celebration. Her sports bra was exposed, and the image of her celebrating in her sports bra became an iconic moment in women’s sports history.

The sports bra has had a profound impact on women’s athletics. It has allowed women to participate in sports comfortably and confidently, and has helped to advance gender equality in athletics.


In conclusion, the sports bra represents a significant technological advancement for women’s athletic clothing. Its invention came from a need for support and comfort during exercise, and it has since evolved to include a variety of designs that cater to different levels of control and support. The benefits of wearing a sports bra extend beyond just comfort, with improved performance and injury prevention being some of the most notable advantages. The sports bra has also had a significant impact on women’s athletics, with its invention coinciding with key events like the passing of Title IX and the Women’s Soccer World Cup Final in 1999. As we continue to push the boundaries of athletic performance, it is clear that the sports bra will remain a crucial piece of clothing for women. To learn more about the fascinating history of men’s underwear, check out our article on the subject.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a compression bra and an encapsulation bra?

A compression bra compresses the breasts against the chest, while an encapsulation bra has individual cups that support each breast separately.

What is a combination bra?

A combination bra combines the features of both compression and encapsulation bras, providing compression support while also having individual cups for each breast.

What are some benefits of wearing a sports bra?

Wearing a sports bra can reduce discomfort, improve performance, and prevent injury.

What are some design challenges in creating a sports bra?

Design challenges include ensuring comfort and support, managing moisture, and avoiding movement restriction.

What is the history behind the invention of the sports bra?

The sports bra was invented in the 1970s by two women who were looking for a more comfortable and supportive undergarment to wear while exercising.

How has the design of sports bras evolved over time?

Sports bras have evolved to include different levels of control, such as compression, encapsulation, and combination styles, as well as features like moisture-wicking fabrics and adjustable straps.

What impact has the sports bra had on women’s athletics?

The sports bra has had a significant impact on women’s athletics, allowing women to participate more comfortably and with less risk of injury.

What are some award-winning sports bra inventions?

Some award-winning sports bra inventions include the Enell Sports Bra, the Panache Sports Bra, and the Brooks Juno Sports Bra.

How can a sports bra help with performance?

A well-fitting sports bra can help reduce breast movement during exercise, allowing for greater comfort and improved performance.

How can a sports bra prevent injury?

A sports bra can help prevent injury by reducing breast movement, which can strain the ligaments and muscles in the chest and lead to pain and discomfort.

What are some key design attributes of a sports bra?

Key design attributes of a sports bra include tightness, cup design, strap design, thermal management, and quality of materials.