BERLIN, GERMANY – AUGUST 13: Dora Molina wearing red sports leggings and red yellow cropped top … [+]
This week at CES, the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) announced its newest class of inductees, including a three-woman team credited with creating the sports bra.
On Tuesday, the NIHF said it will induct 22 more “innovation pioneers” into its hall of fame this May. They include the inventor of the hard hat (posthumously admitted), a pair of scientists who developed ibuprofen (also posthumous), and the creators of the first commercial sports bra: Lisa Lindahl, Hinda Miller, and Polly Smith.
In a press release, the NIHF called the sports bra “a revolutionary garment that has enabled women’s participation in athletic activities and advanced women’s health and well-being.”
It also has a decades-long history of innovation, which some first attribute to the 1970s jogging craze. As the University of Vermont, Lindahl’s alma mater, put it in 2005, “As a [grad] student, Lindahl was an avid runner, averaging 30 miles a week, [and] knew she wasn’t alone in her wish for athletic gear that offered women the same support below the shoulders that men had below the belt.”
US soccer player Brandi Chastain celebrates after kicking the winning penalty kick to win the 1999 … [+]
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As Distillations reported in 2017, Lindahl “tried everything from binding herself with an elastic bandage to going entirely braless, which drew harassment from passing drivers … [and] finally settled on a regular bra that was one size too small.” It helped with bouncing somewhat, but wasn’t comfortable.
Lindahl’s husband reportedly joked that she and her sister Polly Smith, a costume-maker at UVM, should try using a jockstrap, and Smith did just that, sewing two of them together with the straps forming an X in the back.
Lindahl and Smith improved their prototype with more comfortable, breathable fabric and a sturdier shape, and the jock bra was born.
Lindahl then joined with mutual friend, fellow costumer, and future Vermont legislator Hinda Miller (née Schreiber) to make a business out the garment, which they decided to market instead as “the Jogbra.”
The team sold Jogbra to undergarment leader Playtex in 1990, and the garment has only gotten more popular and advanced since, thanks in large part to dedicated researchers like Dr. LaJean Lawson.
Today, one of Lindahl and Smith’s earliest jockstrap-based bras is bronzed and on display in the lobby of UVM’s campus theater; two others are kept in major museums.