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The Origins of Your Bra: The Mechanics of Bra Design

Conturelle does a lot of work on bra development - and it shows!

Bra design is constantly evolving as designers strive to keep up with our needs. But seriously – most of us women who wear bras aren’t engineers, so we only have a vague idea of what’s involved in the design and construction process. It’s actually pretty cool, though – understanding the design process offers insights into the cost of bras, why some bras fit better than others and hold up better than others, and what differentiates one brand from another.

The Concept and Prototype
Every new bra design starts with a concept; typically in an attempt to solve some sort of problem. With the clothes we women are wearing these days, one of the biggest areas where design has been evolving is in the creation of plunge bras – particularly convertible plunge bras. So let’s look at the design process for a new plunge bra.

When a designer conceives a concept, he sketches a technical design, and a pattern is created from that design. From the pattern, a prototype is crafted. Many of the higher-end designers craft these “working models” by hand, although some companies that use machines for their manufacture process machine a new prototype.

A new design usually goes through a lot of iterations. A pair of cups may be formed by “hot pressing” foam into the proper shape. Straps and band are then sewn on; maybe by hand or by machine, depending on the shop. The designer looks at the prototype and then tweaks the details, with the idea of making sure that every part is both fashionable and functional.

The Working Model
When the designer has a working model he’s happy with, a live “fit model” is brought in. The fit model wears the prototype, and offers feedback to the designer. Fit models talk about where the bra is comfortable, where the fit feels off, what they think of it – all the things we think about when we wear bras. The designer then tweaks the bra, develops a new prototype, and then brings the fit model back for another round of review.

Some higher-end designers, such as Conturelle, use many different fit models with different body types to see how the fit is from woman to woman, and make sure they end up with the most comfortable product. Some designers have women wear the working models for hours, or days, doing a variety of activities, to make more in-depth comments about fit. But all of this costs money, which goes into the development of the bra; so generally, the bras at lower price points can’t afford to do as much extensive testing. You can typically assume that bras at higher price points have more time spent on development.

Is the Bra Sellable?
Once the bra designer is happy with the design, has plenty of feedback from the fit model(s) and is ready to move forward, the bra goes into a phase where the designers, manufacturers and marketers collaborate to ensure they have a sellable product. Ideally, designers want their bras to appeal to as many women as possible, although more and more designers are now offering niche bras where they see a need. But plenty of great bras never make it into production because the parties involved can’t agree that it’s sellable, and put together a great marketing plan.

If all the parties involved can agree that it’s sellable, production begins – and then your bra starts the process of getting to your local retailer!

Bet you’ll look at your bra differently the next time you put it on, now that you know some of the effort that goes into design! In our next post, we’ll look at the next part of the process: production, distribution and how your bra makes it to your retailer!

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