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Breast Movement and Bra Design

In July, we looked at the history of bras. This week, we’re going to take a look at the science of bras. While bras in their modern form have been around for a century, it hasn’t been until the last 5 to 10 years that people have really begun taking bra design to a level of science. Prior to this, bra design was largely determined by guesswork, trial and error and what was popular in society at a given moment. In the 2000s, some groundbreaking studies were done that looked at the way breasts move in an attempt to design better bras.

2007 Biomechanics Study in Australia
In 2007, a group of Australian biomechanists did a study on breast movement. They fitted 70 test subjects with specially-designed bras in order to study the way their breasts moved. These bras had sensors under the straps to measure the amount of weight placed on the shoulders. The scientists also placed electrodes on the subjects’ torsos and necks in order to measure muscle activity, and LEDs on sternum, nipples and bra straps to measure torso movement.

The women then walked, jogged and ran, and scientists studied their breast movement. The breast movement resembled a figure eight, and the scientists found that the bigger the breasts, the more they moved (unsurprisingly). But even small breasts moved almost two inches from their normal position during exercise.

2007 British Breast Movement Study
A 2007 British study also attempted to study breast movement, and made some useful conclusions about how the breasts move during exercise. The specifics vary based on the woman and the activity, but this study concluded that breasts move in three directions during exercise: up and down, side to side, and forward to back. The larger the breast, the more momentum it developed during exercise. Ultimately, larger breasts require more robust support systems to keep them in place.

What Breast Movement Means
From a practical standpoint, understanding breast movement is extremely important for a variety of reasons. First, most experts believe that it’s breast movement that causes sagging. If we can minimize or eliminate breast movement, we can keep sagging to a minimum and save women from the damage that their breasts undergo over the years.

Second, breast movement is a huge factor in designing comfortable, supportive bras. By understanding how the breasts move, designers can incorporate features into bra designs to help reduce or eliminate movement and improve comfort. Straps that dig into you, bands that ride up or chafe and ‘being rubbed raw’ by a bra could be things of the past as bra designers begin to understand bra movement.

Changing strap design, changing the cup design and changing elements of the bra itself can help compensate for breast movement. But these things may vary depending on the size of the bras and the type of movement; i.e. more exercise may require more robust designs, which is why sports bras are rated in high-impact and low-impact activity levels. This week, we’ll take a look at how the science of bras impacts the bra you wear every day, and how to find the right one for your needs.

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