Most women don’t know that the sports bra is a relatively new invention tied to the growth of women’s sports in recent decades. Fortunately, this vital piece of workout gear has become mainstream and plentiful, even branching out into customizable iterations and going high fashion. Let’s take a look at the evolution of the sports bra and what it means to women today.
With the passage of Title IX in 1972, women’s sports began a revolution. The federal ruling dictated that schools had to offer equal athletic opportunities, regardless of the gender of the participants. Throw into the mix the nationwide obsession with jogging, and you had crucible for innovation in women’s athletics.
In 1977, three women looking for a solution for the pain caused by bouncing breasts while jogging decided to create a prototype. They sewed two jockstraps together and called it a Jogbra. After a few modifications, they offered small-scale sales to women through the mail.
The following decade, a new exercise trend took over: aerobics. Now more than ever women were looking for a supportive bra that minimized bouncing and chafing during workouts. A variety of sports equipment manufacturers attempted to design and produce bras for athletic activities, but their inventions often proved too utilitarian for consumers who were focused on fitness fashion as much as the exercise itself.
Several new styles of bra were created that featured wider straps, non-elastic materials and no wires. A woman in Montana tried her hand at creating a sports bra specifically for women with DD cups or larger. Throughout the decade, new iterations continued to improve the products while also reflecting the direction women athletes were headed.
By the mid-1990s, sports bras were common enough that most female athletes wore some type. However, sports equipment manufacturers continued to modify their designs and support structures to improve the wearer experience. Among the dabblers was Nike, which offered a new design to soccer player Brandi Chastain for testing. After the U.S. team’s World Cup win in 1999, Chastain celebrated by taking off her shirt, thereby introducing viewers to the future of innovation in women’s sports gear.
Throughout the following decades, sports bras have continued to improve in form, function, and style. Seamless construction was developed to eliminate chafing all together.
Today female athletes enjoy a wide range of options when it comes to undergarments. Manufacturers now offer sports bras made of special fabrics that wick moisture away from the body and provide an added level of comfort and odor elimination. Brands like Sportswear Unlimited give the option to customize their sports bras with team colors and logos and active wear line Lululemon have introduced high fashion sports bras that pair sexy, strappy styling with athletic support.
Women have Title IX and the jogging craze to thank decades later for the comfortable support of the sports bra. In a time when more women than ever before are participating in athletic activities, this crucial piece of sporting equipment. has earned a place in all of their gear bags.