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How Smart is Your Bra?

Every once in a while I see an article about a proposed earth-changing invention in bra technology. It seems that lots of people want to tinker with what’s already a bit of a miracle of engineering. Some ideas show promise. For instance, there’s recently been buzz about the ‘bionic bra,’ which has sensors that cause the bra to automatically release and constrict depending on a woman’s activity level and the force exerted on the breasts. If it works, the bra would have all of the support features of a sports bra but then ‘relax’ when the wearer is not exercising. I see the upside of this, since sports bras are not meant to be worn all day every day, but I think many women want to change out of their workout clothes, including bra, after working up a sweat and may not plan to spend the entire day in a sports bra anyway.

Sensors in clothing may be the next big idea and companies are trying to build on the idea of a ‘smart bra.’ Several companies are working on a bra that can monitor heart rate. Microsoft is developing a bra that uses sensors to somehow track the triggers that cause overeating and then sends a warning message to your smart phone to step away from the fridge. Nestle’s has built a marketing campaign around a bra that sends a tweet every time you unclasp it, reminding you to do a breast self-exam. I don’t know about you, but I’m not so sure I want my bra nagging me about my habits.

Some innovations are just silly, or fun, depending on your point of view. A Japanese company is developing a bra that changes color, sort of like the mood ring of lingerie. Called the “Close Sister Bra,” it changes color when you come into contact with another woman wearing the same color bra. I’ve read about this a few times and still can’t quite figure out the point. Then there’s the bra that only unclasps if it senses that you are in love–a modern day chastity belt. How about bras that light up, are made entirely of Pez or have a handy drinks holder or, because you never know, a holster? There are, apparently, even talking bras. You can take a look at some bra oddities here.

The truth is that, even at its most basic and conventional, a bra can be a marvel of technology. Manufacturers are always coming up with new ways to improve the way a bra feels and what it can do. Even underwires were once considered a major innovation. The way that cups are formed, seaming, underwires, strap design–each element of a bra is a bit of an engineering marvel. Technology like circular knitting machines have made seamless construction possible and brought us seamless shapewear and panties. Breathable fabrics are used not only in active wear and sports bras, but in everyday bras, tops, base layers, panties and almost everything in the lingerie category. The introduction of spacer foam, which is knit with a top and bottom layer with filament in between, has literally taken a load off of our shoulders. Even without the bells and whistles (literally, bells or whistles), there are constantly new developments in bra manufacturing. That little piece of clothing has a lot of work to do–supporting breast tissue, providing modesty, enhancing or minimizing what we’ve got and looking good in the process. Whether any of today’s more extreme innovations will catch on is anyone’s guess, but given the history of bra design, anything’s possible.

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