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Lingerie School: The Sports Bra Project.

Final design technical drawings

I knew from the start that my degree was never going to be easy.  My latest design project was one that I truly struggled with – and not for the reasons I was expecting!

This project was the first one that I just wasn’t able to get excited about from the onset. ‘Contour Fashion’ isn’t just about designing girly and frivolous underthings – we have to tackle the more practical aspects of lingerie too.

I’m the first to admit that I’m not exactly active. Exercise and I don’t get on particularly well, so I’ve never even considered owning a sports bra. When we were assigned the brief to design a sports bra and matching co-ordinate, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy. It just wasn’t something I could relate to. I’ve always thought that since I’m not spectacularly endowed in the chest department, there’s little point in me owning one.

Panache underwired sports bra

As it turns out, that’s a very common misconception. Extensive research has revealed that women with smaller breasts experience just as much pain and discomfort when conducting vigorous activities as women with bigger breasts.

It’s not just pain and discomfort that a sports bra prevents. A sports bra can also help reduce damage to the breasts. Exercise can put a lot of strain on them: if this is prolonged, the ligaments that keep the breasts in place can be damaged and eventually cause them to sag. Whilst such results are significantly more pronounced in the larger-busted woman, women on the other end of the scale are not immune either!

Just these two facts left me slightly shocked. Regardless of how unattractive you may find them, sports bras play a very important and practical role. Thus armed with my new knowledge, I immediately ventured out to buy my own very first sports bra.

Bra by Shockabsorber

Sadly, my awkward bra size left my choices very limited. Limited to just the one style in fact. Nevertheless, I ventured home with my new Shockabsorber and went for a jog. I could immediately tell that my new bra made a huge difference.

Initial inspiration drawings

I now had something akin to motivation. With my new understanding, I could approach the project with a little more vigour! The starting point that we were assigned was that of ‘movement.’ I wanted to avoid the obvious starting point of Olympic sports (as the project brief was linked very strongly with the approaching 2012 Olympics). I chose to look at cars and machinery – I was particularly drawn to the use of panelling and the smooth curves and lines.

Initial designs

After finishing my market research, trend research, and other similar areas I got started on the designing. I’d sourced my fabrics and finalised my colours – time to start sketching! I finally selected a design and started drafting my patterns. After ironing out a few hiccups, I started sewing!

Final design

So here’s my final product: a sports bra and a matching brief. Whilst I’m not entirely happy with it, I must say that I do prefer it to the majority of sports bras that I found on my local high street! The important thing is that I’ve learned from it. I know for a fact that I’ll never go into sportswear but at least I know how to tackle my sketchbook and research for my next project!

Readers: what sort of experiences have you had with sports bras? Are they a necessity in your exercise wardrobe or have you always eschewed them like I once did?

Karolina Laskowska

Lingerie designer. Spends most of her time sewing bras and getting excited by chantilly lace.

16 Comments on this post

  1. Emily says:

    I exercise a lot and am very busty with with a small ribcage so it’s taken me years to find sportbras in an adequate size – I knew wearing 2 at once wasn’t the longterm answer. The only one that I really like now comes in bra sizes (though mine is still hard to find), and it is adjustable on both the shoulder straps and the back has the traditional 3 eye-hook closures. I find it super comfy and secure too. No one wants those ladies flying around when I run! lol

  2. Lauren says:

    This is a fab little article and as someone who does their best to go running every week I do wear a sports bra. I consider myself not to be busty (although not your typical athletic figure) and I found so far only Shockabsorber stops my chest from hurting at the end of a run, cheaper sports bra rub and do not give as much support. The design on yours however is one if the stylish ones I’ve ever seen so if you do start selling give me a ring :)

  3. Pamela says:

    I am glad you addressing this subject as I tweeted about it a few months ago. I have always worn a sports bra when going to the gym, as much as I love all things pretty (especially my lingerie) I also insist on good support. I often opt for brisk walk or spin classes as I am not a big fan of running and I still wear my sports bra. I like your designs and look forward to more.

  4. Darlene says:

    I really appreciated your post after my blog rant yesterday about the limited offerings from Title Nine. I know that so much work goes into creating sports bras simply up to a D cup, and your design is refreshing.

  5. Johanna Anez says:

    I liked the design . It would be awesome to see a hot pink and black with that design in mind !

  6. I know this is horrible of me, a lover of exercise, but I had NO idea what sports bras actually DID! I know there are tons of styles out there but I didn’t realize their important function-Now when I exercise, I’ll DEFINITIVELY be sure to put on my sports bra first thing!

    I do really love your out-of-the-box inspiration and the style of the bra you created-It’s very different! :)

  7. Very interesting post and I really love the design you came to in the end. Speaking as a busty woman an effective sports bra is a liberating piece of equipment. Being busty comes with real world limitations if you don’t have the right support. I deal with lots of women who feel they can’t exercise (and subsequently their health suffers) because they’ve never had adequate support.

    Parents of busty teens really need to invest in good sports bras for their daughters because a tumultuous relationship with fitness can begin in school gym classes. Girls who are embarrassed to run, jump and participate because their breasts are bouncing will learn to resent their breasts for limiting their lives, let’s not allow that to happen.

    • Karolina says:

      Thank you so much Claire! I suspected that was the case with busty women even before I started this project – what really surprised me though was that smaller-chested women can suffer similar problems! I do think younger girls need to be told more though, not just the busty ones! Lots of people need more education with those sorts of things

  8. Jodi says:

    Ditto to what Anna said.

    • Zicco says:

      oh Lordy. I HATE bra shopping. It’s bad eugnoh doing it alone, never mind with sales people who make it worse. Bra measuring is such a joke too. I used to work at Fashion Bug and was “certified” as a bra fitter. Never came out to what the person was even close to wearing. Oh well. Do you have a Fashion Bug near you? We had tons of bras in all sizes. Keep up the good work!!!!

  9. As a complete stranger to any exercise whatsoever, the world of sports bras is also completely alien to me. And rather icky. But I have to say, your bra is definitely a hell of a lot more attractive than any others I’ve seen!

    • Karolina says:

      Thanks Anna! I was pretty much in the same position as you when I started… I think that’s the main reason I didn’t really ‘get into’ this project :-/ Difficult to have enthusiasm about something you can’t get excited about!

  10. Courtney says:

    I’m in the larger-chested side of things. Is doubling up on sports bras bad for you? I’ve been doing it for years because I am never comfortable with the amount of support most sports bras give. I always wear 2.

    • Hey Courtney, wearing two sports isn’t technically bad for you (it does make it harder to wick moisture away from your skin which can lead to rashes). However, wearing 2 sports bras does mean you’re in the wrong bra. You need either a better size or style (or both). As with all bras the band is everything. Your band needs to be snug, snug, snug!

    • Kelly says:

      I don’t know what your size is, but the Panache sports bra pictured in the post is the only sports bra I wear. It’s one of only two that keeps me comfortable support-wise (the other is the Freya active underwire bra, but I don’t like the shape of that one so I go with the Panache)

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