Star Trek, engineering, and ladies' lingerie

By: 
March 26, 2001

Design News editors usually jump at the chance to evaluate the products that we write about. The ice cream scoop was especially popular.

But when Global Design News Executive Editor Matthew Peach was invited to try out a highly-engineered bra, he declined to "boldly go where no man has gone."

When it comes to lingerie, my needs are simple: comfort and appearance. No small engineering feat, given that fabric per se is a difficult structural material. The fact that it is not strong in compression is particularly problematic when it comes to a bra, which is called upon to lift and support a distributed, cantilevered load.

One engineering solution employs thin flexible elements which are sewn into the bra's cups and work in tension to support the load. Unfortunately, there's rarely any happy medium: The thinner the wire, the more comfortable the fit, but the lower the resistance to the compressive load. The bigger the wire, the stiffer the structure, which is not a feature women especially like in their undergarments.

Engineers of this bra, called the Bioform, got around these material limitations through the use of "anatomically profiled" support paddles, made from a hard polymer sandwiched between layers of a soft co-polymer. Comfort claims notwithstanding, a key design advantage is the elimination of dangerous hardware-a threat I can attest to, having once received a superficial flesh wound from an errant wire. Wearers of this amazing invention can also pass through an airport metal detector with impunity!

As for meeting my criteria, this bra did seem a tad more comfortable than other styles, if somewhat constricting. The fact that the profile of the paddle is larger than the standard underwire leads me to conclude that a little more work on the compliance aspect would improve its wearability considerably. As to whether my "hidden figure" was revealed (as the marketing literature claimed), I failed to get any third-party verification of this. Experience has taught my husband to equivocate on any questions involving my appearance until he determines what answer I am actually looking for.

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