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How Collaboration Led to the Creation of the Sports Bra

Part of our mission at the National Inventors Hall of Fame® is to develop education programs that prepare students for the challenges of tomorrow. To ensure this, a key part of our curricula design process involves integrating the I Can Invent® Mindset, a collection of nine skills and traits that spark creativity.

In a recently published white paper, the last in a three-part series exploring the I Can Invent Mindset, we investigate how design thinking, STEM and collaboration are essential to nurturing and growing inventiveness.

Read below for an excerpt from this report and discover how National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees Lisa Lindahl, Hinda Miller and Polly Smith collaborated to invent the sports bra, a groundbreaking product that has helped millions of women around the world exercise safely and comfortably.


Collaborating to Invent the Sports Bra

As an avid runner, Lindahl estimates that during the late 1970s she would run about 30 miles a week. At the time, however, there did not exist a garment that provided her — or any woman — adequate chest support for comfortably running or engaging in other athletic activities.

While she tried wearing regular bras, a size smaller for compression, over time the straps would stretch out and loosen, causing great discomfort. She then realized the need for a bra that could be worn specifically during athletic activities — one with stable straps, no seams or clasps that could chafe, breathable fabric and the right amount of compression to prevent excessive movement.

She brought the idea to her childhood friend Smith, who at the time was working as a costume designer for the Champlain Shakespeare Festival in Burlington, Vermont.

“Lisa had the idea; she knew I had the sewing skills, so she came to me,” recalled Smith in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame. “We went out and bought two jockstraps and made sort of a rough prototype.”

Miller, who was working with Smith at the Shakespeare festival, soon joined the team to develop an athletic bra, and the trio ended up making history.

“We didn’t know we were going to start a business; we didn’t know we were going to design a product,” Miller said in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame. “We knew that this product was needed, and we said it was right that every woman, no matter their size, shape or age, had the right to the benefits of fitness and exercise.”

Lindahl and Miller would go on to commercialize their invention as the Jogbra, and they co-founded Jogbra Inc., later renamed JBI, in 1977. In doing so, they launched a billion-dollar industry and gave millions of women and girls around the world the ability to participate in sports, fitness and athletic activities.

“I don’t believe the Jogbra would have happened without all three of us,” Smith said. “Lisa was the idea, I was the fabrication and Hinda was the driving force behind making it happen.”


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