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Building a Better Bra

Sophie Nunno Gorbachev

Written by Cameron Walker

It’s almost a rule that the more attractive a bra is, the less comfortable it feels — and vice versa. A bra that doesn’t cause shoulder or back pain, supports the breasts and allows freedom of movement has all the aesthetic appeal of an ACE bandage, while a bra built for looks is as pleasant to wear as a stiletto heel. NC State Wilson College of Textiles student Sophie Nunno-Gorbachev ‘19 believes there is a better way, and, as the recent recipient of a grant from the Office of Undergraduate Research, she is well on her way to designing a bra that marries form and function.

“It all started with an idea to make a bra that’s both supportive for women with larger breasts and also attractive, because it seems like most bras don’t have both,” she said.

Nunno-Gorbachev is a junior working toward a degree in the Fashion and Textile Management program with a concentration in Fashion Development and Product Management, but has had her idea for an improved bra design since her early teens.

“I was in high school when I had this idea, but I could never actually make it a reality until I came to the Wilson College of Textiles,” she said. “I’m just really excited to be working on this project…I’ve had this idea for about four years and now I can finally start researching and working on it.”

She has been busy this semester; under the advisement of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management professor Dr. Cynthia Istook, she has been reaching out to experts in academia and industry, doing patent research, conducting a literature review, evaluating product in the marketplace and collecting more than 200 responses to a preliminary survey (still open — click here to participate).

“Dr. Istook is my mentor — she is amazing and has been showing me all of the ins and outs of the industry and what I need to do to turn this idea into an actual prototype,”she said.

Bra evolution timeline
Timeline of the evolution of the bra

Her research is still in the first of three phases. Once she has completed initial data collection, she will try out various ideas with a fit model. When she gets a better idea of what individual elements work, she will enter the third and final phase: prototyping. At this stage, she will use pressure sensors on volunteers as they try on the prototype, to help evaluate the fit of the new design in comparison with the volunteer’s own bra.    

Nunno-Gorbachev cannot divulge many details of her design at this pre-patent stage, but her sketches are inspired by architectural methods that have been in use for thousands of years. She is also studying anatomy, with the goal of making the fibers on the back of the garment as close as possible to human muscle fibers in order to simulate stronger back muscles.

“This will help contract the overstretched muscles in the back of the body and stretch the contracted muscles in the front of the body to return the muscular system to its normal state of being,” she said.

Nunno-Gorbachev hopes to complete her research and finalize her better bra design by the end of spring semester 2018, then apply for a patent. But she won’t stop there. Her next research goal is even more complex — the development of durable, wearable 3D-printed clothing.

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