BBC airs sports bra specials ahead of the Marathon

The BBC aired two programmes yesterday on the history and benefits of the sports bra, nearly 40 years since its invention.

Ahead of the London Marathon on Sunday, BBC Radio 5 Live presented ‘Bounce: the Story of the Sports Bra’ featuring Olympic broadcaster Alison Walker, who examined the development of the sports bra from its prototype in the 1970s, where two jockstraps were sewn together to a worldwide market worth $400million.

She looked at the science behind the sports bra and how it has impacted the lives of female athletes on all levels.

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The show included contributions from Hinder Miller, inventor of the first sports bra, javelin thrower Goldie Sayers, Professor Joanna Scurr, who leads the breast health unit at Portsmouth University’s Department of Sports and Exercise Science, and Freya Active sports bra specialist Suzanne Pentland.

Canadian-born Hinder Miller was a costume designer at the time of her invention. She was living in the US when Title Nine had passed, a public law that stated that any federal financial assistance that was given to universities and high schools must be equally divided between the sexes. 

This led to more women exercising and becoming involved in sporting activities.

“This was a first for women in college to all of a sudden be part of team sports,” said Miller. “We were running and our boobs were bouncing and we knew it was unhealthy. Our friends were binding their fronts with elastic bands and people were wearing two bras."

“My partner’s sister said ‘why isn’t there a jock strap for women?’ I was a costume designer and nothing was outrageous, so it didn’t seem outrageous to sew two jock straps together,” she added.

Explaining her invention, she said: “We used the wide band that goes around a man’s waist to go underneath our rib cage and we left one pouch on. We took a second pouch from another jock strap and we sewed it along the band so it looked like two triangles on a wide band. Then we took the ‘butt straps’ and sewed them together and crossed them in the centre back so they wouldn’t fall down. This was the prototype of the first sports bra.”

Meanwhile, BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour assessed the pros and cons of long-distance running and whether sports bras are a fashion statement or a necessity.

Plus size model Jada Sezar said that she finds it difficult to find a sports bra that supports her full bust and often doubles up on bras to keep her breasts in place.

Charlie Rice from online sports bra retailer Boobydoo was also a guest on the show and suggested that Sezar may not be wearing the correct size. She also discussed the fundamental difference between a normal bra and a sports bra.

Click here to listen to Radio 5 Live’s broadcast

Click here to listen to Radio 4’s Women’s Hour

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