made-by-monkeys2

Good ideas with bad execution, or good execution of what should be bad ideas - an analysis of inferior, off-beat or malfunctioning products, and how other people's failures can help us design better stuff.

Victoria’s Secret Bra: Do Engineering Claims Hold Up?

v264610bra-rc545.jpg When it comes to lingerie, my requirements are pretty straightforward: comfort and appearance. No small engineering feat, given that fabric per se is an unwieldy and challenging structural material. The fact that it is weak in compression is particularly problematic in a bra, whose main job is to lift and support a distributed, cantilevered load. Brush up on the physics of bras here.

One popular engineering solution employs thin flexible elements, which are sewn into the bra’s cups. Otherwise known as underwire, they work in tension to support the load. Unfortunately, there’s a massive trade-off: 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 exactly welcome in their undergarments. I am not a big fan of this design approach, as having hardware in the vicinity of your body can be extremely dangerous. I know that for a fact, as I once sustained a superficial flesh wound from an errant wire. So when Victoria’s Secret announced its revolutionary new IPEX wireless bra, claming that it “provides the most support one can get in a wireless style,” I jumped at the chance to try it. Bra engineers got around the usual design limitations through the use of graduated pads and a nylon/spandex fabric. ISo did the claims hold up? Notwithstanding the fact that I don’t like high-tech names for my lingerie, as to whether the IPEX met my criteria, it was nice to not have to deal with underwire. However, I couldn’t get away from the feeling of unrestrained floppiness, whether real or imagined. Something I suppose could have been solved with a tad bit more Spandex in the fabric. As for my appearance – well I’ve pretty much given up on any confirmation from members of my household. My husband knows all too well that there is no good answer to the question “Do you think I look better?”

Tags: confirmation, fabric, ipex wireless bra, nylon, undergarments

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2 Comments

  1. CC
    September 27, 2007 15:22

    I bet this research was done solely by men who spent years long doing it and made hundreds of topless women jump up and down.
    Am I right or am I right?
    But good blog posting about application of science to something every women uses.

  2. Barrymung
    September 20, 2007 09:13

    “Bungee cord” is the way forward, Trust me.
    (Question: Do bra fitters sometimes feel a t*t, doing their job?)