To develop a better supportive sports bra, Minyoung Suh, assistant professor of apparel, textiles and interior design at Kansas State Univ., is researching the movement of breast tissue. Suh says that many large-breasted women have a difficult time exercising or may not even try. A better sports bra, however, may help eliminate hesitations to exercise based on fears, pain, or embarrassment of breast movement.

According to Suh, current sports bras are constrictive because they hold the breast tissue in toward the body and restrict movement. Tightness around the torso can be uncomfortable and may not be the best strategy for large-breasted women.

In her research, Suh is using a 3D body scanner to measure volume of breasts; a motion capture system to track movement of tissue; and a pressure sensor system to measure the user’s degree of uncomfortableness. The scanner, which evaluates individual differences in shape and size, features 16 cameras front and back to capture and import noninvasive images as a point cloud figure into computer software (see figure above). The resulting images help separate the breast tissue from the rib cage, enabling calculation of breast volume to estimate breast mass and a very accurate cup size.

The motion-capture system makes it possible to study the breast tissue’s direction of force during exercise. Reflective markers are placed on the body, and eight optical cameras in the ceiling track sensor movements. This helps Suh determine the direction of movement that needs the most focus. To evaluate the role of the shoulder strap, Suh will utilize a pressure-sensor system that’s placed on the shoulder. It will provide critical data to measure the pressure-support ratio.

Once Suh finishes breast-volume, movement, and pressure calculations, she will research the comfort and functional aspects of a bra design that effectively supports breasts.