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Then & Now: The Shocking History of the First Sports Bra

by Erin Stieglitz on October 18, 2019

Can you imagine working out without a sports bra? Unfortunately, that was the reality for women for quite some time. Sports bras have come a long way in a relatively short time. What seems like such a staple in a woman’s bra wardrobe has really not been in existence very long. The first sports bra was developed only around 40 years ago and you’re not going to believe how it was invented!

The First Sports Bra

While bras – or something like them – have been around for hundreds of years, there were no true sports bras until the 1970s. Up until then, “tennis bras” looked a lot like regular underwire bras and offered little support and lots of discomfort. True athletes would double up their bras to get enough support for exercise.

The women’s liberation movement came on strong in the late 70s and with it came lifestyle changes for women. One of these included enthusiasm for exercise, especially jogging. One such avid runner, Lisa Lindahl, was having a difficult time running in regular bras. As you can imagine, the bouncing, shifting, strap slippage and overall lack of support was pretty miserable for serious runners.

So, in the summer of 1977 Lindahl solicited help from her friend and costume designer Polly Smith. As the two were discussing design ideas, Lindahl’s husband flipped a jockstrap upside down and fastened it across his chest, calling it a “jockbra.” While initially it seemed like a ridiculous joke, it was indeed the inspiration Lindahl and Smith needed to create the first true sports bra.

With the help of Smith’s assistant, Hinda Schreiber Miller, they came up with sturdy, supportive band and straps that crisscrossed in back to stay in place. They purchased a new stretchy fabric – a poly/cotton/Lycra blend – and set out to sell their new invention in sporting good stores. It was then known as the “jog bra.”

Many changes have been made to improve sports bras in the past 40 years, but the genius women who created the first sports bra knew what mattered. A comfortable design needs breathable, sweat-wicking fabric, no-slip straps, and dynamic support to move with your body while reducing sagging and bouncing. 

Leading Lady Sports Bras

In the tradition of the inventive sports bra designers, Leading Lady offers sports bras that meet the needs of modern women who lead active lifestyles. Our styles are versatile and stylish for everything from athletic wear to athleisure. Check out our faves:

The Simone

Our newest sports bra design offers comfort, support, versatility, and convenience for women on the go! With molded dual-layer cups, an extended lift band, and adjustable, convertible straps you’ll find your perfect fit for each workout. And keep small items safe with a front accessory pocket. This bra is ideal for moderate exercise and is available in an extensive size range, including a true fit for full figures. [Band Sizes | Cup Sizes]

The Serena

Our wildly popular full figure sports bra is the epitome of comfort for low-impact exercise. The soft, breathable dual-layer cotton is flexible for comfort during workouts and a secure wireless band and pullover racerback design keeps breasts upright and centered. Smooth seams and a perfect fit mean no chaffing here. Bring on the yoga, cycling, rowing, Pilates, and weightlifting in this best-selling full figure sports bra. With this kind of comfort and 14 color and print choices, you’re going to want more than one! [Band Sizes 36-56 | Cups Sizes B/C/D & DD/F/G | Available in 2-pack]

The Danika

Cute and supportive, this nursing sports bra helps new moms stay active and sassy with the convenience to breastfeed anytime, anywhere. The seamless design and extended wireless band are equally trendy and supportive. Stretch fabric not only moves with moms on-the-go, but also keeps up with the ebb-and-flow of breast milk production. Easy one-handed nursing clasps and dual drop-down cups make feeding a cinch. You’ll love this nursing sports bra in black with pink piping or black with grey stripes. And this is a terrific everyday option for new moms looking for plus size nursing bras. [Sizes S-5X]

The Vivien

Nursing moms know, comfort takes precedence over everything when you’re focused on nourishing your baby. The Vivien is one of our most comfortable nursing bras, that also doubles as a nursing sports bra. With wide, cushioned straps, molded cups, and the ultimate in cozy cotton, this bra is one you can wear from maternity throughout breastfeeding. You’ll enjoy it for baby-and-me yoga, strolls in the neighborhood, and stretching. [Band Sizes 36-46 | Cups Sizes B-DDD]

The Sophie

Check out this innovatively designed nursing sports bra! We’ve switched up the adjustability for new moms who may need a flexible fit. In The Sophie the hook-and-eye closures can be found on the sides, which is really helpful as your ribcage expands during pregnancy and your breasts enlarge to prepare for increased milk supply. Wide straps and a racerback support panel help lift your entire upper body, while easy one-handled clasps and the front panel melt down for easy breastfeeding access. [Sizes L-2X]

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