Sports bra becomes non-athlete's bosom buddy

June 27, 1996|By Denise Cowie | Denise Cowie,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

Sports bras aren't just for sports anymore.

For a lot of women, they're for going to work, gardening, watching the kids . . . anything that requires a little action and a lot of comfort.

All those qualities that make sports bras popular with joggers -- performance fabrics (the spandex family) that offer great support, others that wick moisture away from the body, smooth cotton/Lycra mixes, wider straps that don't cut into shoulders -- are great for less-athletic activities, too.

Women have increasingly sought more comfort in underwear. And if some of them are buying sports bras for everyday wear, you can expect to see more such bras on the market soon -- though maybe in a slightly different guise. Women's Wear Daily reported last month that the popularity of sports bras has opened up "a new line of thinking" about leisure bras among manufacturers.

The combination of comfort and action seems to be the key. After Speedo sports bra and Champion Jogbra stirred things up this spring with some high-profile promotions and floor space in stores such as Macy's, J.C. Penney and Nordstrom, Lilyette DTC changed its sports bra hangtags to read "Not Just for Sport, Bras for Active Women." Next year, the company plans new models to bridge the gap between regular bras and sports bras.

Not surprisingly, the firm support coupled with freedom of movement offered by sports bras is popular with larger-size women. And there are more larger-size women all the time, thanks to that aging-baby-boomer blip on the demographics charts.

Boston-based Goddess, which has been specializing in large-size bras for 50 years, hit on a best seller several years ago with its cotton/Lycra elastic sports bra designed on an "M-frame," which reduces bounce.

This kind of sports bra isn't the crop-top streetwear version you see jogging along the road, but gives individual shaping like a regular bra.

Like a lot of underwear manufacturers, Goddess is branching out in the sports-bra market. It has a new cotton/poly/Lycra Tactel sports bra (up to size 48DD) due on the market by August -- its first soft-cup sports bra -- and more in the works for next spring.

Ellen Jacobson, vice president of merchandising and design, notes that the market for large-size bras generally is expanding. According to her company's research, the average woman's bra size has increased to a 38C over the last few years (though the "top-selling" size is 36C, manufacturers report), and the number of bras sold in D cups and larger has doubled in the last four years.

Generally, this translates into more attention being paid to the needs of larger women -- a good thing, considering that nearly half the women in America wear a size 14 or larger.

It's not just bras, either. The results of aging are showing up all over, which means a host of new items in the waist-cincher, body- shaper, buns-booster categories this spring.

Among them -- from the people who brought you the Wonderbra -- is a line of cinching-and-boosting Wonderbody Shapewear.

Isn't engineering wonderful?

Pub Date: 6/27/96

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