It is no secret that bra fitting can be a pain – literally – but a new study by the University of Wollongong is planning to change all that.
The university is using three-dimensional imaging to measure breast size and shape, collecting data that could alter the way bras are designed.
The study is being undertaken by the biomechanics laboratory’s Breast Research Australia (BRA) centre, which is being led by PhD candidate Celeste Coltman.
Coltman, who has studied exercise science and biomechanics, says she has always had a vested interest in proper bra sizing.
''My interest with bras and in particular sports bras started a long time ago,'' says Coltman, who has struggled herself to find well-fitting and supportive bras.
She says the centre's study can hopefully provide bra designers and manufacturers with better information for their designs.
''What a lot of bra companies have been doing is trying to use whole body scanners to get chest circumference measurements, which they then use for bra fit.
''But in women with large breasts, their breasts tend to rest on the torso, so you can’t see that.''
She says this means manufacturers often overestimate the measurements, so the hand-held scanner she is using is much more beneficial.
''A hand-held scanner has the benefit of allowing the body position to be changed to get more accurate measurements there.
''It allows for a greater range of motion, as opposed to the whole body scanner. Which I think has really great translational benefits for pattern-making and bra design.''
The scanner, which is about the size of a large camera, creates a three-dimensional image on a computer in real time.
But Coltman is not just collecting data on breast shape and size. She is also fitting each woman who participates in the trial.
''A lot of women don’t know their own bra size or how to fit their bra. It seems to be a lesson that’s skipped a lot."
She has had 120 participants so far in her study, and says she hears a lot of the same complaints from women.
''A lot of women are motivated to participate in this study due to their own bra fit problems,'' Coltman says.
''There’s a lot of the same stories. Straps that fall down or dig in, particularly in the larger-breasted cohort. The ranges of sizes are very difficult, and also the women are wearing the wrong size bras. I’m definitely finding that.''
Luckily for participants, Coltman fits them and also teaches the women how to fit themselves.
''When they’re trying on bras in store, they can use that criteria to get a good fit,'' she says. ''That also does attract a lot of women.''
Coltman is also hoping to continue to attract women to her study. She needs at least another 400 participants to get proper representative data.
There is no talk of potential industry interest yet, as the laboratory wants its research to remain unbiased.
However, Coltman says there are certainly potential long-term benefits of her research, thanks to the three-dimensional technology.
''[It] could lead to significant improvements in bra design and bra fit.''