Forty years ago, a new ready-to-wear design transformed an industry and empowered women in ways never before achieved. Parsons alumna Hinda Miller (then Hinda Schreiber), Lisa Lindahl, and Polly Palmer-Smith invented Jogbra, the first women’s sports bra.
Before 1977, active women made do with bras that lacked special support features yet were marketed as sports varieties. Designed by men, they caused skin abrasions and significant strain on breast tissue. Miller’s daily runs reminded her that something had to change. “We were running and holding our breasts or wrapping ourselves with elastic bandages,” she says. “A product was waiting to be born.”
Miller and her partners based their design on a pair of men’s athletic supporters. They chose material that was soft and absorbent yet elastic, to provide firm support; removed hardware; and moved seams to the outside of the bra to avoid chafing sensitive areas. The company the three women founded to produce Jogbra became a model of female entrepreneurship during the era of “by women, for women.” As a product, Jogbra embodied feminism and the upending of gender stereotypes. The original prototypes are now housed in the Smithsonian Institution and The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.
Miller remained the president of Jogbra Inc. until 1990, when the company was sold to Playtex Apparel. The sale freed Miller to parlay her passion for women’s rights into politics; she subsequently served as a Vermont state senator for ten years. Today she coaches, consults with, and invests in social entrepreneurs and is launching a new brand, Sultanas.biz.