A sports bra should be many things: supportive, comfortable, secure, stylish. But oftentimes, on our quest to find the best sports bra, the ones that are supposed to fit end up being only one or two of those things, or worse, none of them at all. Women are more than familiar with this struggle. It's one that we've faced since we first encountered our boobs. According to a 2016 study shared by The New York Times, almost 75 percent of girls ages 11 through 18 dropped out of sports or chose not to participate in physical activity due to how uncomfortable their boobs felt when they moved. Many of them weren't aware they should be wearing a sports bra and for those who were, they had no idea how a sports bra should fit.
Fast forward to adulthood and not much has changed. A 2015 survey in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that 17 percent of women avoided working out because they couldn't find the right sports bra. But the sports bra industry is booming — Quartz reported that it's grown to be worth $3.5 billion, a quarter of the entire US bra market. So what gives? Why can't we find a sports bra that fits and feels good? Dr. Chantelle Murnaghan, PhD, neuromechanics research scientist and Innovation Director at Lululemon's Whitespace Labs in Vancouver has an idea: How boobs move is unique and different for every single woman, kind of like a fingerprint.
"Women have historically struggled to find a bra that performs effectively, looks good, and feels comfortable as everyone is unique, from their physical makeup and movement profile to their chosen activities and feel preferences," Murnaghan explains. "Through years of research and innovation, we've discovered that your boob movement is as unique as your signature — and this distinct movement impacts how you feel in a bra."
Lululemon is calling this uniqueness a Boob Truth. They've created an entire campaign around it, including interviews with seven different women who candidly talk about their boobs. Theresa and Corinna Williams are sisters (and founders of Celsious Laundromat in New York City) who share that they want to break the taboo around nipple hair. Arisce Wanzer, a transgender model and actress, spoke about her transition and how she loved that her boobs were her choice. Alejandra Campoverdi, founder of The Well Woman Coalition (and the first White House Deputy Director of Hispanic Media under President Barack Obama) opened up about discovering she had BRCA gene mutation and what it was like to get a double mastectomy.
Lululemon brought Boob Truth to life last month at SeaWheeze, the brand's annual half marathon and music festival in Vancouver. Here, attendees were invited to share their own boob truths, draw doodles of what they thought their boobs looked like, and pose in front of a wall of different colored and shaped balloon boobs. Perhaps the most exciting part about the experience was the opportunity to have your signature boob movement analyzed to help you find the right sports bra for your needs and wants. Lululemon offered me a chance to try the technology out.
First, I had to fill out a questionnaire about how I liked to feel in my sports bra and what size I typically wear. I had to choose three "feelings" from a list of 14, which included All-Day Comfort, Embraced, Locked & Loaded, and Barely There. Then, I switched into a lightweight sports bra and was given a tracking device to wear. I was advised to place one end on my right nipple and the other at the top of my breastbone. Once the device was ready, I was asked to jog on a treadmill for one minute. And that was it — my Signature Movement™ was calculated and ready to tell me exactly how my boobs moved.
The analysis found that when I accelerated, my boobs move very quickly side to side versus up and down. "We have to consider that we move up and down, side to side, and in and out. And we have to figure out what aspects of that movement actually creates discomfort," Murnaghan tells me of my movement. "That's what so much of our work has been focused on — how we need to manage the movement of your breasts in the right way and how we need to understand you as an individual — you as a unique person." They showed me my illustrated Signature Movement, which was actually very pretty — two figure eights that looked like wings.
Then, based off of the three "feelings" I chose — All-Day Comfort, Barely There, and Secure — and my Signature Movement Profile, Lululemon recommended three sports bras that they believe would be best for me. My highest match was Bring The Energy, a breathable, sleek, and comfortable bra that I could train in. Another option was the Energy Bra, a style that was already a favorite of mine (and one that I wore to run the Seawheeze half marathon). Last was Up For It, a bra that would lift and shape my boobs without an underwire and could comfortably support me through an intense workout. The entire process took less than five minutes, but after, I felt empowered, knowing exactly how my boobs moved, and excited, for myself and so many other women who would be able to find a good-fitting sports bra with this personalized information.
Of course, this isn't just a one-way street. While Murnaghan says they want to help women better navigate the "complicated space of sports bras" by telling you what your Signature Movement is, they too are getting something out of it. Lululemon is collecting loads of data through this experience (which is for their use only) in hopes of creating better products — namely sports bras — for their customers.
"We thrive on feedback in everything at Lululemon and I like to think of this as just amplified guest feedback," Murnaghan shares. "What we want to do is take the information from our guests and understand our guests at a more individual level so that we're really informing the products that we create. It's not just word feedback, but it's feedback of how you move, how our guests are shaped, the preferences that you have, so that we're constantly evolving our product assortment with that in mind."
According to the brand, The Boob Truth experience will be rolling out to Lululemon stores across the country soon. Then, you'll be able to learn how your boobs move and hopefully, with that information, finally find the best-fitting sports bra for you.