Title:
Sports brassiere for nursing
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A brassiere includes a pair of shoulder straps and a pair of cup members located generally below the shoulder straps. Each of the cup members includes an inner contact layer substantially completely covering the breast of a wearer, and an outer compression layer slidably disposed in covering relation to the inner contact layer. An adjustment and securing assembly is disposed between each outer compression layer and its corresponding shoulder strap. The adjustment and securing assembly, which may be provided as a hook-and loop fastener system, is adapted and constructed to adjustably secure the outer compression layer to the shoulder strap. Attachment of the outer compression layers to the shoulder straps lifts and compresses the breasts of the wearer to reduce the potential for inertial movement of the breasts both outwardly and downwardly.



Inventors:
Wagner, Penny Jo (Columbia Falls, MT, US)
Application Number:
09/753993
Publication Date:
09/06/2001
Filing Date:
01/03/2001
Assignee:
WAGNER PENNY JO
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A41C3/00; A41C3/02; (IPC1-7): A41C3/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HALE, GLORIA M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Burkhart & Burkhart (Whitefish, MN, US)
Claims:
1. A brassiere comprising the following: a pair of shoulder straps; a pair of cup members located generally below the shoulder straps, each of the cups including an inner contact layer covering the breast of a wearer and a unitary outer compression layer slidably disposed in covering relation to the inner contact layer, the outer compression layer being substantially coextensive with the inner contact layer; an adjustment assembly disposed between each outer compression layer and its corresponding shoulder strap, the securing assembly being adapted and constructed to adjustably secure the outer compression layer to the shoulder strap; and a nursing access mechanism provided on the inner contact layer and the outer compression layer, the nursing access mechanism adapted and constructed to provide selective access to the breast of a wearer without removing the brassiere; whereby attachment of the outer compression layers to the shoulder straps lifts and compresses the breasts of the wearer to reduce the potential for inertial movement of the breasts.

2. A brassiere according to claim 1, wherein each of the inner contact layers comprises the following: a cover portion adapted and constructed to cover a lower portion of the wearer's breast; and a downward compression portion disposed generally above the cover portion, the downward compression portion being adapted and constructed to exert a downwardly-acting force on the respective breasts of the wearer.

3. A brassiere according to claim 2, wherein the cover portions are fabricated from a resilient material, and the downward compression portions are fabricated from a material having less resilience than the material from which the cover portions are fabricated.

4. A brassiere according to claim 3, wherein the cover portions are fabricated from LYCRA, and the downward compression portions are fabricated from POWERKNIT.

5. A brassiere according to claim 1, wherein the adjustment assembly comprises hook and loop fasteners.

6. A brassiere according to claim 5, wherein hook elements of the hook and loop fasteners are disposed on the outer compression layer, and loop elements of the hook and loop fasteners are disposed on the shoulder straps.

7. A brassiere according to claim 6, wherein the outer compression layer comprises the following: a body portion overlying the inner contact layer; and a tab portion extending upwardly from the body portion to a point overlying the shoulder strap; wherein the hook elements of the hook and loop fasteners are disposed on the tab portion of the outer compression layer.

8. A brassiere according to claim 1, further comprising a fastening element between the respective cup members.

9. A brassiere according to claim 8, wherein the fastening element comprises a zipper.

10. A brassiere according to claim 1, wherein the nursing access mechanism comprises the following: a fastening mechanism securing the outer compression layer, the fastening mechanism being adapted and constructed to permit deployment of the outer compression layer between a covering position and a nursing position; and an access mechanism provided on the inner contact layer, the access mechanism being adapted and constructed to overlay the breast of the wearer when the outer compression layer is in a covering position, and to facilitate access to the breast of the wearer sufficient to permit nursing when the outer compression layer is in a nursing position.

11. A brassiere according to claim 10, wherein the fastening mechanism of the nursing access mechanism comprises a selectively detachable fastener.

12. A brassiere according to claim 11, wherein the fastening mechanism of the nursing access mechanism comprises a hook-and-loop fastener.

13. A brassiere according to claim 10, wherein the access mechanism of the nursing access mechanism comprises overlapping material.

14. In a brassiere including a pair of cup members, each of which includes an inner contact layer, and a pair of shoulder straps, an inertial movement reduction mechanism comprising the following: downward compression means, forming portions of the respective inner contact layer of the cups, for exerting a downward force on the wearer's breasts sufficient to reduce upward inertial movement of the wearer's breast, the downward compression means being fabricated from a material differing from that of the remainder of the inner contact layers of the cups; upward and inward compression means, adjustably attached to the shoulder straps, for exerting an upward and inward force on the wearer's breasts sufficient to reduce outward and downward inertial movement of the wearer's breasts; and nursing access means, provided on the downward compression means and the upward and inward compression means, for providing selective access to the breast of a wearer without removing the brassiere.

15. In a brassiere including a pair of cup members and a pair of shoulder straps, a method for reducing inertial movement of a wearer's breasts, the method comprising the following steps: exerting a downward force on the wearer's breasts sufficient to reduce upward inertial movement of the wearer's breast; simultaneously exerting an upward and inward force over the entire frontal area of the wearer's breasts sufficient to reduce outward and downward inertial movement of the wearer's breasts; and providing selective nursing access to the breast of a wearer without removing the brassiere.

16. A method according to claim 15, wherein the step of providing selective nursing access comprises providing selectively and cooperatively movable mechanisms for exerting a downward force on the wearer's breasts and for simultaneously exerting an upward and inward force over the entire frontal area of the wearer's breasts.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/095,250 filed Jun. 10, 1998, titled “Brassiere”, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,168,498 issued Jan. 2, 2001.

STATEMENT AS TO RIGHTS TO INVENTIONS MADE UNDER FEDERALLY-SPONSORED RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

[0002] None

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0003] The invention relates generally to brassieres. In particular, the invention relates to brassieres having mechanisms to restrict inertial movement of a wearer's breasts while providing breast access for nursing.

DESCRIPTION OF RELATED ART

[0004] Variations in the form and intended functions of brassieres are as old as the garment itself. Some historians assert that as early as 2500 B.C., Minoan women on the Greek isle of Crete employed a bra-like garment that lifted their bare breasts out of their clothing. Years later, ancient Roman and Greek women took the opposite approach, strapping on a garment resembling a breast band to reduce their bust size.

[0005] The modem concept of a brassiere can be traced to the latter part of the nineteenth century. U.S. Pat. No. 494,397 to Tucek is directed to a brassiere having a “cup-and-strap” configuration that forms the basis of brassiere construction today. Since I that time, countless brassieres have been designed to perform a plethora of functions. The patent literature alone gives testimony to the creative energy has been applied in this area, resulting in garments variously intended to emphasize, minimize, augment, support or protect the breasts of the wearer. Brassieres have even been designed to provide a braless appearance.

[0006] More recently, the increased participation of women in strenuous athletic and outdoor activity has given rise to the need for brassieres that reduce the amount of inertial movement, or “bounce”, of the breasts during such activities. As women athletes such as equestrians, snowmobilers, and mountain bikers will attest, such inertial movement frequently results in discomfort, soreness, and pain, and may even cause more serious tissue damage in severe cases.

[0007] There are many examples of the so-called “sports bras” that have been designed to address these problems. U.S. Pat. No. 4,289,137 to Dell et al. is directed to a brassiere that is made from a combination of Lycra Spandex and POWERKNIT, a material made of 20% Lycra Spandex and 80% nylon. The brassiere is intended to allow downward movement of the breasts while restricting upward movement. U.S. Pat. No. 4,292,975 to Champion et al. shows a brassiere having adjustable shoulder straps and a compression seam running horizontally over the nipple portion of the breast. U.S. Pat. No. 4,325,378 to Wilkinson is directed to a brassiere in which a band member or horizontal flaps are cinched beneath the breasts to compress the breasts inwardly and toward one another. U.S. Pat. No. 5,221,227 to Michels employs a horizontal binding mechanism similar to that in the Wilkinson patent. In addition, the Michels patent provides adjustable shoulder straps to accommodate different bust sizes.

[0008] As can be seen from these patents, the problem of breast support during athletic activities has been the object of a high degree of inventive activity. Unfortunately, despite these efforts, none of these known brassieres provides effective restraint against inertial movement of the breast in multiple directions. Each of these known brassieres either expressly or inherently permits relatively unrestricted inertial movement of the breast in one or more directions.

[0009] In a parallel development, brassieres for nursing mothers are also well known. Such brassieres typically provide a selectively detachable or openable cover portion that is normally secured in a position covering the breast of the wearer. The cover portion can be opened to allow access to the breast for nursing, then replaced in covering position when nursing has been completed.

[0010] The importance of athletic activity for women becomes even more pronounced during nursing, as the benefits to both mother and baby are well-known. Unfortunately, little attention has been paid in the field of brassiere design to addressing the problems associated with reducing the amount of inertial movement while also accommodating the needs of nursing mothers.

[0011] It can be seen from the foregoing that the need exists for a simple, comfortable brassiere that will restrict inertial movement of the breasts in multiple directions while also accommodating the needs of nursing mothers.

SUMMARY

[0012] The present invention provides an athletic brassiere that allows for freedom of action with adequate support and widely variable, easy adjustment for persons engaged in a variety of strenuous athletic activities. The present invention achieves these and other objects by providing a brassiere including a pair of shoulder straps and a pair of cup members located generally below the shoulder straps. Each of the cup members includes an inner contact layer substantially completely covering the breast of a wearer, and an outer compression layer slidably disposed in covering relation to the inner contact layer. An adjustment and securing assembly is disposed between each outer compression layer and its corresponding shoulder strap, the adjustment and securing assembly being adapted and constructed to adjustably secure the outer compression layer to the shoulder strap. Attachment of the outer compression layers to the shoulder straps lifts and compresses the breasts of the wearer to reduce the potential for inertial movement of the breasts both outwardly and downwardly. A nursing access mechanism is provided on the inner contact layer and the outer compression layer. The nursing access mechanism is adapted and constructed to provide selective access to the breast of a wearer without removing the brassiere.

[0013] The inner contact layers of the brassiere can be configured to include a cover portion adapted and constructed to cover a lower portion of the wearers breast, along with a downward compression portion disposed generally above the cover portion. The downward compression portion is adapted and constructed to exert a downwardly-acting force on the respective breasts of the wearer. Thus, in combination with the inward and upward forces exerted by the outer compression layer, the brassiere restricts inertial movement of the breasts in every possible direction.

[0014] In an embodiment, the cover portions of the inner contact layers can be fabricated from a resilient material such as LYCRA spandex, and the downward compression portions are fabricated from a material, such as POWERKNIT, having less resilience than the material from which the cover portions are fabricated. The adjustment and securing assembly can include hook and loop fasteners. Hook elements of the hook and loop fasteners can be provided on the outer compression layer, and loop elements of the hook and loop fasteners can be provided on the shoulder straps. This will allow infinite adjustment of the outer compression member to permit the wearer to select the amount of lift and compression based on such variables as breast sensitivity and degree of activity. The outer compression layer can include a body portion overlying the inner contact layer, and a tab portion extending upwardly from the body portion to a point overlying the shoulder strap. In this construction, the hook elements of the hook and loop fasteners can be provided on the tab portion of the outer compression layer. A fastening element, such as a zipper, can be provided between the respective cup members to allow the wearer to more easily put on and take off the brassiere.

[0015] The nursing access mechanism can include a fastening mechanism securing the outer compression layer. The fastening mechanism is adapted and constructed to permit deployment of the outer compression layer between a covering position and a nursing position. The fastening mechanism can be provided as a selectively detachable fastener, such as a hook-and-loop fastener.

[0016] The nursing access mechanism can include an access mechanism provided on the inner contact layer. The access mechanism is adapted and constructed to overlay the breast of the wearer when the outer compression layer is in a covering position, and to facilitate access to the breast of the wearer sufficient to permit nursing when the outer compression layer is in a nursing position. The access mechanism of the nursing access mechanism can be provided as an overlapping material arrangement.

[0017] A method for reducing inertial movement of a wearer's breasts in a brassiere including a pair of cup members and a pair of shoulder straps is also provided. The method includes the steps of exerting a first force on the wearer's breasts sufficient to reduce upward inertial movement of the wearer's breasts, while simultaneously exerting a second force on the wearer's breasts sufficient to reduce outward and downward inertial movement of the wearer's breasts, while also providing selective nursing access to the breast of a wearer without removing the brassiere

[0018] The features of the invention believed to be patentable are set forth with particularity in the appended claims. The invention itself, however, both as to organization and method of operation, together with further objects and advantages thereof, may be best understood by reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a brassiere in a covering position.

[0020] FIG. 2 illustrates the FIG. 1 brassiere in a nursing position.

[0021] FIG. 3 illustrates a front elevational view of the brassiere in FIG. 1.

[0022] FIG. 4 illustrates a side elevational view of the brassiere in FIG. 1

[0023] FIG. 5 illustrates a back elevational view of the brassiere in FIG. 1.

[0024] FIG. 6 illustrates a side schematic view of a brassiere.

[0025] FIG. 7 illustrates a side schematic view of a brassiere.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0026] While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings, and will herein be described in detail, exemplary embodiments, with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as illustrative of the principles of the invention and not intended to limit the invention to the exemplary embodiments shown and described.

[0027] Turning now to FIG. 1, a brassiere 10 includes a right cup member 12 located beneath a corresponding right shoulder strap 14. The brassiere 10 is generally symmetrical; thus, a left cup member 16 is located beneath a corresponding left shoulder strap 18. Each shoulder strap is provided with a Width greater than that of a standard brassiere in order to provide increased support and control, as well as to reduce pressure on the shoulders of the wearer. Each shoulder strap is attached to its corresponding cup member via an adjustment, fastening, and securing assembly 20. The cup members 12, 16 and other components may be made from a cotton/poly LYCRA material, for example, a 55/35/10 cottonipoly LYCRA blend. Such blends are known in the artfor their durability, wicking, and elasticity.

[0028] As can be seen in FIG. 2, the cup members 12, 16 include an inner contact layer 22 adapted and constructed to be in contact with the breasts of a wearer of the brassiere 10. The inner contact layer 22 includes a body portion 23 and a downward compression portion 24. The cup members 12, 16 also include an outer compression layer 25 which has a body portion 26 overlaying the body portion 23 of the inner contact layer 22. The body portion 26 of the outer compression layer 25 is contiguous with a tab portion 27, which is adapted to extend at least partially over the shoulder straps 14, 18 of the brassiere 10. In the illustrated embodiment, the adjustment, fastening, and securing assembly 20 is provided as a hook-and-loop fastener system. Hook elements 28a, 28b, 28c, and 28d are located on the tab portion 27 of the outer compression layer 25, and at fastening points on the cup member 16. Corresponding loop elements 29a, 29b, 29c, and 29d are located on the shoulder straps 14, 18, and on the inner surfaces of the cup members.

[0029] The inner contact layer 22 is provided with overlapping material portions 30 and 31, which can be parted to provide nursing access to the wearer's breast when the outer compression layer 25 is in the nursing position shown in FIG. 2. The inner contact layer 22 and the outer compression layer 25 are constructed to minimize the number of seams to reduce chafing and rubbing. Further, either the inner contact layer 22 or the outer compression layer 25 may be provided with supplemental support or enhancement mechanisms as needed.

[0030] FIG. 3 shows a front view of the brassiere 10, in which a fastening device, here provided as a zipper 38, is located between the cup members 12, 16. Front inserts 40 flank the zipper 38 on each side for reinforcing and aesthetic purposes, and an area of backing material (not shown) can be provided behind the zipper 38 to reduce the potential of chafing or irritation from the zipper. A rib band 42 is located at the lower end of the brassiere 10, and encircles the wearer's ribcage below the breastline. Edging or piping 44 is provided at all material edges to prevent raveling of the fabric and to both visually and physically soften the edges of the brassiere 10. The edging or piping 44 may be reinforced with a strip of elastic, sewn in place with a stitch that will stretch, such as a zig-zag stitch. In the side view illustrated in FIG. 4, it can be seen that the various components of the brassiere 10 are connected together such that they form an arm hole 46 on each side of the brassiere 10.

[0031] The brassiere 10 in this illustrative embodiment is provided with a so-called “racer” back 48, as shown in FIG. 5. Racer backs typically are provided to prevent the straps from coming off of the wearer's shoulders during strenuous physical activity. The racer back 48 includes a yoke portion 50 extending downwardly from the shoulder straps 14, 18. A right side panel 52 and a left side panel 54 connect the yoke portion 50 to the rib band 42 and the left and right cup members 12, 16. An opening 55 can be provided to enhance the ventilation, or “breathability”, of the brassiere 10.

[0032] Operation of the brassiere 10 is schematically illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7. In FIG. 6, the wearer has donned the brassiere 10, but has not yet secured the outer compression layer 25 to the shoulder strap 18. It can be seen that the downward compression portion 23 is compressing the breast B of the wearer downwardly. Once in this position, the wearer pulls the tab portion 27 in the direction of the arrow 56. This causes the outer compression layer 25 to exert compressive forces upwardly and inwardly against the breast B of the wearer, and compresses the breast B as shown in FIG. 7, after which the tab 27 is secured to the shoulder strap 18. The compressive forces exerted by the outer compression layer 25 lift and compress the breasts of the wearer to reduce the potential for inertial movement of the breasts both outwardly and downwardly. When combined with the downwardly-acting force exerted by the downward compression portion 23, it can be appreciated that the brassiere 10 restricts inertial movement of the breasts in every possible direction.

[0033] It will be apparent to those of skill in the art that the particular materials and components set forth above are for illustrative purposes. For example, while it has been set forth that the downward compression portion 25 of the brassiere 10 may be made from POWERKNIT, with the remaining portions fabricated from LYCRA or blends thereof, it is anticipated that any materials providing suitable properties such as wicking, comfort, and elasticity may be used. Similarly, suitable fasteners may be substituted for the zipper 38 and the hook-and-loop fasteners of the adjustment and securing assembly 20. In addition, the value, arrangement, and selection of components constituting the edging or piping 44 provide an exemplary embodiment of the principles discussed herein, and are not intended to be limiting.

[0034] Thus it is apparent that in accordance with the present invention, an apparatus that fully satisfies the objectives, aims, and advantages achievable in accordance with the principles of the present invention is set forth in the above exemplary embodiments. While the invention has been described in conjunction with these exemplary embodiments, it is evident that many alternatives, modifications, permutations, and variations will become apparent to those skilled in the art in light of the foregoing description. Accordingly, it is intended that all such alternatives, modifications, permutations, and variations to the exemplary embodiments can be made without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention.