Title:
Malleable support insert and garments containing same
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A malleable support insert that is useful in the construction of clothing garments, particularly brassieres. The malleable support insert is shapeable and responsive to an external force such that the insert is shaped by the external force into a first configuration and retains the first configuration after removal of the external force.



Inventors:
Tonsor, Dawn (Pekin, IL, US)
Application Number:
10/081462
Publication Date:
08/28/2003
Filing Date:
02/22/2002
Assignee:
TONSOR DAWN
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A41C3/10; A41C3/14; (IPC1-7): A41C3/10
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20070099542NURSING PAD WRAPPED BODYMay, 2007Sakaguchi et al.
20080045122Clothes with Back Part Such as BrassiereFebruary, 2008Utaka
20030220048Breast padsNovember, 2003Toro et al.
20080287037Adhesively Supporting a BreastshieldNovember, 2008Solberg
20090013443Woman's overgarment chest bandsJanuary, 2009Perras
20040033756Breast enhancing arrangement with privacy caseFebruary, 2004Whitson
20070184753Protective shower shieldAugust, 2007Dixon
20100068972PULL UP NURSING UNDERGARMENTMarch, 2010Hendrickson
20070123148Adjustable garment systemMay, 2007Heer
20080139085Hollow bra cupJune, 2008Wu
20080146118System and device for supporting a breast shieldJune, 2008Solberg et al.



Primary Examiner:
HALE, GLORIA M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DAWN TONSOR (PEKIN, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A support for use in an article of clothing comprising at least one layer of a material enclosed in a protective coating, the material being shapeable and responsive to an external force such that the material is shaped by the external force into a first configuration and retains the first configuration after removal of the external force; and the material being shapeable into a second configuration by application of a subsequent external force.

2. The support of claim 1 further comprising at least one layer of a metal screening enclosed in the material.

3. The support of claim 2 wherein the material is silicone rubber.

4. The support of claim 2 wherein the metal screening comprises aluminum.

5. An article of clothing comprising at least one pocket adapted to receive a support of claim 1.

6. The article of claim 5 wherein the article is a brassiere having two cups with each cup containing a pocket adapted to receive the support.

7. A garment having at least one pocket adapted to receive a support, wherein the support comprises at least one layer of a material enclosed in a protective coating, the material being shapeable and responsive to an external force such that the material is shaped by the external force into a first configuration and retains the first configuration after removal of the external force; and the material being shapeable into a second configuration by application of a subsequent external force.

8. A support for use in an article of clothing comprising a preselected pattern of wire enclosed in a protective coating, the pattern of wire being shapeable and responsive to an external force such that the pattern of wire is shaped by the external force into a first configuration and retains the first configuration after removal of the external force; and the pattern of wire being shapeable into a second configuration by application of a subsequent external force.

Description:

BACKGROUND

[0001] This invention relates to a malleable support insert and the construction of garments containing the malleable support insert. In a preferred embodiment, this invention relates to the construction of a brassiere with cups that are adapted to removably receive the malleable support to provide comfortable and adjustable support. The malleable support insert, however, can be used in the construction of a variety of garments. For example, the malleable support insert of the present invention can be used to support breasts in garments other than brassieres, such as slips, dresses, swimming suits, etc. The malleable support insert can also be used in other types of garments such as men's athletic supporters or men's swimming suits.

[0002] The present invention further relates to garments having an adjustable system of straps. The adjustable straps provide customized fit and support.

[0003] Many types of brassieres are well known in the art. Even with the large number of brassieres available, there remains a need for a brassiere that provides adequate, customized, and comfortable support. Every woman is shaped differently. Even the two breasts of an individual woman generally differ in size and shape. Brassieres currently available do not offer adequate customized fit and support to suit individual differences.

[0004] Moreover, a popular style of brassiere is an underwire type brassiere. Unfortunately, these types of brassieres may often times be uncomfortable. The malleable support insert of the present invention solves these and other problems.

SUMMARY

[0005] The malleable support insert of the present invention when used with garments provides an adjustable support system individually formed and adaptable for any desired level of support.

[0006] The malleable support insert may be made from any suitable material that is capable of being shaped by an external force to attain a selected configuration and capable of retaining the selected configuration until a subsequent external force is applied to reshape the support. Accordingly, the malleable support insert can be made from a material selected from the group consisting of foam, rubber, rubber analogs, gels (water-based or otherwise), thermoplastic materials, thermoset materials such as polyurethanes, elastomeric materials, viscoelastic materials, metals and metal alloys and combinations thereof. To the extent such materials are not encompassed by the above list of materials, it is also contemplated that the insert material can be made of a gel material that is capable of being heated and/or cooled as desired by the user.

[0007] The user can adjust the malleable support insert to a desired configuration. This allows individualized support without the need for an underwire. The support insert can be adjusted and readjusted at any time the user desires. For example, flattening the shape of the malleable support insert can provide greater breast support for physical activities such as running. Alternatively, for normal daily activities, less breast support can be provided by appropriately shaping the malleable support insert.

[0008] In one desirable embodiment of the present invention, the malleable support insert is used with a brassiere. In this embodiment, the malleable support insert may be removably secured to at least a portion of the brassiere, e.g., a portion of the cup. Alternatively, the malleable support insert may be made as part of the permanent construction of the brassiere. When incorporated into a brassiere, the malleable support insert will support a breast by generally positioning the malleable support insert near the bottom and side portions of the cup of the brassiere.

[0009] Advantageously, the support insert can be manipulated to provide a shape and level of support desired by the individual user. As a result, the malleable support insert provides the user comfortable support without the use of an underwire, which often causes discomfort to the user. Support for the breasts can therefore be provided within the cup rather than from pressure on the back, shoulders, and rib cage as in conventional brassieres. Consequently, the malleable support insert of the present invention provides relief from back and neck strain that can be caused by wearing conventional undergarments.

[0010] The malleable support insert when incorporated into a brassiere can also provide adjustment for different amounts of cleavage. For example, for low-cut garments, the breasts can be pushed up and together to a greater degree, providing for more cleavage.

[0011] As noted above, the malleable support can be incorporated into other articles of women's clothing such as dresses, blouses, athletic wear, or swimwear. The malleable support can also be used in men's garments such as athletic wear, athletic supporters, or swimsuits.

[0012] In another aspect of the present invention, the malleable support insert is incorporated into a garment that contains an adjustable strap system to allow proper and comfortable positioning of the garment and customized support. For example, a brassiere with a fully adjustable strap system may be provided. In another aspect, the present invention provides a brassiere that is adjustable for different styles of garments, such as strapless, halter-top, or other styles. For example, for use with a strapless garment, the straps of the brassiere can be adjusted to wrap around the back instead of over the shoulders, and the malleable support inserts in the cups can be adjusted to provide more lift and support.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] FIG. 1 shows a cross-sectional view of one embodiment of a malleable support insert of the present invention.

[0014] FIG. 2 illustrates one embodiment of a malleable support insert of the present invention positioned in a brassiere.

[0015] FIGS. 3A-3F illustrate alternate embodiments of support inserts.

[0016] FIG. 4 illustrates one embodiment of a brassiere according to one aspect of the present invention that shows several locations of attachment sites for straps.

[0017] FIG. 5 illustrates one embodiment of a strap system for a bra that could include the malleable support insert of the present invention.

[0018] FIG. 6 illustrates one embodiment of an adjustable bracket and strap for a bra that could include the malleable support insert of the present invention.

[0019] FIG. 7 illustrates one embodiment of the bracket shown in FIG. 6.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0020] The present invention relates to a malleable support insert suitable for use with a garment, such as brassieres, swimsuit tops, etc. The support is made of a material or a combination of materials one of which is malleable or bendable, capable of being formed and reformed, relatively lightweight, and able to provide support to the user. In this regard, the material is capable of being shaped by an external force to attain a selected configuration and is capable of retaining that configuration until a subsequent external force is applied to reshape the support.

[0021] The material may be selected from the group consisting of foam, rubber, rubber analogs, gels (water-based or otherwise), thermoplastic materials, thermoset materials such as polyurethanes, elastomeric materials, viscoelastic materials, metals and metal alloys and combinations thereof.

[0022] The rubbers that may be useful in the practice of the present invention include natural, reclaimed, vulcanized, or synthetic rubbers.

[0023] The foams may be selected from the group consisting of polyamides, polyimedes, polyesters, polyisocyanurates, polyisocyanates, polyurethanes, polyethylene, polypropylene, poly(ethylene-vinyl acetate), polystyrene, vinyl foams, foam rubbers or sponge rubbers, and neoprene.

[0024] Polyurethane elastomers and foams that may be suitable for use in the present invention are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,346,205; 4,476,258; 4,722,946; 4,980,386; and 6,017,006, the relevant portions of which are incorporated herein by reference. In general these patents describe solid (non-liquid) materials formed by reacting a blend of linear and branched polyols, additional cross-linkers and/or chain extenders, and a polyisocyanate under polyurethane-forming conditions at an isocyanate index of from about 65 to about 85.

[0025] Expandable polystyrene as foam beads is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,104,903 and the relevant portions are incorporated herein by reference. Such beads contain polystyrene and/or a styrene copolymer containing a copolymerized polystyrene where the commoners may be α-methylstyrene, ring-halogenated styrenes, ring-alkylated styrenes, acrylonitrile, acrylates or methacrylates of alcohols having 1 to 8 carbon atoms, N-vinylcarbazole and maleic acid (anhydride).

[0026] Materials referred to in the art as gels may be useful in the practice of the present invention so long as the gel material is a solid or semi-solid, does not break down, deteriorate, or become a liquid under expected use conditions (e.g., room temperature up to about 38° C.), and exhibits elastomeric and/or viscoelastic properties. In other words, the gels that may be useful in the practice of the present invention are those that exhibit the desired physical properties. Consequently, the term “gel” as used in the specification and claims is intended to describe the physical nature of the material rather than to represent the exact physical structure. For example, the gel may be a water-containing gel, polyurethane or polyurethane-type gel, block polymer and block copolymer-oil mixture gel, polyorganosiloxane gel, PVC gel, or the like.

[0027] U.S. Pat. No. 4,671,267 describes a gel that may be useful in the practice of the present invention and the relevant parts are incorporated herein by reference. The gel has a water soluble humectant entrapped within a polymeric matrix. The humectant can be selected from the group consisting of glycerin, ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, dimethyl sulfoxide, and dimethyl formamide and the polymeric matrix can be selected from the group consisting of polymers, copolymers, and terpolymers containing acrylic acid or acylamide monomer moieties.

[0028] Polyurethane gels are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,456,642 and 5,445,858, the relevant portions of which are incorporated herein by reference. In general, U.S. Pat. No. 4,456,642 describes a gel that includes a mixture of a high molecular weight covalently cross-linked polyurethane matrix and a liquid dispersing agent.

[0029] U.S. Pat. No. 5,445,858 describes a synthetic elastomer derived from linear polyurethane and sold by Uniroyal Chemical Company under the tradename ADIPRENE.

[0030] U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,676,387; 4,716,183; 5,541,250; 5,633,286; and 6,148,830 each describe gels formed from block polymer and/or block copolymers and oil and the relevant portions of each are incorporated herein by reference. The gels may have any of several configurations such as diblock or triblock. The polymers may be linear, branched, multi-arm or starshaped.

[0031] In general, the diblock copolymers can be polystyrene-polyisoprene, polystyrene-polybutadiene, polystyrene-poly(ethylene/butylenes), polystyrenepoly(ethylene/propylene), where is it understood that the polymer other than the polystyrene is compatible with the extender oil. These polymers are well-known and are sold under the Kraton™ designation.

[0032] In general, the triblock copolymers have an A-B-A configuration where each A block is a glassy or resinous non-elastomeric thermoplastic polymer block with a glass transition temperature above room temperature, for example, styrene. The B block is an elastomeric polymer block, such as butadiene, isoprene, mixtures of ethylene-butylene and ethylene-propylene. These polymers are well-known and are made by, for example, Kuraray and Shell and are sold under the Kraton™ designation.

[0033] For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,716,183 describes styrene-diene block copolymer-oil compositions where the block copolymers may be poly(styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene) triblock copolymers (generally referred to as SEBS), poly(styrene-butadiene-styrene) block copolymers (SBS), poly(styrene-isoprene-styrene) block copolymers (SIS).

[0034] U.S. Pat. No. 5,633,286 describe suitable triblock copolymer gels and can include linear, multi-arm, branched, or star shaped copolymer of the general configuration poly(styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene), poly(styrene-ethylene-propylene-styrene), or a mixture thereof. These gels may be used alone or in combination with a selected amount of a polymer or copolymer selected from the group consisting of poly(styrene-butadiene-styrene), poly(styrene-butadiene), poly(styrene-isoprene-styrene), poly(styrene-isoprene), poly(styrene-ethylenepropylene), low viscosity poly(styrene-ethylene-propylene-styrene), low viscosity poly(styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene), poly(styrene-ethylene-butylene), polystyrene, polybutylene, poly(ethylene-propylene), poly(ethylene-butylene), polyproplyene, or polyethylene, wherein the selected copolymer is a linear, branched, multiarm, or star shaped copolymer.

[0035] Organopolysiloxane gels may also be useful in the present invention. Organopolysiloxane gels are described in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,441,560 and 3,663,973, the relevant portions of which are incorporated herein by reference.

[0036] PVC gels are described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,121,962, the relevant portions of which are incorporated herein by reference. In general, PVC gels may contain a minor portion of polyvinylchloride and a major portion of dialkyl phthalate plasticizer.

[0037] Turning now to FIG. 1, a cross sectional view of a malleable support insert according to one embodiment of the present invention is shown. The malleable support insert 10 comprises at least one layer of a semi-rigid material 12 such as a thin metal screening material. The edge of the semi-rigid material may be encased 14 with for example solder or other material. The semi-rigid material is then enclosed in suitable covering 16.

[0038] The semi-rigid material may be selected from the metal screening, support strip, foil, plastic mesh, and combinations thereof. Generally, it is preferred that the semi-rigid material provide sufficient strength to support a breast yet be malleable to provide the desired degree of shape conformation.

[0039] The covering 16 is provided to protect the user or wearer from the semi-rigid material. Therefore, any material that can accomplish this goal is contemplated for use in the present invention. Suitable examples include foam, rubber, rubber analogs, gels, thermoplastic materials, thermoset materials, elastomeric materials, viscoelastic materials, and combinations thereof.

[0040] As noted above, the malleable support insert can be made of different materials. In one embodiment, the malleable support cup is made of a wire mesh cast in a silicone rubber mold. Various strengths of wire mesh can be used. The wire mesh is desirably cut into the form or shape of a cup. There is a preferably a master mold for each cup size into which the silicone rubber is placed. The wire mesh is then placed between two layers of silicone rubber, heated and pressed, and then allowed to dry. The silicone rubber protects the wire from coming through the cushioning or padding of the garment and allows for more flexible support.

[0041] In an alternate embodiment, in place of the screening material, a lightweight support strip is placed across the center of the cup or across the lower portion of the cup to increase the cup's capacity to retain its shape and to increase the level of support provided in the cup. The support strip can be encased in silicone-rubber and placed along the bottom half of the cup. Alternatively, the support strip can be placed directly within the cushioning of the cup without being encased in silicone. The support strip is preferably aluminum, but can be made of other metals or alloys with the desired properties.

[0042] In another embodiment, a durable lightweight foil is placed in the cup. The foil is preferably placed along the bottom half of the cup, and can be formed to a desired configuration.

[0043] The support insert may also be made from a lightweight foam cast into an appropriate shape. The types of foam that may be useful in the present invention are soft foams, or low density foams, including, for example, polyethylene, polypropylene, foam rubber (butadiene-based), etc. The malleability and shape retention characteristics of the foam are met by forming the foam around a thin aluminum-based (or other metal or alloy) wire substructure that is capable of retaining a selected shape up to a certain level of loading. Aluminum is preferably used as the wire structure within these foams. Aluminum is a highly corrosion resistant metal, so there is very little or no contamination of the foam with corrosion byproducts over extended periods of time. Additionally, many aluminum alloys are highly workable metals that can be bent repeatedly without fatiguing or fracturing.

[0044] In an alternate embodiment, the support insert comprises a gel. A hard or soft gel can be used. The gel is optionally placed in a plastic casing of appropriate size for the cup. The gels used for the present invention are preferably composed of a partially cross-linked polymer network that is only partially soluble in any given solvent medium (i.e. water). It is the partial solubility of gels that gives them their malleable properties, which is characterized as typically squishy texture, shape retention, and capability to be repeatedly manipulated without causing permanent deformation. Gels are typically used with a semi-impermeable skin or membrane over the outside of the gel material to prevent loss of material when the gel is squeezed or shaped. Gels are often fairly dense and heavy polymeric materials. One way to reduce the weight is to thin out the amount of gel materials used by incorporating void space within the gel. This void space can be achieved by filling the gel with materials such as hollow glass spheres, Styrofoam beads, or any of a number of materials that have both low density and the capability of adding some structural support.

[0045] In an alternate embodiment, the malleable support includes a shape memory alloy. Such alloys are typically titanium or nickel-titanium based alloys. These alloys are lightweight, highly malleable, and retain any bent shape up to a given structural load until the alloy is heated. Once heated, the alloy actively returns to its original shape. Shape memory alloys are relatively high in cost compared to the other materials discussed. Such alloys, however, can be used as a thin wire or foil substructure within foam or rubber, as discussed above.

[0046] In an alternate embodiment, the malleable support includes a thermoplastic material. For use according to the present invention, thermoplastics with high levels of plasticizing agents are preferred. When a suitable amount of plasticizer is added to the thermoplastic resin, the resulting material is highly malleable. The plasticizing agents effectively soften the thermoplastics to the point where they can be bent without causing permanent crazing (cracking and whitening of the plastic) or deformation. Shape retention of thermoplastics, however, is generally lower than that of the other materials mentioned because thermoplastics are very ductile and spring-like in nature. Thermoplastics also typically have poorer fatigue and failure properties when bent frequently and repeatedly.

[0047] In an alternate embodiment, the support comprises a malleable wire encased in a thin layer of plastic or rubber. The wire is preferably placed along the outer edge of the insert and optionally patterned in the center of the insert. See FIGS. 3A-3F for alternate embodiments of the wire configuration. Where a patterned wire is used instead of the screening material, the insert can be made of a soft material such as cotton or foam, and the patterned wire can be sewn into place. The patterned wire can also be used in addition to the screening material.

[0048] The materials discussed for use in the support inserts can be used separately or in any combination.

[0049] Generally, the support inserts of the present invention are preferably highly malleable or bendable; able to be formed and reformed; lightweight; non-toxic; and capable of supporting a load of at least about three to about five pounds. The desired support capacity of the insert, however, depends on the type of garment in which it is used. For a brassiere, the support is preferably inserted into a soft fabric material to form the cup of the brassiere. The material can be cotton, tricot, silk, polyester, or any such material typically used for the manufacture of garments. Most preferably, the cup is lightly padded.

[0050] In one embodiment, the malleable support inserts of the present invention are used in the construction of a brassiere. In particular, the malleable support inserts are used with a brassiere that has at least one cup adapted to receive a support insert.

[0051] In a preferred embodiment, the support inserts are used in garments with pockets adapted to removably receive the inserts, making various types of inserts interchangeable in different garments. The support inserts can be used in a variety of different types of garments.

[0052] For use in brassieres, the cups of the brassiere are preferably configured with a pocket in each cup. The pocket is adapted to removably receive a support insert. Inserts can be of different sizes, shapes, and different levels of flexibility to offer various levels of support. Similarly, the support inserts can be used in a wide variety of garments, preferred embodiments of which have at least one pocket adapted to receive a support insert. It is particularly useful to incorporate the pocket into the outer garment in garments that are not well suited for separate undergarments such as a strapless or halter-style dress. The support inserts can be used, for example, in maternity clothing, in swimwear, in male athletic supporters, or any other type of garment where customized support is desired.

[0053] The following provides one example of the construction of a garment containing a malleable support insert according to the present invention. A mold 18 was sized appropriately for the cup size of the garment, in this case a size C-cup brassiere. For ease of reference, the cup is described as having a major axis or longitudinal axis 22 and a minor axis or transverse axis 24, perpendicular to the major axis 22. A typical cup for a size C-cup brassiere has a generally elliptical-type shape and is about 8 inches across the major axis 22 and about 7.5 inches high along the minor axis 24. The mold 18 was sized appropriately for the selected cup size.

[0054] The screening material 12 was a malleable and durable aluminum mesh with approximately 324 openings per square inch. The screening material 12 was sized to be about 0.5 inch smaller than the mold along all of the edges leaving about 0.5 inch of space 16 between the edge of the mold 18 and the outer edge of the screening material 12. Two layers of screening material 12 were soldered together along the entirety of their outer edges. The soldering was done such that the screening material 12 and solder 14 remained about 0.5 inch smaller than the mold 18 along the edges as illustrated in FIG. 1. The solder 14 was contiguous or connected around the outer edge of the screening material 12. The solder 14 was flattened to about the same thickness as the aluminum mesh and was approximately 0.25 to 0.375 inch wide.

[0055] The soldered double layer of screening material 12 was then placed in between two pieces of cut silicone 16. The “sandwich” of silicone 16 and screening material 12 was then heated and pressed in the mold. Upon heating, the silicone 16 turned into a liquid-gel. As the mold 18 was heated and closed, the silicone 16 completely covered the screening material 12. The silicone 16 was heated and pressed for approximately 8 minutes. The silicone 16 began to harden as it is heated. The curing agent in the silicone reacted to the pressure and the heat, causing the silicone to harden. The liquid silicone 16 was allowed to solidify before removing the silicone-covered screening material from the mold 18. The heated silicone liquid hardened in about 5-10 minutes. The silicone rubber 16 protects the wire mesh from coming through the cushioning material of the brassiere and allows for a more malleable and comfortable support within the cup. The support insert 10 comprising the screening material 12 and silicone rubber 16 was approximately 0.25 inch thick when dried. In this example, approximately three (3) cubic inches or two (2) ounces of silicone were used. The silicone 16 used in this particular embodiment was silicone rubber, 60 durometer. The silicone-covered support was then inserted into a pocket of the cup of the brassiere.

[0056] As shown in FIG. 2, the support 10 may be positioned along the bottom and sides of the cup. Alternatively, the support may be positioned in the cup in any number of alternative locations. Referring to FIG. 3, several suitable locations and patterns for the support are shown.

[0057] Optionally, a brassiere according to the present invention can also include an adjustable strap system. The adjustable strap system provides customized and adjustable support. For example, if a sports-type brassiere is desired, the straps can be adjusted more tightly to restrict movement of the breasts. If more cleavage is desired, for example, the straps can be adjusted to raise the breasts.

[0058] The straps are also adjustable to accommodate different clothing that the user may wear. For example, the straps can be adjusted for a strapless garment (sleeveless and shoulderless) by having the strap or straps wrap around the torso and connect only in back, and not around the shoulders. The straps can be adjusted for a halter-type garment, or for any other type of custom garment. Positions of the preferred locations for attachment sites of the straps to the cup portion of the brassiere are illustrated in FIG. 4.

[0059] The straps can be attached at various positions on the brassiere cup. The individual user determines the number of straps needed and the positions of the straps. There are preferably a plurality of individual strap attachment sites on each of the cups for the optional attachment of a strap, as shown in FIG. 4. Illustrated in FIG. 4 are the right and left breast cups. By way of example, four distal or outer positions for optional strap attachment are shown 54, 56, 58, and 60 on the right cup, and corresponding attachment sites, 64, 66, 68, and 70 on the left cup.

[0060] Four central or proximal strap attachment sites are also shown in FIG. 4. Standard positions 52 and 62, on the right and left cups, respectively, can be directly connected to each other for more cleavage and a different level of support. Alternatively, an adjustable strap 72 can join positions 52 and 62, and allow a customized adjustment in the distance between the two cups. For further adjustment of the level of support and cleavage, a plurality of proximal attachment sites, 74, 76, and 78 and 84, 86, and 88, on the right and left cups, respectively, are optionally positioned along the proximal region of each cup. These attachment sites are positioned symmetrically on each cup. Each right cup proximal attachment site, 74, 76, and/or 78, can be connected to its corresponding left cup proximal attachment site, 84, 86, and/or 88, by a hook and eye mechanism, VELCRO™, or any other suitable attachment means.

[0061] The desired level of support and/or cleavage is achieved by connecting one or more pairs of proximal attachment sites. The level of support is increased by increasing the number of connecting attachment sites. The attachment of a strap to the cup may be through the use of openings sewn into the cup, VELCRO™, hook and loop type mechanisms, or any other such attachment mechanism. Preferably, the positions of the attachment sites on the two cups are symmetrical. These positions are illustrated in FIG. 4. Straps can be made of any type of fabric material generally used in garments. Most preferably, the straps have an elastic-like quality.

[0062] Referring to FIG. 5, an alternate strap system is illustrated. This strap system comprises a VELCRO™ (i.e., hook and loop) type fastening system 100. The shoulder strap 102 has one free end 106, and the end portion of the shoulder strap has a VELCRO™ type covering 108. The back strap 110 of the bra contains a slot-shaped opening 112 of appropriate size to receive the free end of the shoulder strap 106. The end of the shoulder strap 106 is placed through the slot 112 forming a loop 104. Pressing the VELCRO™ covered portion of the shoulder strap together closes the loop 104. The VELCRO™ fastening system 100 provides an easily adjustable strap. A V-shaped shoulder strap 102 is illustrated in FIG. 5, but two separate shoulder straps can also be used with this loop and hole type fastening system.

[0063] Referring to FIGS. 6 and 7, an adjustable bracket and loop strap system 120 is illustrated. Each bra strap 122 has one free end 126. The strap is covered with VELCRO™ type material 124 towards its free end 126. An X-shaped bracket 130 is configured to receive the free end of the straps 126 through slot-shaped openings 132, as illustrated. The X-bracket is preferably made from a plastic material. The ends of the straps 122 are placed through the slots 132 of the X-shaped bracket 130 to forming a loop at the end of each strap 122. Pressing the VELCRO™ covered portion of the strap together closes the loops. The bracket and loop strap system 120 provides an easily adjustable strap.

[0064] Although the present invention has been described with reference to preferred embodiments and specific examples, those skilled in the art will recognize that changes can be made in form and detail without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. As such, it is intended that the foregoing detailed description be regarded as illustrative rather than limiting and that it is the appended claims, including all equivalents thereof, which are intended to define the scope of the invention.