Title:
Garment with Shielding Panel
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A nipple shielding garment comprising a back shirt portion and a front shirt portion. The front shirt portion is of a two-ply construction, where one ply of fabric has a bare side and a printed side, and is connected to the other ply of fabric at the printed side by stitching. The printed side of the first ply comprises a screen printed section of colorless plastisol ink, which masks the shape and color of the nipples of the wearer through the garment.



Inventors:
Doellefeld, Beth (Decatur, GA, US)
Application Number:
12/209714
Publication Date:
03/19/2009
Filing Date:
09/12/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
2/69
International Classes:
A41C3/08; A41D1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HALE, GLORIA M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SMITH, GAMBRELL & RUSSELL (ATLANTA, GA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A nipple shielding garment comprising a back shirt portion and a front shirt portion, wherein said front shirt portion comprises: a first ply of fabric having a bare side and a printed side; a second ply of fabric, wherein said first ply is connected to said second ply by stitching; and a printed ink section on said printed side of said first ply of fabric, wherein the printed side of the first ply contacts the second ply, whereby the printed ink section lies between the first ply and the second ply.

2. The garment of claim 1, wherein said garment has a set of shoulder seams, a bottom seam, and a nipple line about midway between said shoulder and bottom seam, and wherein said printed ink section covers at least the nipple line of said printed side.

3. The garment of claim 1, wherein said garment has a neck opening, a set of shoulder seams, a bottom seam, a nipple line about midway between said shoulder and bottom seam, and an underbreast line between said nipple line and said bottom seam, and wherein said printed ink section extends vertically from below the neck opening of the garment to at least the underbreast line on said printed side.

4. The garment of claim 1, wherein said garment has a neck opening with a first end and a second end, with a neck opening line extending vertically from each end of the neck opening, a set of shoulder seams, a bottom seam, a nipple line about midway between said shoulder and bottom seams, and an underbreast line between said nipple line and said bottom seam, wherein said printed ink section extends vertically from at least above the nipple line to at least the underbreast line, and horizontally at least from one neck opening line to the other neck opening line.

5. The garment of claim 1, wherein said printed ink section is horizontally rectangular in relation to the front shirt portion.

6. The garment of claim 1, wherein said printed ink section is plastisol ink.

7. The garment of claim 1, wherein said garment has a neck opening, shoulder seams, side seams, and a bottom seam, and wherein said first and second plies are joined together by stitching at the neck opening, shoulder seams, side seams, and bottom seam.

8. The garment of claim 6, wherein the plastisol ink is colorless.

9. The garment of claim 6, wherein the plastisol ink further comprises an elasticizing agent.

10. A nipple shielding garment comprising a back shirt portion and a front shirt portion, wherein said front shirt portion comprises: a bare side and a printed side, the printed side having a section of colorless plastisol ink, wherein the printed side of the front shirt portion contacts the back shirt portion.

11. The garment of claim 10, wherein said garment has a shoulder seam, a bottom seam, and a nipple line about midway between said shoulder and bottom seam, and wherein said section of plastisol ink covers at least the nipple line of said printed side.

12. The garment of claim 10, wherein said garment has a neck opening, a set of shoulder seams, a bottom seam, a nipple line about midway between said shoulder and bottom seam, and an underbreast line between said nipple line and said bottom seam, and wherein said section of plastisol ink extends vertically from below the neck opening of the garment to at least the underbreast line on said printed side.

13. The garment of claim 10, wherein said garment has a neck opening with a first end and a second end, with a neck opening line extending vertically from each end of the neck opening, a set of shoulder seams, a bottom seam, a nipple line about midway between said shoulder and bottom seams, and an underbreast line between said nipple line and said bottom seam, wherein said section of plastisol ink extends vertically from at least above the nipple line to at least the underbreast line, and horizontally at least from one neck opening line to the other neck opening line.

14. The garment of claim 10, wherein said section of plastisol ink is horizontally rectangular in relation to the front shirt portion.

15. The garment of claim 10, wherein said plastisol ink further comprises an elasticizing agent.

16. The garment of claim 10, wherein said garment has a neck opening, a set of shoulder seams, side seams, and a bottom seam, and wherein front shirt portion and back shirt portion are joined together by stitching at the shoulder seams and side seams.

17. A nipple shielding shirt with a neck opening with a first end and a second end and having neck opening lines extending vertically from each end of the neck opening, a set of shoulder seams, a bottom seam, a nipple line about midway between said shoulder and bottom seams, and an underbreast line between said nipple line and said bottom seam, said shirt comprising a back shirt portion and a front shirt portion, wherein said front shirt portion comprises: a first ply of fabric having a bare side and a printed side; a second ply of fabric, wherein said first ply is connected to said second ply by stitching; and a printed ink section covering at least the nipple line on said printed side of said first ply of fabric, wherein the printed side of the first ply contacts the second ply, whereby the printed ink section lies between the bare side of the first ply and the second ply.

18. The shirt of claim 17, wherein said printed ink section extends vertically from below the neck opening of the shirt to at least the underbreast line on said printed side.

19. The shirt of claim 17, wherein said printed ink is plastisol ink.

20. The shirt of claim 17, wherein said printed ink section is created with a screen printing method.

Description:

CLAIM OF PRIORITY

This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/971,987 filed on Sep. 13, 2007, which is incorporated herein in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention generally is related to the field of garments with shielding or concealing features, and more particularly is related to garments with nipple-shielding panels to provide modesty to the wearer.

2. Related Art

For the sake of modesty, many people, especially women, refrain from exposing their nipples in public. Because of their distinct shape and tendency to become erect upon exposure to various stimuli, including changes in temperature and friction, it is particularly difficult to conceal the appearance, contour, color and outline of a person's nipple, even while wearing clothing. Men are typically confined to wearing complete undershirts to alleviate this problem, while women often wear brassieres (“bras”) as either an integrated part of a shirt or as a separate garment or some form of self-adhering nipple shield.

Traditionally, women wear bras to reduce or eliminate the appearance of the nipple underneath their shirts. Bras, however, are very uncomfortable, expensive, and difficult to wash. Further, various shirt colors, cuts, fabrics and designs will require specific bras in order to reduce visibility and maintain the integrity of the look of the outer shirt. Wearing an undershirt in place of a bra can be equally inconvenient, unsightly, expensive, and often uncomfortable. In recognition of these problems, numerous attempts have been made in the art to incorporate a nipple-concealing feature into a unitary garment.

Padded nipple-concealing “solutions” of the prior art include padded, foam, or silicone cups that are either adhered to or sewn into the fabric of the shirt. The presence of such a cup, however, is highly visible through the shirt fabric, and creates an unnatural curve to the breast. Further, these cups are highly unsuitable for men for both anatomical and social reasons. The cups can also be uncomfortable, challenging to launder, and difficult and expensive to manufacture because many shapes and sizes of the cups are required to accommodate a variety of breast types.

Self-adhering nipple shields have also been created in an attempt to avoid the need to wear a separate undershirt or bra to conceal the appearance of a wearer's nipple under a shirt. One such commonly-used shield is an adhesive bandage strip commonly used in application to minor cuts and scrapes. Such adhesive bandage strips carry the unacceptable disadvantages of: having an unnatural and visible shape, being difficult and painful to apply and remove, and having a tendency to twist, wrinkle, tent, or dislodge with use. Further, because the adhesive bandage strips are applied directly to the breast and nipple, they create an unflattering and undesirable look in intimate situations. For many, this look results in further embarrassment by drawing unwanted attention to the nipple area.

Other self-adhering nipple shields include thin, flesh-colored adhesive cloths, rounded silicone pads, and even electrical tape. Obviously, these adhesive devices reflect problems similar to that of the adhesive bandage strip and can be even more awkward and painful to apply and remove.

Some garments incorporate nipple-concealing elements in the form of a built-in bra. A common design is the shelf bra, which is an independently supported strip of material intended to wrap around the bust area of a wearer with an outer shirt, tank, or camisole. The inner shelf bra portion typically includes an elastic band around the bottom of the strip of material to draw the shelf bra about the wearer underneath the breasts. The shelf bra may be seamless or may include clasps or another fastening mechanism in the back to further secure the shelf bra to the wearer. Additionally, a built-in bra may be molded or padded to enhance or further define the bust area.

There are many drawbacks to the design of a built-in bra. These garments are very difficult for a wearer to put on due to excessive material, elastic, and unnatural attachments inside the garment itself. The sewing construction of such a garment is likewise cumbersome and expensive. Many sizes of elastic, molded cups, or fabric strips must be utilized to accommodate various sizes and shapes of women's breasts. These complicated garments are also difficult to launder, and often cause other garments in a washing machine to become tangled or damaged during the washing process. The elastic, clasps, or molded cups needed to hold a built-in bra in place are easily visible through the fabric of a shirt, and are visually displeasing. The worst drawback, perhaps, is the discomfort caused to a wearer by the presence of multiple layers of tight or cupped materials pulled over the bust area, and cinched around the bust by either elastic or tight clasps.

Each of the disclosed prior art nipple shields is yet another piece or element that must be either sewn into an existing garment or used in conjunction with a garment, which increases the cost and complicates the process for manufacturing and using the garment. Each of the proposed “solutions” also leaves a wearer uncomfortable and with unsightly visual impressions left by the nipple shields. Wearers desire an alternative to putting on a bra or undershirt, which is inconvenient, uncomfortable and time-consuming, so that they can readily go out in public and maintain modesty. In informal settings, many women wish they could maintain modesty without the need to put on an uncomfortable bra or adhesive strip or pad or a structured combo shirt/bra. Also, younger girls just entering puberty often are faced with an awkward decision of either wearing a bra for modesty before they are fully developed, or going without a bra, potentially leaving them feeling exposed and self-conscious.

Accordingly, there is a need for a shirt wearable by both men and women that is soft and comfortable to the wearer, yet provides superior nipple shielding in the bust region. Further, there is a need for a shirt that provides maximum nipple shielding in the bust region which is easy to manufacture and assemble, and utilizes a minimum amount of materials in construction, and is of a reasonable cost. There is also a need for a shirt that does not show unsightly lines, wrinkling, bulges and other shapes resulting from the addition of a concealing panel. Finally, there is a need for a shirt that is convenient and easy for a wearer to put on in minimal time. It is to this and other needs that the present invention is directed.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Briefly, the present invention comprises a nipple-shielding shirt for obscuring the visibility of the shape and color of a wearer's nipples having a back section and a front section. The front section may utilize two plies of fabric. In one embodiment, the innermost or first ply of the front section has a printed shield on only one side (the “printed side”) of the ply extending horizontally for the length of the neck seam and extending vertically from below the neck opening to at least the nipple line of the shirt. The printed side of the inner ply is contacted with and attached, either by stitching, dot adhesives, needle punching, or any other garment assembling method known to a person of ordinary skill in the art, to an outer or second ply so that the printed shield on the first ply is facing outward from the wearer, and the bare side of the first ply is facing inward toward the wearer, contacting the wearer's skin. When joined, the first and second plies create the front section of the shirt.

The two-ply front section is sewn to the back section of the shirt at the shoulders and sides to create a complete shirt. An illustrative embodiment of the present invention is a shirt with sleeves fashioned into a T-shirt.

The printed nipple shield is created from plastisol ink (or a material of similar nature), which is printed using a screen printing technique known in the art of graphic printing. Plastisol ink is a stretchy and durable type of ink that comes in a variety of colors. Plastisol ink without any added colorant is used in the present invention to provide the shielding functionality of the shirt. The plastisol ink, once applied, wraps itself around the fibers of the garment and acts as a surface coat as opposed to actually penetrating the garment. For added comfort and ease, a stretch-enhancing additive can be mixed with the plastisol ink before it is printed onto the printed ply of the shirt.

One function of the present invention is to eliminate the visibility of a human nipple through a shirt without the need of a bra, an undershirt, or some integrated combination of the two. Because the printed plastisol ink acts as a surface coating that thickens and stiffens the fabric of the shirt, necessary coverage and shielding is provided to the nipple area of a wearer.

These features, and other features and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art when the following detailed description of the embodiments is read in conjunction with the appended figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front view of the front portion of the shirt of an embodiment of the present invention, stitched at the shoulders, arms, and neck opening, with the outer ply partially folded away to show the printed ply of the front portion and the assembly of same.

FIG. 2 is a back view of an assembled and stitched shirt of an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a front view of the printed ply of the front portion of the shirt of an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is an expanded view of the components of one embodiment of the shirt of the present invention before sewing.

FIG. 5 is a front perspective view of a garment mannequin with anatomical reference indicia.

FIG. 6 is a side perspective view of a garment mannequin with anatomical reference indicia.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

The foregoing detailed description of the embodiments is presented only for illustrative and descriptive purposes and is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the scope and spirit of the invention. The embodiments were selected and described to best explain the principles of the invention and its practical applications. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that many variations can be made to the invention disclosed in this specification without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention.

Illustrative embodiments of the nipple-shielding shirt according to the present invention are shown in FIGS. 1 through 4. A front and side view of a garment mannequin with indicia is shown in FIGS. 5 and 6 in order to provide multiple reference points on the garment for ease of discussion herein.

The present invention is an improved garment, and more particularly a shirt, containing a printed section that functions to shield or obscure the shape and color of a wearer's nipples through the fabric of the shirt. The present invention is suitable for use in shirts for both men and women. In an embodiment, the shirt is a T-shirt, and constructed from a stretchable knit fabric. FIG. 1 is a front view of the front portion of the shirt of an embodiment of the present invention, stitched at the shoulders, arms, and neck opening, with the outer ply partially folded away to show the printed ply of the front portion and the assembly of same. FIG. 2 is a back view of an assembled and stitched shirt of an embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 3 is a front view of the printed ply of the front portion of the shirt of an embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 4 is an expanded view of the components of one embodiment of the shirt of the present invention before sewing. FIG. 5 is a front perspective view of a garment mannequin with anatomical reference indicia. FIG. 6 is a side perspective view of a garment mannequin with anatomical reference indicia.

Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2, an illustrative example of the nipple-shielding shirt 2 of the present invention comprises a back shirt portion 4 and a front shirt portion 6. The front shirt portion 6 is constructed from two plies of material. The first ply 8 of fabric has a bare side 10 and a printed side 12. The second ply of fabric 14 is connected to the first ply 8 by stitching 16. A printed ink section 18 is on the printed side 12 of the first ply 8 of fabric. The printed side 12 of the first ply 8 contacts the second ply 14 so that it is sandwiched between the two plies when the front shirt portion 6 is stitched together.

Referring now to FIGS. 5 and 6, the illustrative mannequin demonstrates helpful reference points for a wearer of a garment of the present invention. A shoulder seam 20 is shown at the anatomical shoulder of the mannequin extending to a point before the neck. The neck opening 22 encircles the anatomical neck of the mannequin and has a first end 22a and a second end 22b. Extending in a vertical line from the first end 22a and second end 22b is a neck opening line 24. Below the shoulder seam 20 of the mannequin and at and between the anatomical nipples of the mannequin is the nipple line 26. Below the nipple line 26 and underneath the anatomical breasts of the mannequin is the underbreast line 28. At the hips or beltline of the mannequin is the approximate location of the bottom seam 30 of a shirt, if one were placed on the mannequin. Similarly, a side seam 32 and an armhole seam 34 would be located approximately as indicated.

Referring now to FIG. 3, a first ply 8 of the front shirt portion 6 is shown. The first ply 8 can be any shape suitable for forming into a garment covering a torso. In an embodiment, the fabric of the first ply 8 is the same as the fabric used for the second ply 14, but a different fabric type or weight may be used if additional softness, insulation, moisture-wicking, or other properties are desired. As an illustrative example, the first ply 8 has designated areas for a neck opening 22 and arm holes 34, as well as boundaries for side seams 32, shoulder seams 20, and a bottom seam 30 when the garment is assembled. Underneath the neck opening 22 and between the arm holes 34 is a printed ink section 18. The printed ink section 18 serves as a nipple shield because it obscures the shape and color of the nipples of a wearer through the fabric of the garment. The printed ink section 18 is fused to the surface of the printed side 12, and is not repeated on the bare side 10 of the first ply 8.

When assembled, (assembly shown in FIG. 4), the bare side 10 will lie next to the skin of a wearer, providing additional comfort and moisture-wicking properties. The printed side 12, on the other hand, will be sandwiched between and contained within the first ply 8 and the second ply 14. Consequently, the skin of the wearer does not contact the printed side 12 of the first ply 8 or the printed ink section 18 of the first ply 8. To achieve this configuration, the first ply 8 is joined to the second ply 14, preferably by stitching. Again, other methods of joining the plies, such as dot adhesive joining, needle punching, or In an illustrative example of an embodiment of the present invention, the second ply 14 includes sleeves stitched at the arm holes 34. The first ply 8 is preferably stitched to the second ply 14 at shoulder seams 20, side seams 32, neck opening 22, and bottom seam 30. The arm holes 34 of the first ply 8 and second ply 14 can be either stitched together or stitched to a sleeve, fringe or other decorative notions. In another illustrative embodiment, the sleeves and the back shirt portion 4 and one or more plies of the front shirt portion 6 are of a unitary construction.

This configuration, where the printed ink section 18 is sandwiched between the first ply 8 and the second ply 14, is advantageous because presence of any nipple shield is undetectable through the fabric to an observer. The fabric of the front shirt portion 6 appears smooth and does not pucker, pull, wrinkle, or fold to indicate the presence of any additional concealing or shielding material. Also, the printed ink section 18 does not squeeze, dent, or otherwise cause discomfort or unsightly marks on the skin of a wearer because it does not contact the skin. The placement of the printed ink section 18 between the first ply 8 and the second ply 14 also aids in the ease of laundering and ironing the garment because the printed ink section 18 is not directly contacted with a heated element.

The printed ink section 18 is an area on the fabric of the printed side 12 of the first ply 8 that contains ink which has been printed onto the fabric using known methods. The ink printed onto the shirt 2 provides the coverage or shielding function that obscures the shape and color of a wearer's nipples through the fabric of the shirt 2. In an illustrative embodiment, the printed ink section 18 is screen printed onto the fabric of the shirt 2. Screen printing is a particularly effective manner in which to apply the ink to the printed ink section 18 of the present invention because it is relatively simple, inexpensive, and versatile.

Screen printing generally involves a few basic steps. First, a shape or design is drawn or scanned. The shape or design is then transferred to a fabric that has been stretched on a screen frame to create a stencil. The stencil can be created in a variety of ways, including exposing a photographic stencil to ultraviolet light and developing the image, or applying a direct emulsion. The screen is then placed on a garment or other fabric and the ink is transferred through the stencil with a squeegee. The printed garment is exposed to heat or run through a dryer in order to cure the ink.

Other acceptable printing methods for use in conjunction with the present invention are table printing, rotary press, and inkjet printing. Another suitable printing method is indirect printing. This involves the application of a suitable ink on special release paper, followed by a transfer to a garment or fabric using a heat press or other instrument that applies heat and pressure to melt the ink and cause it to bond with the fabric.

In another embodiment of the present invention, the printed ink section 18 is created with plastisol ink. Plastisol is a popular ink in the screen printing industry. Plastisol is very versatile because the stretching capabilities of the ink can be increased with the addition of a stretching additive, and it is quite durable. Plastisol can also be mixed with a bonding agent so that it can better withstand chlorine. Plastisol ink is easy to print because it does not dry in a printing screen. A true plastisol is free of solvents, with 100% solids. The majority of the ink is made of plasticizer, a liquid with a very high and safe flash-point of 440° F., and polyvinylchloride resins.

Ideally, a fabric suitable for use in association with a plastisol ink must be able to withstand a curing temperature of about 300° F. or more, and must be porous enough to permit the ink to wrap around the fibers of the garment. Cotton or a 50/50 cotton blend using a jersey, rib, or interlock knit are used in embodiments of the present invention. Lycra and spandex blends may also be used.

Plastisol ink does not dry by air, but is cured with the application of heat, typically through a curing unit. When plastisol is exposed to heat, the PVC resin particles enlarge and absorb surrounding moisture. Simultaneously, the resins merge and form a continuous elastomer film. Plastisol fully cures at between 280-350° F.

Although the use of plastisol ink in the art of screen printing is typically associated with the creation of colorful, attention-grabbing graphic designs for use on the exterior of garments, the present invention contemplates a new use for this printing ink. Preferably, the printed ink section 18 of the shirt 2 contains colorless plastisol ink. The colorless ink does not bleed through the cloth and cannot otherwise be detected on the bare side 10 of the first ply 8 once the ink is printed on the printed side 12. Even without color, the surface film and the added texture and structure created by the cured plastisol ink obscures the shape and color of a wearer's nipples through the fabric of the shirt 2.

Additionally, common uses of plastisol ink for screen printing require that an iron cannot be used directly on the garment. In the shirt 2 of the present invention, however, an iron can be used on the garment both right-side and inside-out without fear of damage to any printed design.

In another embodiment, the printed ink section is horizontally rectangular in relation to the front shirt portion. A horizontally rectangular shape is ideal to accommodate a variety of shapes and sizes of breasts, because the nipple line 26 of different individuals may contain slight variations in placement. Also, a rectangular shape is less prone to puckering, folding, and wrinkling problems associated with other shapes, like cup shapes, triangular shapes, or traditional bra shapes. Because the fabric imprinted with plastisol ink is more dense and durable, it is ideal to use a printed rectangular shape to maintain a flush garment appearance over the entire front shirt portion 6. Additionally, a printed rectangular shape is more difficult to detect through the fabric by the unaided eye of an observer and is therefore more visually pleasing.

In order to adequately shield a wearer's nipples from view through the fabric of the shirt 2, the printed ink section 18 is preferably located below the neck opening 22 of the shirt 2 and covers at least an approximate nipple line 26 of said printed side 12, usually slightly above the center of the front shirt portion 6. In another exemplary embodiment, a rectangular printed ink section 18 extends vertically from below the neck opening 22 of the garment to at least the underbreast line 28 (usually, at approximately the center of the shirt) on the printed side 12. In another alternative embodiment, the printed ink section 18 extends vertically from at least above the nipple line 26 to at least the underbreast line 28, and horizontally at least from one neck opening line 24 to the other neck opening line 24.

In an alternative embodiment of the present invention where the garment is not a shirt, but rather a dress or nightgown, the first ply 8 can extend from a shoulder seam 20 to approximately the beltline of a wearer (or the bottom seam 30 of FIG. 5), and is optionally stitched at the beltline. In this embodiment, the second ply 14 can also extend the entire length of the front portion 6 of the dress, with stitching 16 at the bottom. Similarly, in various other embodiments that would be contemplated by a person of ordinarily skill in the art, such as a swimsuit or a robe, again, the first ply 8 can extend from a shoulder seam 20 to approximately the beltline of a wearer and is optionally stitched at the beltline. In either embodiment, a printed ink section 18 is sandwiched within the two plies (8, 14), and extends below a neck opening 22 and covers at least an approximate nipple line 26 of a wearer of the garment.

It is to be understood that the present invention is by no means limited to the particular constructions herein disclosed or shown in the drawings, but also comprises any modifications or equivalents within the scope of the claims known in the art. It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the nipple-shielding shirt herein disclosed will find utility with respect to multiple garments, cover-ups, and the like.