Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Medicine


Background: Insufficient breast support from an ill-fitting bra is a known barrier to participating in physical activity. Improvements to current bra designs are necessary in order to improve breast support and bra fit for women.

Research question: The overall aim of this thesis was to quantify the breast characteristics of Australian women across the breast size spectrum upon which to develop evidence-based recommendations to improve bra designs for these women.

Methods: Two separate biomechanical studies were conducted, which are presented in four thesis parts. In the first part of this thesis a valid and reliable method to quantify the volume of large and ptotic breasts was determined and subsequently used in Study 2. The second part of the thesis collected comprehensive three-dimensional breast volume, shape and skin data in order to characterise the breasts of a large cohort of Australian women across varying age and body mass index (BMI) ranges (Chapters 3, 4 and 5). The third part of the thesis utilised objective data on the breasts and upper torsos of women (breast volume, shape and skin; structure and function of the upper torso and physical activity levels), as well as upper torso musculoskeletal pain scores to explore predictors of musculoskeletal pain in the upper torso (Chapter 6). The fourth and final part of this thesis utilised professional bra fit criteria to establish the impact of current bra design components upon incorrect bra fit (Chapter 7).

Major conclusion: Based on the results of this thesis, six evidence-based recommendations have been made for future bra designs. Bra designers and manufacturers can use these recommendations, in conjunction with data collated in this thesis, to improve bra designs for Australian women. Incorporating such evidence-based data could substantially improve the fit of breast support garments and, therefore, the ability of these garments to properly support the breasts of women. Enhanced bra fit and breast support will, in turn, enable women to participate in physical activity in comfort.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.