A special bra to make breast cancer patients more active

A bra with a built-in pedometer, which only shows its greatest beauty after sufficient movement. ID student Daphne Menheere hopes that this will enable her to make (former) breast cancer patients live healthier lives and make them feel better about their bodies.

Beside her study of Industrial Design, Daphne Menheere has a salon where women can get themselves beautified with eyelash extensions and spray tan. It was there that she noticed that women come in apologizing for their outward appearance (for not wearing make-up), and are in great spirits again once they leave the salon. Feeling good about your looks benefits your wellbeing, she only wants to say. “And I like to help people with this, as I have experienced time and again during my sideline.”

Over the past few years a great many health apps have appeared for the smartphone, which keep track of your movement throughout the day, for example. Well, that built-in acceleration sensor which tells the phone how many steps you take can also be fitted into a bra, as Menheere thought. And the feedback from that sensor may be used to embellish this intimate article of clothing, and allow its wearer to feel better about her outward appearance and make her move more at the same time.

Menheere designed the bras especially for (former) breast cancer patients. After breast surgery they often feel a bit insecure about their appearance and their sexuality, Menheere explains. “Beautiful lingerie can help you feel better about your body, and I hope that a bra which is at its most beautiful after a day on which you have had plenty of exercise has a motivating effect.”

Whether that is actually true is something she will know very soon. Then two women will test bras fitted by Menheere which only show their full beauty once the acceleration sensor indicates that the wearers have moved enough. To this end, she used temperature-sensitive black ink, which becomes transparent above a certain temperature, so that the underlying (colored) patterns become visible.

Part of the pattern on the bras is activated through body heat, while a gauze-shaped heating element has been applied underneath the outermost layer of the bra. Actuated by the heating sensor this element heats up the top layer of the bra to above 47 degrees to make the ink transparent.

The student incorporated the required battery into the back strap of the prototypes - which she designed in consultation with the subjects, according to their own taste: one may have a lace floral pattern, while another shows a zebra print. “Ideally you would want to test a standard design in many more people, of course, but it is essential for the women that the bra fits them well - one of them has a breast prosthesis - and that they like it. Otherwise it’s definitely not going to work at all.”

If it should turn out that the women actually do move more when they start to feel more beautiful the same day - instead of only in the long term -, then this might result in an entirely new line of research, Menheere expects. And then she would love to find out more about this in a statutory PhD period. “I’m more interested in the psychology behind it than in the bra itself. You could try something similar with shoes or other garments that can be seen by more people.”

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