RMIT University
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Design and Evaluation of a Protective Bra for Use under a Unisex Ballistic Vest for D Cup and Above

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posted on 2024-06-03, 01:17 authored by Sara Niemczyk
The thesis examines the problems that large-breasted female police officers experience when wearing a unisex ballistic vest (UBV) and explores solutions by designing and evaluating an improved bra. The key problem that the thesis reveals and addresses is the conflicting issues between the design and performance requirements of a bra and a UBV. The bra lifts the breasts, but the UBV flattens the breasts, in turn causing a range of issues. The universal security invested in the fixed UBV design will not change to accommodate the shape of the woman’s body; therefore, other avenues must be pursued to minimise the effects. The first aim of this study was to explore the problem by analysing the design criteria. The second aim was to design an undergarment to address the criteria. The final aim was to promote awareness, through research, of the issues that large-breasted women are experiencing. This research is the first to address the interaction of the bra and the UBV when worn by large-breasted women. An undergarment is systematically designed and developed to improve the fit and function of the UBV for this cohort. The methodology used is the De Jonge seven-stage functional design process for apparel and is user centred. The result of the research was the design of a bra prototype that adapted the traditional bra concept to that of a hybrid that could be worn over any bra. This prototype was then evaluated against the key findings from the initial investigation that were used to develop three key design criteria: (a) improved coverage protection, (b) reduction of side breast protrusion and (c) comfort. The prototype hybrid bra was then evaluated through three-dimensional (3D) scanning on a modified mannequin and then on human subjects. The results from the mannequin tests and the human subjects’ evaluations met these three design criteria. The hybrid bra covered the exposed area with a commercial protective slash/stab-proof fabric to minimise side breast protrusion and improve comfort and support. The broader implications of the results are that considerations need to be made for large-breasted women when designing body armour or utilising a specialty bra that aims to alleviate some of these problems. Further, there is scope to develop the hybrid bra accessory and make this available to other security personnel.


Degree Type

Doctorate by Research


© Sara Elizabeth Niemczyk 2023

School name

Fashion & Textiles

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