THE BRA THAT CHANGED THE WORLD… The 1970s saw women coming into their own, working hard to create new roles at home and in sports, culture, politics, and business. It was also the start of the “fitness revolution.” At this unique intersection of feminism and athleticism, Lisa Lindahl’s game-changing entrepreneurial journey began.
She invented the first sports bra, the “Jogbra,” in 1977. It was the right product at the right time, throwing Lisa into a high-stakes world of business and power—a world for which she was not fully prepared. Unleash the Girls is the improbable story of a young artist with a disability who used her powers of creativity to solve a vexing problem and ended up leveling the playing field for girls and women across the globe—literally, unleashing the girls.
Her invention would become a feminist icon and the company she founded would change an industry. But amid the success, Lisa continued to search for meaning and the true nature of power and beauty. This is the untold story of the invention of the sports bra and how it changed the world for girls and women...and, along the way, changed Lisa, too.
Lisa Z. Lindahl is an artist, inventor, women’s health advocate and shamanic practitioner. In 2022 she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for inventing the sports bra in 1977, revolutionizing athletic participation for women and girls. She has a BS in Education from the University of Vermont and a Master’s of Arts in Culture and Spirituality from Holy Names University in California. She splits her time between Charleston, South Carolina and Colchester, Vermont.
What motivates you? I've noticed that sometimes the original motivation becomes so irrelevant, so inconsequential — lost in the impact of the eventual outcomes. It's almost as if the initial motivation is a con, one I'm pulling on myself, to get me to do something I think I should do.
At least, it seems that was the case for me here. The fact that my motivation for starting to run was to lose weight became totally irrelevant and obscured once I experienced the joy I felt while running... and all the other positive effects running had on me in so many diverse areas of my life at that time!
Heck, it resulted in the invention of the sports bra!
Unleash the Girls
Sitting most of the day for my filing job, I began to put on weight. My once “drop-dead gorgeous” figure, taken for granted ever since its appearance around age 15, had become blowzy and indistinct. A friend told me what I somehow knew but had resisted: dieting alone wouldn’t shed the pounds. I would need to exercise. My friend outlined his running regime, telling me that all I had to do was run a mile-and-a-quarter three times a week and I would achieve and maintain “physical fitness.” To me, translated, that meant “skinny.” And lord knows, as a 1960s teenage girl, skinny was a beauty hallmark. Remember Twiggy? Count me in.