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.
Life went on and was filled with adventure, accomplishment and, also, disappointments. Meanwhile the importance and significance of the sports bra grew and grew. Its granddaughter, "athleisure wear" was born. People wanted to hear the story, over and over again. Acknowledgement is uch a powerful and precious gift! A bit of grace from others who "see" us.
When I was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame -- the ceremony, the gala, the copious well-wishes and thank-you were, frankly, overwhelming. I was not accustomed to the gift of acknowledgement.
Unleash the Girls
I went back into the art studio, started another business making a compression bra for breast cancer survivors, and finally completed my graduate degree. Somewhere along the way, I made sure to reintroduce Polly’s name and contributions into the Jogbra’s genesis story, especially as it became clear—through the continued press and interview requests—that the sports bra had become an iconic product with long-reaching impact on the lives of women and girls. This is something I didn’t recognize until many years after I left Jogbra.