A bespoke lace bra to fit different breast cancer patients

Algorithmic Lace is the winner of the Lexus Design Award 2019 and uses body measurements to enable those who have undergone breast removal surgery to wear well-fitting underwear once again.

A bra that can be customised to suit different body shapes and sizes of those who have undergone breast cancer surgery has been invented.

The prototype for Algorithmic Lace has been designed by Lisa Marks, industrial designer and assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and is the winning entry of this year’s Lexus Design Awards, a social design competition run by Japanese car manufacturer Toyota. She has been awarded three million Japanese yen (£20,700) to develop her concept.

Initially, the body measurements of individual women who have undergone mastectomy surgery, which sees breasts fully or partially removed, are recorded and analysed.

An algorithm then creates a unique lace pattern, which creates visual symmetry on both sides of the body, regardless of size or volume of both breasts.

This pattern is then used to make a bespoke bra, hand-made by Marks herself. Three-dimensional (3D), digital modelling is used to visualise the bra, and the lace is then hand-weaved, using a technique that dates back to the 16th century. The process enables bras to be made to suit different individuals, based on their measurements.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, and every year there are roughly 55,000 new diagnoses. The prototype was born out of the fact that, of those who are diagnosed and who have their breasts surgically removed, only a fifth have immediate breast reconstruction.

“There is [therefore] a great need for comfortable apparel that provides confidence in intimate moments and allows women to celebrate their new shapes,” says Marks.

The bra is seamless and has no underwiring to be more comfortable for mastectomy patients and has more stitches under the breasts to provide support.

The bespoke piece aims to give those who have had breast cancer and subsequent surgery their confidence back, says Marks, and enable them to wear well-fitting underwear again.

“Since women who have had mastectomies have a higher rate of asymmetry, they have few options for lingerie, and often end up using external prosthetics,” says Marks. “This bra brings back their ability to adorn their body with lace and something that fits them.”

The prototype bra has been made by hand. It is not yet confirmed whether it will go on to be mass-produced by machine, or whether it will remain a bespoke, hand-crafted service.

Algorithmic Lace was the overall winner of the Lexus Design Award 2019 announced this month, selected out of over 1,500 entries received from designers in 65 countries. Lexus is the luxury car division of Toyota.

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