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Title:
LAUNDERABLE, ABSORBENT, LEAKPROOF BRAS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/192049
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Both cups of a non-rigid brassiere or bra include 4 layers: elastic wicking material, absorbent material, a waterproofed layer of textile impregnated with a laundering- resistant, low-contact-angle fluoropolymer, and a decorative exterior. The treated textile has a barely altered permeability to gas including water vapour, and blocks all flow of aqueous liquid. Variations include nursing or no-nursing types of: absorbent bra, exercise bra, and sports top. Nursing bras have a "shutter frame" aperture having elastic edges, so the breast can be exposed to a variable extent when nursing. The elastic edges may slide over each other, being not directly attached.

Inventors:
RIHA-SCOTT, Frantisek (6 Rugby Road, BirkenheadAuckland, 0626, 0626, NZ)
DAVEY, Mark Nairn (6 Rugby Road, BirkenheadAuckland, 0626, 0626, NZ)
Application Number:
NZ2017/050045
Publication Date:
November 09, 2017
Filing Date:
April 25, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
RSD HOLDINGS LIMITED (6 Rugby Road, BirkenheadAuckland, 0626, 0626, NZ)
RIHA-SCOTT, Frantisek (6 Rugby Road, BirkenheadAuckland, 0626, 0626, NZ)
DAVEY, Mark Nairn (6 Rugby Road, BirkenheadAuckland, 0626, 0626, NZ)
International Classes:
A41C3/04; A41D1/20
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ENSOR, Donald Rivers (111 Western Springs Road, Mt AlbertAuckland, 1022, 1022, NZ)
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Claims:
WE CLAIM

1. A launderable absorbent nursing and activity bra; each cup of which is held in place when in use over each breast of a person by support means, characterised in that each cup comprises a shaped, flexible, absorbent and waterproof assembly (100) capable, when in

555 use, of conforming to the shape of a breast of the person; each cup comprises a first, wettable, water-permeable textile layer (101) in contact over the skin around the nipple of the breast; the layer when in use having a bidirectional capillary flow or wicking property for watery liquids; a second, wettable absorbent layer (102) capable when in use of retaining an amount of absorbed liquid, a third waterproof yet gas-permeable

560 textile layer comprised of treated, woven fibres (103) and enclosing the first and the second layers, and a fourth, outermost decorative layer (104).

2. The re-usable absorbent nursing and activity bra as claimed in claim 1, characterised in that the third layer includes an amount of a heat- fixed fluoroalkyl acrylate copolymer that coats the fibres of the third layer with a water-repellent material (108).

565 3. The re-usable absorbent nursing and activity bra as claimed in claim 2, characterised in that the second layer and third layer in combination are rendered substantially waterproof by closing surfaces, joins, stitches or fastenings with at least one waterproofing material selected from the range of: (a) the waterproofed third textile layer itself, (b) waterproofing treatment applied to stitches that traverse the third layer and (c) seam

570 sealing of the edges of the third layer, said waterproofing treatment selected from a range including a silicone impregnated tape, a tape impregnated with the plastics polytetrafluorethane (PTFE), including a heat-sealable tape; a silicone-rich paint, or a water-repellent silicone ink.

4. The re-usable absorbent nursing and activity bra as claimed in claim 1, characterised in 575 that the second absorbent layer is fixed in place in the absorbent barrier and is not removable.

5. The re-usable absorbent nursing and activity bra as claimed in claim 1, characterised in that the first layer (101) is a fabric known as "quick dry" functional polyester.

6. The re-usable absorbent nursing and activity bra as claimed in claim 5, characterised in 580 that the first layer also includes fibres of elastane.

7. The re-usable absorbent nursing and activity bra as claimed in claim 1, characterised in that the third layer (103) and the fourth layer (104) are the same layer.

8. The re-usable absorbent nursing and activity bra as claimed in claim 1 characterised in that the second layer (102) is comprised of a material selected from a range including

585 cotton towelling, microfiber towelling, and a tufted cotton fabric and is provided in an amount capable of absorbing a defined amount in a range of between at least 5 and at least 150 ml of an aqueous liquid in each cup.

9. The re-usable absorbent nursing and activity bra as claimed in claim 8, characterised in that the invention provides a range of styles of garment, the range including a nursing

590 bra, a sports nursing bra, and a nursing bra integrated with a sports top; all including the waterproofed barrier within each cup of the bra.

10. The re-usable absorbent nursing and activity bra as claimed in claim 9, characterised in that either cup of the bra may be opened at a reclosable fastener for nursing a baby by providing the baby with access to a nipple; the breast is supported for nursing purposes,

595 when the cup is opened, by a "shutter" arrangement of several textile bands, each of which passes under the cup and is secured at a distant beginning and at a distant end but not on to each other where they cross, thereby providing a restricted, yet expandable while comfortable opening; each textile band being elastic or having an elasticated edge adjacent the breast.

600 11. The re-usable absorbent nursing and activity bra as claimed in claim 10, characterised in that neither of the cups includes a reclosable fastener for nursing purposes.

12. A method for manufacture of the re-usable absorbent nursing and activity bra as claimed in claim 7, including the steps of forming the third layer into a three-dimensional shape appropriate for a bra cup, applying a watery emulsion comprised of about 20% of 605 fluoroalkyl acrylate polymer and 80% water by weight to the shape, and fixing the polymer into place by heating the shape to about 200 degrees Celsius on to the fabric for a duration of about 60 seconds.

Description:
LAUNDERABLE, ABSORBENT, LEAKPROOF BRAS.

FIELD

This invention relates to absorbent, washable and re-usable garments namely brassieres (herein called "bras"), worn by women around the breasts. The invention extends to bras structurally adapted for use by women, especially post-partum and lactating women, undertaking occupation- related or exercise-related activities, and at the same time nursing an infant.

DEFINITIONS

"Absorbent barrier" identifies a built-in flat or curved, layered assembly of selected textiles capable of receiving liquids from a specific side, then containing and thereby preventing the onward travel of liquids while allowing gases including water vapour to pass through the assembly. According to the present invention the cups of a bra, comprising the absorbent barrier, is not separable from the remainder of the bra. There is no removable, disposable absorbent pad.

"Backsheet" is a commonly used term at least in the patent literature for the innermost or skin- contacting layer of an absorbent garment and "Topsheet" is a commonly used term for an outward and at least partially waterproofed layer of an absorbent garment. According to the present invention the waterproofed layer is both gas-permeable and waterproof, and in most options that layer lies beneath a decorative layer.

"Bamboo textile" refers to a textile comprised of reconstituted cellulose derived from bamboo in a process like that for making Rayon®. The Applicants prefer to not use bamboo in sports gear. "Bra" is a commonly used abbreviation of "brassiere".

"Launderable" or "washable" refers to a property of withstanding repeated laundering cycles between use, washing and re-use such that the washed clothing or undergarment is restored by removal of contained liquids from within. For the present invention, "launderable" applies to wash cycles at over 70 degrees Celsius. ("Disposable" is a diametrically opposed concept.) "Nursing Bra" is a kind of bra that allows breast feeding; preferably in a discreet way. an absorbent barrier capability for absorbing and retaining liquids including milk and sweat discharged from the breasts. Often the liquid is breast milk associated with or following a pregnancy.

"Quick dry" layer. The preferred layer is known as "a functional 100% polyester fabric" or textile. It is easily wetted and is highly water-permeable. It is often referred to as "quick-dry", "dri-cool" or "dry-cool" and is supplied by a large number of manufacturers. It may include elastane (Spandex®) for stretchability.

"Sports bra" is a standard term for bras that allow women to exercise freely while potential independent motion by their breasts during activities is controlled.

"Textile" refers to a woven or knitted textile or fabric. Any non-woven component to be included in this document will be specifically identified.

"Top" refers to a bra with side panels extended toward the waist or hip. Physically active mothers may want three functions (sports bra, nursing bra, and sports top) in the one upper garment.

"Waterproof yet vapour-permeable" is a property of a layer in which liquid water is blocked from capillary flow through the layer, yet water vapour, like any other gas, can pass through the layer.

BACKGROUND

Life during and after pregnancy is physically difficult, especially for a person used to exercise in a gymnasium or otherwise, or who does physical work. That applies especially during and after the third trimester. A woman may wish to return to an exercise programme and restore muscle tone and fitness lost during late pregnancy without concern or embarrassment about heavy, perhaps leaking breasts. Perhaps, easier access to an exercise routine after birth will reduce post-natal depression.

Breast-feeding also complicates careers and exercise. Social problems relating to peer pressure, managing milk, avoiding embarrassment from inadvertent leaks, and conserving the shape of the breasts are reasons for preferring bottle feeding and suppressing milk production as quickly as possible. She may be unable to release the often painful pressure of newly formed milk if away from the privacy of her own home. It should be remembered that extended periods of breast pressure without release of milk will cause production to fall. Nipple discharge is usually but not always related to pregnancy and may even occur in men 1 . It is not uncommon for women to experience leakage from the nipple, even though flow ought to occur only when the baby is suckling, as part of a physiological response. Flow or just leakage may occur involuntarily and perhaps from a secondary duct. Even 1 ml of leakage has a propensity to mark one's clothing with a dark spot or a stain at or close to the nipple. People are very conscious of such an effect especially at this location.

1 See the web site http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nipple-discharqe/Paaes/lntroduc tion.aspx, downloaded on 1 April 2016. Bras worn during the late stages of pregnancy and soon after delivery and especially during the lactation period; during breast-feeding require to be absorbent and waterproof. There is a need for re-usable absorbent and waterproof clothing in the form of maternity bras that have a capacity to absorb inadvertently released milk or other liquids discharged from a person' s body without allowing leakage of liquid, so that the mother's clothing has a normal or unremarkable appearance. It desirable to not use bra pads.

In one trial by Neville et al, for which the subjects were 13 mothers, the amount of milk transferred to the child was low on days 1 and 2 and increased rapidly to 498 +/- 129 g/day (means +/- SD) on day 5 and then more slowly to 753 +/- 89 g/d during months 3-5 2 . The figures reflect the size changes that a breast may undergo during a day. Breast feeding has a number of significant and well-known advantages over the alternative: bottle feeding typically using bovine milk or derivatives. Neville et al' s, work described the approximate maximum capacity for absorbtion by a waterproofed, launderable bra, up to about 180 g over a 12-hour period of time for each cup. In practice a range of lower capacities such as 5 g to 50 g may be enough, especially if an absorbent bra can be changed for a fresh bra. Also, a person might elect to express milk such as by use of a breast pump so reducing the maximum capacity required. Perspiration as such, which may arise during exercise or when in a humid atmosphere is included as a "liquid to be contained" in this description. Unwanted wetness next to the skin can cause chafing, irritation in an environment conducive to the growth of bacteria and fungus on the skin adjacent the baby' s nipple and hence possibly causing odours and infection.

PRIOR ART A textile waterproofing treatment employed herein was disclosed in the Applicants' PCT/NZ2015/000025. That document disclosed use of a particular type of fluoroacyl acrylate copolymer "UNI DYN E TG-41 0C made by DAIKIN Inc for the creation of an effective waterproofed yet vapour-permeable textile layer as an integrated layer for underpants or panties for use by incontinent persons; along with an absorbent layer and a wicking-type backing sheet all permanently incorporated within a launderable and re-usable garment. The copolymer is used in the form of a water-based emulsion to be set in place within a knitted or woven textile. Once set in

2 Studies in human lactation: milk volumes in lactating women during the onset of lactation and full lactation. Neville MC 1 , Keller R, Seacat J, Lutes V, Neifert M, Casey C, Allen J, Archer P.

Am J Clin Nutr. 1988 Dec;48(6):1375-86. place, many hot machine washes fail to destroy the desired properties. It should be noted that the method was described exclusively as a process for treating sheets of textiles.

The patent literature review below excludes bras that include polyurethane film or the like as a 90 waterproofing layer. When waterproofing is an included property of a garment in the general prior art such as the incontinence garment fields, it has been provided by one or more layers each comprised of a film of a polyurethane The films are claimed to provide gas permeability along with waterproofing. They may have a number of dispersed pores throughout or perhaps permeability arises by virtue of being thin. The Applicant's experience is that polyurethane films are not 95 particularly water vapour-permeable. They do not survive hot laundering for many times, when they become water-permeable. It is difficult to shape a flat polyurethane film to the contours of the breast. Nor are polyurethane films able to be stitched, especially in a contoured manner as required in a launderable, absorbent, leakproof bra. Nor are polyurethane films sufficiently elastic to accomodate the change in shape that may occur during a single day. Stitching will tend to provide 100 a path for capillary flow of liquid.

The patent literature review below excludes bras that do not cater for moisture management. A number of bras including absorbent layers for use by nursing mothers exist as published patent documents. The literature can be grouped as follows: Some (group A) are intended to be absorbent and to be disposed of after a single use. Many (group B) include removable absorbent pads which 105 may be disposed of or washed separately. Few (group C) provide a completely launderable option.

Bras that are constructed in order to provide a "sports bra" functionality in addition to an absorbent property (group D) are a subset; and group E provides a completely launderable and re-usable option.

Group A: US 6364741 Ferguson (2002)

110 Group B: GB 687781 White (1953); GB 2429898 Adams (2007); GB 2503856 Collis (2014);

US2013/0273809 Turk (2013); WO02/080710 Kassel (2002),

Group C: US 5269270 Moretz (1993) which relies on spreading a leakage, transported into an intermediate layer, across a wide front from which it may evaporate.

Group D: US 6176761 Underbill, CN104273666 Zhang (removable pads)

115 Group E: unknown.

Outside this grouping there is US2009/0324665 Taghdiri (2009) having anti-absorbent and antibacterial cups. PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED

Maternity bras do not have much capacity to absorb inadvertently released milk or other liquids 120 discharged from a person' s body, preventing leakage, so that the person' s clothing retains a normal appearance. Another problem is that absorbent bras (or pads within) are not launderable and reusable. Another problem is the provision of maternity bras capable of providing breast support during activity whether during ordinary occupations or during exercise in a gymnasium or outside, even though the properties of the breasts change from hour to hour, and from week to week.

125 Post-natal depression is a significant problem. It is hoped that easier access to an exercise facility after birth will reduce post-natal depression; since exercise makes participants feel well. Therefore an effective exercise bra not subject to leakage problems would be useful.

A basic problem to be solved relates to providing nursing women with better clothing; especially absorbent and waterproofed undergarments, so that they can more readily restore muscle tone by 130 means of walk, jogging, or exercise programmes without embarrassing leakage.

OBJECT

To provide an absorbent, waterproof, and repeatedly launderable bra in a range of types of garment including nursing bras, absorbent bras, sports bras and sports tops; and in particular to provide a waterproof yet breathable bra that caters for breast feeding of a baby while the garment is being 135 worn, or at least to provide the public with a useful choice.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

In a first broad aspect the invention provides a launderable absorbent nursing and activity bra including at least one cup, each held in place when in use over each breast of a person by support means, wherein each cup comprises a shaped, flexible, absorbent and waterproof assembly (100)

140 capable, when in use, of conforming to the shape of a breast of the person; each cup comprises a first, wettable, water-permeable textile layer (101) in contact over the skin around the nipple of the breast; the layer when in use having a bidirectional capillary flow or wicking property for watery liquids; a second, wettable absorbent layer (102) capable when in use of retaining an amount of absorbed liquid, a third waterproof yet gas-permeable textile layer enclosing the first and the second

145 layers and comprised of woven fibres (103), and a fourth, outermost decorative layer (104).

Preferably the fourth layer resembles the external appearance of a conventional bra.

Preferably the second layer is built into the structure of the cup and is not separately removable. In a related aspect, the third layer is comprised of a woven fabric including an amount of a heat- fixed fluoroalkyl acrylate copolymer that coats the fibres of the third layer with a water-repellent 150 material (108).Preferably the textile is woven from polyester, polyamide or a blend thereof.

Preferably the second layer and third layer in combination are rendered substantially capable of enclosing aqueous material by closing any or all surfaces and gaps; for example joins, stitches or fastenings with at least one waterproofing material selected from the range of: (a) the waterproofed third textile layer itself, (b) waterproofing treatment applied to stitches that traverse the third layer 155 and (c) seam sealing of the edges of the third layer; said waterproofing treatment selected from a range including a silicone impregnated tape, a tape impregnated with the plastics polytetrafluorethane (PTFE), including a heat-sealable tape; a silicone -rich paint, or a water- repellent silicone ink.

Preferably the bra, thanks to use of stretchable textiles and absence of plastic films, is capable of 160 conforming to the breast shapes of the body of the person wearing the undergarment.

Preferably each absorbent barrier is shaped in three dimensions resembling a cone shape or the like in order to, when in use, comfortably contain a breast, while extending for at least a minimum distance over the skin around the nipple of the breast.

In another aspect, the first layer (101) is comprised of a fabric known as "quick dry" functional 165 polyester.

Preferably, the first layer also includes fibres of elastane.

Optionally, the third layer (103) and the fourth layer (104) are the same layer.

In a further aspect, the second layer (102) is selected from a range including cotton towelling, microfiber towelling, and a tufted cotton fabric.

170 Preferably the second layer (102) is provided in an amount capable of absorbing a defined amount in a range of between at least 5 and at least 150 ml of an aqueous liquid in each cup.

In another aspect, the invention provides a range of styles of garment, the range including a nursing bra, a sports nursing bra, and a nursing bra integrated with a sports top; all including the waterproofed barrier within each cup of the bra.

175 In a further aspect, either cup of the bra may be opened at a reclosable fastener for nursing a baby by providing the baby with access to a nipple; the breast is supported for nursing purposes, when the cup is opened, by a "shutter" arrangement of several textile bands, each of which passes under the cup and is secured at a distant beginning and at a distant end but not on to each other where they cross, thereby providing a restricted, yet expandable while comfortable opening; each textile band 180 being elastic or having an elasticated edge adjacent the breast.

In an option, neither of the cups includes a specific reclosable fastener for nursing purposes.

In a second broad aspect the invention provides a method for manufacture of the re-usable absorbent nursing and activity bra as claimed in claim 7, including the steps of forming the water-repellent textile into a shape conforming with a desired shape for a bra cup, applying, by dipping or spraying, 185 a watery emulsion comprised of about 20% of fluoroalkyl acrylate polymer and 80% water by weight to the shape, and fixing the polymer into place by heating the shape to about 200 degrees Celsius on to the fabric for a duration of about 60 seconds.

In a related aspect the absorbent barrier relies upon the fluoroalkyl acrylate copolymer for retention of its waterproof yet gas-permeable properties after washing the entire garment in a hot wash cycle 190 at over 70 degrees Celsius.

Optionally the absorbent layer in the absorbent barrier includes bound substances selected from a range comprising antibacterial substances including colloidal silver, and deodorant substances selected from a range including activated carbon.

In a second broad aspect, the invention provides a range of styles of bra garment, the range including 195 a nursing bra, a sports nursing bra, and a nursing bra integrated with a sports top; all including the absorbent barrier within each cup of the bra

In one option, either cup of the bra may be opened at a reclosable fastener for nursing a baby by providing the baby with access to a nipple; the breast is supported for nursing purposes, when the cup is opened, by a "shutter" arrangement of several textile bands, each of which passes under the 200 cup and is secured at a distant beginning and at a distant end thereby providing a restricted, yet expandable while comfortable opening; each textile band being elastic or having an elasticated edge adjacent the breast.

In a related aspect the sports variants allow a nursing mother to engage in appropriate activity or exercise during and after rehabilitation after giving birth, even though the mother may have heavy 205 and possibly leaking breasts during lactation, while permitting discreet breast-feeding if required.

In a related aspect, the breast is supported for nursing purposes, when the cup is opened, by a "shutter" arrangement of several textile bands, each of which passes under the cup and is secured at a distant beginning and at a distant end thereby providing a restricted, yet expandable while comfortable opening.

210 Preferably each textile band is elastic. Preferably each textile band has an elasticated edge adjacent the breast.

PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The description of the invention to be provided herein is given purely by way of example and is not to be taken in any way as limiting the scope or extent of the invention. Throughout this specification

215 unless the text requires otherwise, the word "comprise" and variations such as "comprising" or "comprises" will be understood to imply the inclusion of a stated integer or step or group of integers or steps but not the exclusion of any other integer or step or group of integers or steps. Each document, reference, patent application or patent cited in this text is expressly incorporated herein in their entirety by reference. Reference to cited material or information cited in the text should not

220 be understood as a concession that the material or information was part of the common general knowledge or was known in New Zealand or in any other country.

DRAWINGS

Fig 1: is a diagram of the layers used in the absorbent barriers in all versions of the bra.

Fig 2: shows constructional details.

225 Fig 3: shows a front view of a nursing bra.

Fig 4: shows a rear view of the nursing bra.

Fig 5: shows a front view of an absorbent bra.

Fig 6: shows a rear view of the absorbent bra.

Fig 7: shows a front view of a sports-range version of a nursing bra.

230 Fig 8: shows a rear view of the sports-range nursing bra.

Fig 9: shows a front view of a sports-range version of an absorbent bra.

Fig 10: shows a rear view of the sports-range absorbent bra.

Fig 11: shows a front view of a sports -range nursing top.

Fig 12: shows a rear view of the sports-range nursing top.

235 Fig 13: shows a front view of a sports-range absorbent top.

Fig 14: shows a rear view of the sports-range absorbent top.

EXAMPLES

Garments or bras according to this invention have a launderable built-in absorbent barrier, shown as separate layers for the purpose of illustration in Fig 1 that is permanently included in each cup. 240 Each absorbent barrier 100 as used in a cup is comprised of layers. The innermost wettable textile layer 101, comprised of a "quick-dry" and preferably elastic layer is used in contact with the person's breast (not shown). Layers 101 and 102 which is the absorbent layer are both hydrophilic and have a multi-directional enhanced capillary flow or "wicking" property such that watery liquids including milk, and water (sweat) are drawn into the layer and can travel in any direction through

245 the thickness, or across either or both layers, as shown by the cross-arrow symbols. The effect of the absorbent layer 102 is to draw liquids away from the skin. Layers 101 and 102 are in contact with each other, even though the diagram shows a narrow space for clarity.

The hydrophilic and wettable absorbent layer 102 is preferably comprised of an unwoven mass, or a structured textile such as cotton fibre, or a microfiber, in an amount selected in order to absorb

250 liquid, such as milk or sweat. Layer 102 is manufactured with an appropriate shape and volume for use as part of a bra cup and a corresponding predictable or rated capacity, which can be stated in miUilitres, for effective retention of absorbed liquid. Note that the Applicant's designs do not cater for removal of the absorbent material as a pad, as a separate item. The preferred absorbent material is selected from a range including "cotton tufting", "cotton towelling", or preferably "microfiber

255 towelling". The microfiber may be non-woven. More than one layer of absorbent material may be included as a manufacturing, or shaping optimisation. Microfiber tends to reduce in volume a little when wetted, so that the wearer's breast outline does not expand when absorbtion takes place.

The waterproofed layer 103 is likely although not necessarily in contact with the absorbent layer 102. Layer 103 has been modified to have a property of opposing the passage of liquid (as at 108)

260 but of allowing the passage of gases especially water vapour (shown as dotted lines 107.) In contrast, prior-art garments usually employ a thin polyurethane sheet or the like as a waterproofing barrier which also has a significantly reduced permeability to gases include water in the vaporised state. Gas permeability is claimed by a number of prior-art publications in this field but has hitherto been small. In the present invention, layer 103 is comprised of preferably a woven, or a knitted

265 textile, all fibres of which have been treated with a water repellent substance 108 having a low surface function. As a result a water droplet is not able to squeeze between fibres comprising the mesh of the textile, but any gas can pass through, whether it forms by evaporation within the wicking layer 101, the absorbent layer 102, or at an outwardly facing surface within waterproofed layer 103. Test data according to BS 7209-1990 indicates that the Applicants' example 100%

270 polyamide textiles or 88% polyester, 12% polyamide blend samples lose only about 5-10% of gas permeability after the waterproofing treatment, while losing all of their water permeability. Feel, flexibility and elasticity are substantially unaffected. The waterproofing treatment 108 enforces unidirectional flow of liquid, when in use. Water can pass though only if it becomes water vapour. One effect leading to loss of water from the absorbent

275 layer is a result of the wearer's breasts being warmer than the external environment (to the right of the drawing. As a result, water vapour tends to evaporate away from the warmer skin, passing through the waterproofed layer, and over time the bra has more effective capacity for liquid. Bidirectional flow in the first and second layers is used during laundering, when liquids soaked into the innermost, absorbent material mingle with laundering water and surfactants and may leave the

280 interior of the bra to the left, as indicated by the left-facing arrowheads on arrows 105. During drying the remaining water is withdrawn from the absorbent material and is dissipated through the innermost layer, or, as vapour, through the waterproof layer.

Liquids are drawn away from the skin through the innermost, wicking layer 101 and into the hydrophilic absorbent layer 102. That movement is aided by body heat because Over time, some or 285 all of the water held in the absorbent layer may evaporate and can escape from the bra through the vapour-permeable waterproofing layer. At the same time, the preferred waterproofing treatment applied during manufacture to layer 103 has the effect of repelling liquid water that approaches spaces in between woven or knitted fibres of the selected textile thereby rendering the textile waterproof and water (including sweat and milk) cannot escape when in the liquid form.

290 The waterproofed layer 103 of the or each absorbent barrier is comprised of one or perhaps two non-wettable, gas-permeable waterproofed panels preferably comprised of a waterproofed textile such as - for this preferred embodiment - a woven polyester or polyamide. Preferably the fibre is tightly woven so that the waterproofing process can coat all interwoven fibres with a hydrophobic material, thereby repelling watery liquids while passing gases including water vapour through

295 unfilled spaces between the fibres. Tight weaving enhances the waterproof property which may be viewed as a water-repellent coating over the warp and weft of the textile. At this time, experimentation with looser weaves is continuing. The preferred treatment is presently applied to woven textiles including polyesters with elastane such as those known as "two-way stretch". A treated panel or cup is stretchable without loss of waterproof properties. The process provides a

300 translucent or transparent result so that selected colours or patterns, if any, will remain visible in the finished product after the waterproofing treatment. The ability to provide the users with a garment of pleasing or aesthetic appearance is highly desirable. The resulting waterproofed textile retains a soft handle, does not rustle (unlike prior-art garments including polyurethane films) and has a long life. 305 The preferred waterproofing method (see below) can be applied over the colours of a printed fabric material without detracting from the visual appearance of the printed fabric, thereby saving weight, cost and reducing insulation. For the present embodiment, the barrier layer 103 is covered by a decorative layer 104 such as lace, closely resembling the external appearance of a conventional bra. Sports tops (see below) tend not to include lace; instead they comprise textiles in one or more

310 aesthetically acceptable colours and weaves or knits. One option is to combine layers 3 and 4, with a suitable textile.

The preferred waterproofing method, based on that of PCT/NZ2015/000025, comprises application of a watery emulsion of a fluoroalkyl acrylate or equivalent by dipping, then fixing the composition using heat. More particularly, a preferred continuous process uses UNIDYNE TG-410C, (Daikin

315 Industries, No.8 Jinyu Road (West) Advanced Materials Industrial Park, Changshu, Jiangsu 215522, China) comprising an emulsion of fluoroalkyl acrylate copolymer 10-20%, with 3-5% tripropylene glycol, less than 5% emulsifiers, and water. A bolt of textile is unspooled and drawn by rollers through a vat and past a drying/fixing station before being taken up on a driven roller. The heat fixing step comprises application of hot air blown at about 200 degrees Celsius on to the

320 fabric for a duration of about 60 seconds. About 5 grams per square metre of waterproofing material (as dry weight) is added to the textile in a single pass.

PCT/NZ2015/000025 describes the waterproofing method when adapted for flat sheet materials such as textiles. For the present application, each absorbent barrier is preferably shaped during manufacture into a dome or a cone shape or the like; in accordance with the cup design of 325 conventional bras in order to comfortably contain a breast within, while at least the absorbent layer

101 extends for at least a minimum distance over the skin around the nipple of the breast. The waterproof layer should also conform.

The cups can be shaped by shirring around the bottom of each cup so that the cup will be shaped around the breast. Optionally the cups can be shaped by using a seam across the cup and above the 330 nipple in order to avoid irritation. All such seams shall be waterproofed in order to prevent "wicking" of liquid past the waterproof layer along threads or needle holes. The outer fabric, the absorbent microfiber, and the "quick dry" layers may be heat moulded.

It may be useful to vary the outer dimensions of the absorbent layer in relation to the inner and the barrier layers, for better concealment of function. It may be appropriate to also shape the thickness 335 of the absorbent layer rather than use a single thickness throughout, for reasons of function and appearance. A waterproof layer 103 for a custom-designed cup could be first made using a woven fabric cut in a particular outline in order to form, after stitching, a curved cup. That technique will be known to those skilled in the art. The invention includes the steps of waterproofing seams, if required, and of

340 waterproofing the assembled layer 103 individual units already moulded to shape by dipping in a vat of fluoroalkyl acrylate as previously described, treating the components as individual items rather than within a continuous sheet. The units might then be passed through pinch rollers or an equivalent, or centrifuged, or blotted for removal of excess emulsion, then heat fixed, and finally being included in a bra being assembled (again done with care to prevent the possibility of escape

345 of liquid from the absorbent mass 102 to the exterior, bypassing the waterproofed textile 103. In another approach, the fluoroalkyl acrylate emulsion may be sprayed on to individual shaped absorbent barrier portions 103.

The waterproofed woven textile does not lose any stretchable properties. It should be noted that bras made according to the present invention do not have any restriction as to shape imposed by use 350 of a prior-art flat plastics film. As described elsewhere, during construction the waterproof barrier may be sealed such as with a silicone tape to prevent leakage through any sewn seam, in order to provide a reliable container for the absorbent layer.

Many style variations may be required in order to accommodate the plethora of individual body shapes, fashion requirements, and taste.

355 Assembly preferably includes use of waterproofing techniques wherever stitching through the barrier layer is used. All stitches passing through the waterproof barrier layer 103 are sealed in order to prevent wicking of liquids to the exterior from within the absorbent layer by applying a covering of preferably a heat-sealable water-repellent silicone tape, having a coating of hot- melt adhesive on one side, along the length of the seam and on the inner side, adjacent the waterproofed layer and

360 hence beneath the outer surface of the garment. Options include a silicone-impregnated and therefore water-repellent sealing tape, or a tape including polytetrafluorethane (PTFE), a heat- sealable tape; a silicone-rich and therefore water-repellent paint, or a water-repellent silicone ink.

The four layers have a complementary function within the cups of a bra, serving as an "absorbent barrier". The innermost wicking layer 101 draws liquids away from the nipple or skin into the 365 absorbent layer 102 in order to keep the skin as dry as possible. The waterproofing layer 103 seals the contents of the absorbent layer in place, so preventing outer clothing from becoming wet or stained from milk or perspiration leaking through the bra from inside to outside. Note that the high water vapour permeability of the waterproof layer 103 allows some drying to occur during a period of time by evaporation, thereby extending the capacity of the bra to hold a slowly acquired volume 370 of liquid before it becomes uncomfortable. The outermost layer 104 of the bra has a decorative purpose, although if it is a coherent woven layer it may also be the layer that receives the waterproofing treatment.

All Styles of the top or bra including the absorbent barrier assembly are intended to be repeatedly washable and reusable without disassembly. It is possible to launder the garment in a washing

375 machine at a high or bactericidal temperature of at least 70 degrees Celsius several hundred times or more, without affecting the functionality of the impregnated fluoroalkyl acrylate fixed into a woven textile as the selected waterproofing means 103. Note that for tops or bras, a cold wash and rinse, perhaps followed by a machine spin-dry if a washing machine is available is preferred as a first step, to avoid "heat-setting" milk proteins into the absorbent material of the garment. That step

380 is followed by a hot wash and rinse at the bactericidal temperature. Optionally, since milk may give rise to odours especially if bacteria are present, the wettable absorbent layer includes bound antibacterial substances selected from a range including colloidal silver, or bound deodorant substances selected from a range including activated carbon. Alternatively the garment may be soaked from time to time in an effective yet "baby-safe" disinfectant such as sodium hypochlorite

385 and sodium chloride solution.

The "quick dry" layer 101 allows water to pass in either direction, so the absorbent layer 102 can relinquish the absorbed liquid to the inside during drying. Drying is assisted since the waterproof outer woven textile 103 is permeable to water vapour. Dryness is best assessed by weight since the "quick dry" layer tends to feel dry regardless.

390 Preferably none of the materials selected for use in these garments are allergenic. A "super soft quick-dry" functional fabric lining is preferred against the skin and preferably it is elastic.

The textile selected for the waterproofed layer may be any knitted or woven, and stretchable textile. It should be coloured, dyed or printed, if needed, before waterproofing.

Range of Styles of Garment. The invention embodying two copies of the absorbent barrier, one 395 for each breast, is provided in a range of styles, as described below. A nursing bra can be a "nursing bra", a "sports range nursing bra" and a "sports range shutter-frame nursing top". The same styles are also provided as "absorbent bras". In addition, the bra may be made in (a) a range of absorbent capacities, (b) for a range of breast sizes (and weights - or quality of inherent body support) and (c) for a range of body sizes - leaving aside colours and appearance changes. Preferably the bra or top, 400 by virtue of the stretchable textiles, is capable of conforming through the day to the shape of the body of the person wearing it. Refer to Fig 2, showing construction of a "shutter frame" nursing bra which is one of the options for this invention. Fig 2 shows a left side (the wearer's left side) as a frontal view with the cup removed. Shoulder straps 201 are made of conventional strap materials. The strap may be a non- 405 elastic textile, may be slightly elastic or functionally slightly elastic, depending on what it is connected to, or may be an elastic textile, optionally concealed under a stretchable lace. As shown, the strap is preferably widened especially over the shoulders to provide better comfort. The strap is stitched to a corner of the curved median "V" panel 206 which includes a securing stitch 205 in the outer edge 203. There is a short strap 207 terminating at a removable one-handed top clasp 210 for 410 the cup, attached to or near to the end of the shoulder strap. The "V" panel has an elastic ventrolateral edge 204 across a nursing opening. Another partially concealed panel 208 extends from the inner edge 205 of the V panel, sideways and outward, and is connected at the side of the bra, where there is a seam joining the front and the back panels of the bra to the back panel of the nursing bra. It has an elastic ventromedial edge 209 extending beyond the nursing opening. 205 is 415 part of a "quick-dry" fabric lining. The lower curved edge of the bra cup opening is occupied, when in use, by a lower edge of the bra cup itself (see 100 in Fig 3). The combination of 204 and 208 resembles the construction of a camera shutter or iris, wherein blades surround and define an opening. Small sideways movement will enlarge the opening. The construction provides a comfortable, soft, elastically expandable or "variable- size" closable opening through the nursing 420 bra (and variants see below) through which the breast can be exposed when nursing, because the corners of the aperture may slide over each other, being not directly attached to each other.

The shutter design is believed to be novel, at least in the absorbent and nursing bra subject area. When cut, panels 206 and 208 have a longer inner cup edge. That edge is then shortened and shaped by adding a soft elastic band and a zigzag stitch is used. That allows the panels to expand in the 425 directions of the arrows thus allowing for a enlargement of the breast, or to contract if the breast becomes smaller. Examples of the specific textile materials used are quick-dry or bamboo, with a bias tape along the edges 204 and 209 that contain rubber elastic or an equivalent. The zigzag stich is used to attach the bias tape to the textile.

A complete "shutter frame nursing bra" is shown from the front (Fig 3) and from the back (Fig 4). 430 A cup 100 (see sectional view of Fig 1) having an eyelet 301 for connection to the top clasp 210 is shown released on the wearer's left side. The cup is clasped closed (100A) on the right side. Tension within the cup arising from breast support passes from the stitch line beneath the cups to clasp 210, while the elasticity of the closed cup provides support for the breast within. Boundaries of the "shutter" are shown as dashed lines where concealed. Meanwhile the absorbent barrier of the cup prevents leakage from passing through the cup. The extended "V" panel 206 connecting the two cups across the midline varies according to style.

In an option, the example of Fig 2 uses a bamboo textile lined with quick-dry. The example of Fig 5 will have lace, lined with bamboo textile or quick-dry. The quick-dry textile as previously described is capable of wicking perspiration toward the absorbent material in the cups, or allowing it to evaporate. In Fig 4, as viewed from the back, a back panel 402 in two halves is separable and re-closable at an extended 5 x 5 hook and eye back closure 403. Optionally a 3 x 5 hook, or other fastening means may be used, as known to those skilled in the relevant arts. The preferred fastening means allows for changes in body shape during the nursing period. The extended "V" panel 206 connects the two cups across the midline. Each shoulder strap 201 terminates at a strap hook connected to a fabric eyelet 401, at which the strap length may be permanently adjusted. A mother would wear this garment when at home, so she can conveniently nurse a baby, or she might wear it when away from home, although not expecting strenuous physical activity. That is dealt with in later examples.

Figs 5 and 6 show an absorbent bra, without provision for releasing the cups for nursing purposes but otherwise like the bra of Figs 3 and 4. For that version nursing is not excluded. The shutter frame structure and the clips are not used in the absorbent bras. Each cup includes the absorbent barrier 100 as described in relation to the section of Fig 1. A mother may wear this garment when not at home or for some reason is without her baby, so that any inadvertent discharge is taken up by the absorbent barriers. If necessary, an absorbent bra can be replaced during the day by a spare one, and the used one is packed into an impermeable bag for later laundering, or rinsed out in cold water and dried. A mother ceasing to breast-feed while weaning her baby would also use this garment until lactation stops. A person (of either sex) enduring the disease galactorrhea or other forms of discharge from the chest may also use a garment having these design principles possibly without a developed cup shape.

A complete "sports range shutter frame nursing bra" is shown from the front (Fig 7) and from the back (Fig 8). Note the presence of the "elastic-edged shutter strip" 208 in fig 7. It is based on the nursing bra of Figs 3 and 4. Differences include (a) the front panel 701 is extended upward over the chest for discrete wear, and for bounce reduction during exercise; and (b) a second set of straps 802 and median catch 803 are located at the back -as well as the lower back catch 403. The median catch 803 is a centre back hook. It allows the bra to easily be put on and twisted around the body. A mother would wear this garment when undertaking activities while remaining ready to feed her baby. Activities could include housework, walking, jogging, and exercising at a gymnasium. Different cultures have notably different reactions to someone breast-feeding in public. A complete "sports range absorbent bra" is shown from the front (Fig 9) and from the back (Fig 470 10). It is quite similar to the bra of Figs 7 and 8 except that there is no provision for opening either cup. A mother would wear this bra when undertaking activities while away from her baby, or when weaning the baby. Activities could include housework, walking, jogging, and exercising at a gymnasium.

A front view (Fig 11) and a back view (Fig 12) show a "sports range shutter frame nursing top" 475 having a built-in bra. Note the presence of the "elastic-edged shutter strip" 208 in Fig 8. Differences from Figs 7 and 8 include (a) provision of side panels 1102 and 1104 covering the torso, (b) absence of a clasp at the back since there is a centre back panel 1105.

In one option, the top line overlap 1101 conceals the hooks for the two cups, so that nobody else can see that it is a nursing bra. The front panel edge 701 is extended upward over the chest for

480 discrete wear and for bounce (separate motion of the breast during body movements ) reduction. A preferred textile for panels 1103 and 1105 is a super soft quick-dry functional fabric for extra breathability. An option for the side panels such as 1104 is a bamboo textile. A mother would wear this garment when undertaking activities while remaining ready to feed her baby. Activities include housework, walking, jogging, and the gymnasium. Different cultures have different reactions to

485 someone breast-feeding in public. Since this garment is a top, it can be styled with appealing or fashionable patterns, colours, and textures.

The inventor has interviewed some nursing mothers. They have complained about the absence of nursing sports-top options since they have to wear a nursing bra, a sports bra over it, and then a top over them since there is no combination sports nursing top on the market. If one was available, the 490 mothers could avoid having to undress all the layers in public when breast-feeding, for example.

A front view (Fig 13) and a back view (Fig 14) show a complete "sports range absorbent top" having a built-in bra. As for the other absorbent Styles, the non-openable cups 100 include the "absorbent barrier" multi-layer construction designed for retaining leakage from the breasts. A mother would wear this garment when undertaking activities either away from or accompanied by her baby, or 495 when weaning the baby. Activities could include housework, walking, jogging, and exercising at a gymnasium. Since this garment is a top, it can be styled with appealing or fashionable patterns, colours, and textures.

VARIATIONS

The Applicants already produce a range of shorts or panties having absorbent and liquid-retaining

500 properties as are suitable for use by incontinent persons. Childbirth often initiates temporary bladder leakage. The Applicants shall produce matching styles for both bras and panties, where either the bra, or the panties, or both include the absorbent barrier structure to a suitable capacity.

Note that the Applicant's designs do not cater for removal of the absorbent material as a separate item from inside a pouch, for example.

505 For the present embodiment, the waterproof layer is covered by a decorative layer 104 such as of lace, closely resembling the external appearance of a conventional bra.

The absorbent bras could be used for absorbing sweat as opposed to the main focus above, of absorbing milk.

Wire supports are an option in bra design which can be applied in any of the Styles described and 510 shown herein.

The Application described three or four separate layers. It would be possible to create textiles in which more than one of the so far separate functions are combined, for simpler manufacture, for instance. A polyester or polyamide with elastane innermost layer 101 may be combined with a thick polyamide backing 102 for absorbtion, and the waterproofing layer 103 may include 515 decorative aspects. It may be possible to spray a waterproofing layer on to an outer surface of the absorbent layer. That would reduce the number of layers.

RESULTS AND ADVANTAGES

1. The invention provides a range of comfortable and shape-conforming (since they include elastic material) maternity bras having sufficient capacity for absorbing fluids. The bra safely traps

520 inadvertent leaks of milk inside a waterproofed layer so that the person's outer clothing cannot be contaminated. The absorbent barrier provided by the invention will improve the confidence of nursing mothers when in public.

2. The waterproofing capability is included in a flexible, vapour-permeable woven textile preventing seal breakdown. Vapour permeability and wicking together ensure the skin is not damp

525 and is less likely to become infected by microbes.

3. A designer or manufacturer is not restricted by the flat nature of a polyurethane type film. According to this invention, waterproofing is applied to the fibres of a textile selected to become the waterproofed layer and does not comprise a separate layer sealed to the textile, before or after it is shaped into a bra cup.

530 4. Effective and reliable containment within the garments of liquids in particular, and also control of possible odours represent achievement of design goals. 5. Some designs of the maternity bra are optimised for daily use, such as by a mother who works in an office yet at other times is nursing her baby at home.

6. Some designs of the maternity bra are optimised for use by active persons, such as by a 535 mother who uses exercise to restore her body and muscle tone after giving birth, while she is still nursing her baby at home, or out walking, or in between exercises.

7. Absorbent yet non-nursing options are for use by a mother who is weaning her baby.

8. Garments look like regular bras or maternity bras, even if seen as contours visible through overlying garments. Bulk is reduced in part by use of advanced textiles.

540 9. The shutter design provides more comfortable and more easily accessible support means for the nursing mother's breasts; the size of which may vary through the day as well as over time.

10. Absence of rustling noises and matching styles of bras and panties means that the wearer use the garments without embarrassment.

11. This clothing can be simply dropped into a washing machine, washed, spun, and dried. 545 Drying can be assessed by weight or by feel.

Finally it will be understood that the scope of this invention as described and/or illustrated herein is not limited to the specified embodiments. Those of skill in the relevant fields will appreciate that various modifications, additions, known equivalents, and substitutions are possible without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention as set forth in the following claims.

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