When the Chernobyl nuclear power plant ruptured in Ukraine in 1986, Dr. Elena Bodnar was brought in to treat victims of radiation poisoning. Convinced that gas masks could have saved lives, she decided to create a simple, inexpensive device—a bra that converts to two face masks—that would always be at the ready. In 1990, Bodnar immigrated to Chicago. She recently released a garment 20 years in the making: the Emergency Bra ($29.99).
The cup A composite of five filtration layers: a cotton liner, an N95 grade surgical mask, and a 3/8-inch high-density bra cup thermally melded to two nylon liners. It helps filter air pollutants emitted from explosions, fires, volcanoes, bombs, chemical spills, and gas leaks.
The straps Elastic straps attach and reattach to multiple fasteners so the bra can be converted into two masks: one for the wearer and one to share. The versatile straps also make the bra useful for nursing mothers.
Flex inserts The Chernobyl plant unleashed aerosolized radioactive particles of Iodine-131 that joined atmospheric dust, leaving neighbors susceptible to the contaminated air. In Bodnar’s bra, soft wire memory inserts contour to the wearer’s nose bridge for a close-fitting mask that can prevent dust inhalation.
Sizing 32B to 40C—in red only. Sizes A and D are coming soon, along with the colors black and white. “I want women to realize that it’s first and foremost a beautiful, sexy piece of lingerie,” Bodnar says.
Photography: Anna Knott; (bra inset) ebbra.com