The score: Thomas Edison 1093, Sassybax founder 1. Edison holds the record for earning the most U.S. patents, but the male-dominated field of inventors has been slowly accommodating innovative women since 1809.
Today about 20 percent of inventors are female, a far cry from when Mary Dixon Keis received the first patent issued to a woman nearly 200 years ago. Keis' patented process for weaving straw with silk or thread single-handedly helped to boost the nation's hat industry in the early 1800s. Today, another female inventor's new weaving process is also giving America a boost -- this time, in the derriere.
Amanda Kennedy, founder of Sassybax shapewear, gained the status of inventor-entrepreneur this month when she received a U.S. patent for the unique knit structure she developed to incorporate into her company's leggings and bottom shapers. Woven with shaping cups to lift, round and separate the buttocks, her Sassybax Leggings and Long Leg Panty add more than a figurative boost to a woman's wardrobe. Like her novel bra line that smoothes a woman's back, these new bottom shapers flatter undercover and fall into the "Why didn't I think of that?" category of inventions.
"A flattened fanny doesn't look toned or sexy, no matter how smooth it is," explained Kennedy about the purpose behind her novel shapers. "Often women need to combat more than pantyline troubles; they need to fight gravity." Sassybax's design incorporates eight distinct knitting techniques woven on customized Santoni machines that are used in the apparel industry to manufacture seamless garments.
Sassybax's new shapers are the latest example of fashion innovations that combine complex technology with creative flair to form big business. Intimate apparel alone is a $9.6 billion industry and growing, especially since shapewear gained renewed acceptance in women's everyday wardrobes.
Kennedy admits that her creations are the result of moments of vanity and decades of a healthy interest in fashion. Her solution-driven designs appear to have also struck a chord with other women well beyond their 20s and with major retailers that carry her line. Some of her notable following includes style experts like Bobbi Brown, Lloyd Boston and Stacy London, and celebrity icons Tyra Banks, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Keira Knightley.
A year after she launched the Sassybax back-smoothing bra line in 2004, Kennedy appeared in a feature spread in Entrepreneur magazine's "Be Your Own Boss" issue. Since then, her products have appeared in Time, InStyle and O, The Oprah Magazine and on NBC's "Today" show. However, the fact that her first U.S. patent is proving to be a commercial success gives Kennedy the greatest thrill to date. "You never know when that 'ah-ha' moment is going to strike, but the key is to recognize it and try to make something tangible out of it."