A New Model for Active Wear

July 15, 2015
A girl models her new active wear.

Making sure that our youth get enough exercise is an ongoing issue. Only one-third of adolescents meet the Surgeon General’s recommendations for exercise, and ethnic minority girls—including those in the Twin Cities’ Somali community—are the least physically active.

After research from the U’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport uncovered barriers keeping East African girls from playing sports, the center’s Chelsey Thul worked alongside the girls and community members to evaluate their needs and to create strategies for increasing physical activity participation.  

Enter the U’s College of Design. Apparel design graduate students Kira Erickson and Mee Jekal and professor Missy Bye worked with Tucker Center researchers Thul, Torrie Hazelwood, and Nicole LaVoi and East African middle school girls to design culturally appropriate active wear.

After sewing the first round of prototypes, the project team hosted an event where the girls modeled the designs they helped create. “The feedback has been really, really positive,” reports Erickson. “The parents like the blue outfits because it reminds them of the Somali sky.” The girls loved the bright colors and patterns. And in addition to looking great, the garments give the girls more freedom of movement and a better opportunity to get more exercise.