Apparel Designers Develop Clothing to Fit Older Women

By Lang, Susan S. | Human Ecology Forum, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview
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Apparel Designers Develop Clothing to Fit Older Women


Lang, Susan S., Human Ecology Forum


Clothes come in special sizes for wide women, short women, and young women, but none are specially tailored for older women, whose body changes can include a forward head and neck angle, a forward shoulder roll, back curvature, an increase in girth, and a decrease in height.

To help develop clothing that would give older women a better fit, two Human Ecology apparel designers have developed an objective way to analyze fit among older women and create appropriate alternatives in pattern shapes.

"Clothes are made for the upright stance of the 17- to 35-year-old and typically offer a poor fit for the different body proportions found among older women," says Susan Ashdown, assistant professor of textiles and apparel. The reason, she says, is that women's clothing sizes - including misses, women's, petite, junior, and plus sizes - are derived from a 1940s study of 10,000 women, of which only 2 percent were older than age 60. In fact, 92 percent of older women have problems finding clothes that fit well.

Ashdown, with Inez Kohn MS '96, studied the postural changes among older women and how those changes could be incorporated into suit jackets and blazers. Their research is one of the only studies that has looked at how the postural changes in older women affect the fit of clothing.

To analyze fit among older women, the Cornell researchers developed a nylon taffeta jacket with standardized slashes that pinpoint where the garment's stresses are when worn. Slashes were cut in vertical, horizontal, and diagonal directions to the grain. Twelve women between the ages of 55 and 65 - an age group often still in the workplace and needing business suits - were videotaped while wearing the slashed garment and an identical unslashed garment.

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