clothing designers: please give us "performance wear" for everyday activities | The Old Farmer's Almanac

A Plea For Clothing That Performs

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Today, athletic clothing has come a long way. You can find affordable sports clothes that are lightweight, flexible, wicking, supportive, and comfortable. I wonder: why can't we have affordable everyday “fashion” clothing that performs as well?

For example, look at what the sports designers have developed:

  • Lightweight garments that contain built-in, supportive underwear.
  • Fabrics that wick sweat away from the body, so we don’t have to suffer in wet, clammy tops, pants, or socks.
  • Garments that simultaneously hold in heat but keep skin cool.
  • Garments that flex and bend everywhere our bodies flex and bend.
  • Flexible “compression” garments that squeeze tight help keep joints and muscles warm, reduce pain,(perhaps) help prevent injury, and hasten recovery from hard efforts.
  • Tops and bottoms that still fit well even after we gain or lose a conventional size or two.
  • Gussets in the crotch and armpits, discreet pleats across the back that prevent chafing, facilitate easy movement.
  • Pants, shorts, and tops that dry in a flash, scrunch into tiny spaces, and never need ironing.
  • Many garments that lack buttons, clasps, zippers, or other fussy fasteners, so they pull on and off with ease
  • Discreet zippers in the armpits (“pit-zips”) or elsewhere that open to allow airflow.
  • Reflective fibers woven into the fabric that don’t show much during the daylight hours, but that glow in the dark to give us visibility at and after dusk.
  • Invisible pockets for holding keys, credit and ID cards, or cellphones, sewn into waistbands, side seams, hems, and elsewhere.
  • Featherweight footwear coutured to the shapes of actual feet that provides great support and a solid grip on rough or slippery surfaces. A lot of these shoes “breathe,” and some stretch to accommodate expanding feet with each footfall. And there’s more: You can wear some of them into the shower for a scrub or toss them in with the wash. And they dry in a jiffy.
  • Vibrant colors (or not) and styles from conservative to outrageous. Some fit like second skins, others drape and flow.
  • Durability. With proper care, they last and last and last.

Often marketed as “performance” wear that enables athletes to go faster, longer, higher, stronger, more flexibly, and into extremes of weather, these clothes offer comfort, full range of movement, support, precision thermal and moisture management, safety, easy care, style, durability, and more.

Why haven’t “fashion” designers latched onto all this magic? Why don’t they take lessons from the sports-clothing designers to help ordinary folks get our best performances from daily life?

  • Why can’t I find performance wear that will take me to graduations, weddings, and conferences? For instance, I envision a knee-length, scoop-necked, ultralight, wicking-fabric dress that pulls on easily, stretches in all directions, and contains its own supportive undergarments. In a flashy print or rich, flattering color. One that drapes and flows.
  • I find myself feeling resentful (not to mention uncomfortable) when I have to put on conventional clothing. Indeed, I try to avoid outings that require it, donning my athletic wear for most occasions.
  • Dentist appointment? Trip to the bank? Shopping? Visiting friends? “Yup, I’m on my way to/from the gym.” Movies? Airline flights? I throw on a longish shirt or sweater over tights. (Tunic over leggings.)

Yes, many retailers that specialize in backcountry sports and other athletic wear do offer a few dresses, tops, skirts, and pants that meet my specifications. But sadly, most are way too skimpy/revealing for the average body and the skirts are altogether too short for anyone over 30. I’ve seen few that would be appropriate for a business meeting or a wedding.

On the other hand, clothing designed for people with disabilities—while easy to put on and take off—is generally frumpy, and doesn’t wick, allow four-way stretch, or reflect at night.

I think there’d be a huge market for diverse clothing lines that featured combinations of most of the advantages I’ve outlined above for sports gear. A few examples:

  • Reflective fibers in children’s clothing could help protect them from oncoming traffic in the early morning or at dusk, and the fabrics’ thermal-management properties would keep them comfortable in either overheated or cold and drafty schoolrooms.
  • Pregnant women's clothes would offer superior comfort and grow along with their bellies.
  • Menopausal women suffering hot flashes would feel comfortable.
  • We’d all save time not having to tuck, button, and clasp.
  • People with arthritic fingers, thumbs, wrists, and shoulders wouldn’t suffer so much pain and discomfort getting dressed.

We often describe the activities of daily life in terms such as sprinting, hurdling, sparring, jumping through hoops, and going long, accompanied by plenty of heavy lifting. Don’t we deserve the clothes to match?

Do you know of any everyday clothes that work for you? Please share.