Culturally Appropriate Active Wear Keeps East African Girls at the Top of Their Game

Only one-third of adolescents meet the Surgeon General’s exercise recommendations. And ethnic minority girls, including those in the Twin Cities’ Somali community, are the least physically active adolescents. Narrative research from the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport revealed unique barriers keeping East African girls from playing sports that could be overcome by collaborating with the girls and their communities.

One design solution? Striped pink tights.


Apparel design graduate students Kira Erickson and Mee Jekal and professor Missy Bye are working with Tucker Center researchers Chelsey Thul, Torrie Hazelwood, and Nicole LaVoi and East African middle school girls to design culturally appropriate active wear.

DSC_1741.jpgAfter sewing the first round of prototypes, the project team hosted an event where the girls modeled the designs. Erickson reported that “the feedback has been really, really positive. 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 them more freedom of movement. “The women keep pulling up their skirts, saying ‘we don’t have to do this anymore!'”

Hazelwood explained that the outfits would make a real difference in keeping the girls active. The girls had already worn them to basketball coached by Jennifer Weber from the Cedar Riverside Community School, and were excited to test them out on the hockey rink and football, soccer, and volleyball fields.


Update: Summer 2015


The girls revealed the garments at a community fashion show on Each participating girl took home the final outfit and a pair of running shoes to test out on the track, field, court, and in her own neighborhood.