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Comfort, Sport, and Style: A Fashion Revolution for Women

October 2023 – Lucinda Abell Black and Clara Sbraccia, Kymira

Theme: Clothing

Comfort, Sport & Style.
A Fashion Revolution for Women

Lucinda Abell Black and Clara Sbraccia from Kymira shed light on clothing fit and comfort for women as they age. They share with This Curious Life the importance of addressing the unique needs of older women in sportswear, particularly in leggings and sports shoes. They share the importance of collaborating with the National Innovation Centre for Ageing’s Voice® community which allowed them to gain real insights and life experiences, ensuring that their products resonate with and serve the older women they aim to empower. Ultimately, Lucinda and Clara advocate for innovation in fashion that empowers individuals throughout their lives. They want to inspire the broader fashion industry to prioritise the comfort and style needs of older women. Who could say no to that? 


Existing research on fashion culture has mainly explored the elite fashion industry, class and the analysis of sub-cultural or counter-cultural groups but little attention has been given to clothing and ageing. Some studies examine body image and consumer culture, but these mainly focus on those aged mid-30s and younger. Clothing also has been shown to differentiate people by age, suggesting that “older people’s clothing choices are limited by moral discourses.” However, limited research explores how attitudes toward clothing and fit requirements change with age, particularly among older women. Clothing companies often base all their sizing on one, usually young, size UK 4 to 8 in-house fitting model and yet, we are an ageing population.  

Women make up a larger percentage of the ageing population and live longer than men. In the young-old age group (65+), quality of life can deteriorate, prompting efforts to encourage healthy aging through physical activities. Muscle loss (sarcopenia) begins in our 30s and abdominal fat increases in post-menopause. Sustaining fitness as women age has lasting benefits for physical health and mental well-being. Despite encouragement, older women experience more pain, injury, and joint issues. Our survey and focus group with Voice participants shared how injuries, often after age 50, hinder exercise participation so too do the lack of well-fitting clothing, especially leggings and sports shoes. 

We were shocked to hear that they had collectively tried over 40 brands of leggings in order to find the right pair that suited them.

The MISFIT project aims to address the unique needs of older women, creating inclusive sportswear and technology  to encourage women 50 and over to keep participating in sport. The MISFITS project is a joint project between Kymira, Ida Sports, CPI and the University of Exeter funded by Innovate UK. One of the products being developed are leggings for women over 50 with specialised infrared fabric and sensors to measure biomechanics via a phone app. This innovation will empower older women to safely engage in sports and exercise while reducing pain and injury risk. 

One crucial aspect of the MISFIT project is human-centered design, which involves actively involving users in the design process. This approach has been instrumental in enhancing the inclusion of women aged 50+ in the sportswear market. The project conducted two national surveys facilitated by Voice, focusing on women in this age group. The first survey targeted women who exercised regularly, while the second aimed to understand the barriers preventing some women from engaging in physical activity. Additionally, in-person focus groups were held at NICA. 

Several common themes emerged from these interactions, primarily related to the changes in women’s bodies as they age. Many women reported purchasing larger-sized leggings to accommodate their post-menopausal waistlines, but these leggings didn’t fit well around their legs and buttocks. Participants also expressed frustration with finding so few leggings that fitted how they would like, despite the wide variety of legging brands available and reported their willingness to try products from smaller, lesser-known companies to find the right fit. We were shocked to hear that they had collectively tried over 40 brands of leggings in order to find the right pair that suited them. From a product design perspective we learned the importance of focusing on waistbands and offering different leg lengths (petite and regular) to cater to the sportswear needs of women aged 50+. 

Listening to and co-designing with the Voice community provided valuable insights. For example, we learned how leggings were often worn during everyday living activities and not just for exercise, with many users expressing strong feelings of dislike towards certain colours and fabric textures, which are popular in the market today. Instead, many of our focus group participants enjoyed wearing loud, brightly printed and patterned leggings for self-expression. The same users, however, also favoured a limited palette of dark block colours to ‘slim and conceal’.  

This again reinforced for us the importance of co-designing with our users and providing them with options and opportunities to see, touch and try the product at all development stages.

A surprising discovery was the positive reception of a mauve fabric during a fitting session, leading to plans to develop leggings in this color. Although we were planning to launch our leggings in a plain, black fabric, we ended up prototyping half of our leggings, for the initial fittings in our second focus group, in a different fabric (mauve) due to availability at the time. We did not expect the participants to like the mauve fabric, however, we were pleasantly surprised to discover they all loved this different colourway, with all of them requesting leggings in this colour compared to black, and so we are now working on developing them in this colour post-project. This again reinforced for us the importance of co-designing with our users and providing them with options and opportunities to see, touch and try the product at all development stages.

In conclusion, the MISFIT project aims to innovate clothing to empower individuals throughout their lives. It aspires to set an example by improving inclusion through human-centered design, prioritizing comfort and functionality in clothing for older women without sacrificing style. We are hoping that our project’s success may inspire other fashion brands to adopt similar approaches and cater to the unique needs of older women in their clothing designs. 

More Information

About Clara Sbraccia, Lucinda Abell Black and KYMIRA

Clara Sbraccia is the Grants and Project Manager at KYMIRA, making sure that all projects are delivered on time and within budget. Clara has a background in fashion and user experiences, which help her to make sure end users and customers are always at the heart of everything we create 

Lucinda Abell Black leads the  design and garment technology at KYMIRA. She initially studied BA (Hons) Fashion Design Technology at the London College of Fashion, followed by an MA in Textiles at the Royal College of Art. Over the last decade, alongside her design work, she has progressed a passion for health and fitness by running her own personal training studio and teaching group exercise classes. She have learnt a lot about participant’s experiences, including with sportswear and smart wearables, which has motivated her to improve inclusion in this sphere. More recently, she studied MSc Sport and Exercise Science and Physiology at Manchester Metropolitan University. The multidisciplined role at KYMIRA allows Lucinda to combine and draw upon all of her academia and work experiences to date. 


KYMIRA creates technology enabled garments, grounded in science, that deliver a competitive advantage in human performance. Its mission is to be at the very cutting edge of smart garment innovation, creating technologies that put the human at the centre. KYMIRA’s bio-responsive range, with IR emitting ceramics embedded into the core of each fibre, allow individuals to enjoy the benefits of infrared exposure 24/7, simply by wearing their apparel. These benefits – such as increased nitric oxide production; temporarily increased local circulation; increased respiration efficiency; increased tissue oxygen levels; pain relief; energy production; muscle relaxation; and thermoregulation – aid, support and enhance human performance and recovery.

Their garment-based bio-tracking range enables lab grade biomechanical data capture at scale in performance environments, without the need for motion capture. This addresses a long-expressed need within elite sport to capture accurate biomechanical data outside of the lab effectively without disrupting training routines.

KYMIRA’s bio- responsive products – which are CE approved and designated a medical device by the FDA - are currently used by 6,000 customers worldwide across industries as diverse as sport, medicine, military, space research and PPE. Its sports offering includes a number of elite organisations such as Premier League clubs Everton and Brighton & Hove Albion, British Cycling, England Rugby, Ireland Rugby, and NFL teams such as the San Francisco 69ers and Houston Texans. Their customer base is extending rapidly within US collegiate sport with Penn State University, Princeton, Rutgers and University of Texas partnering with the brand.

KYMIRA also has a successful ecommerce arm which sells direct to consumers, and prides itself on its ethos of providing everyman human value. That is, KYMIRA sells the same quality and grade infrared across its B2C and B2B channels, with proven optimum effect and products containing medical grade standard technology.

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