What women want from PPE & workwear

Why female PPE is outdated
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An exclusive interview with Tower’s designer Paula Cannon of fashion design consultancy Pen to Peg. Looking at the challenges women face when given unisex or poorly designed clothing to wear and what they really want from their PPE & workwear.

Why is it important to make PPE & workwear for women?

“Let’s face it, women’s body shapes are totally different to men. And a lot of clothing labelled unisex is clearly designed for men. It’s very uncomfortable to have to wear PPE & workwear that often feels too baggy and long in the arms.

“A lot of female PPE & workwear is outdated for sizing too. The average size of a women in the UK is currently 16, and a lot of the current designs are 50 years old. A big change is needed in the industry in terms of both size and style.”

What have you learnt from talking to women about their PPE & workwear?

“The great thing about talking directly with female employees is that they will tell you exactly what is bothering them. They want to be comfortable, safe, and be happy in what they’re wearing. And the only way you can do that is to ask them what they want.

“It’s also the little alterations that make their job easier that matter to them. It could be a particular type of pocket for an instrument or tool, or even a place to put a tissue. These things always pop up in focus groups and they are always worthwhile to hear.”

What are the considerations when designing women’s PPE & workwear?

“There are a few things, with the fit being not just unisex at number one. Some things can be unisex, but most clothing needs to tailor for each gender. This includes considerations such as flexible materials that stretch, to cater for weight fluctuations throughout the year.

“Sustainability is also a very important topic at the moment, so ensuring you choose PPE & workwear that lasts as long as possible for your employees, helps reduce the need to replace products which are obsolete or unwearable.”

What problems do women encounter with current unisex and female designs?

“I have talked to women who find that unisex clothing does not fit properly around the waist. They also say that the sleeves are too long for them to safely keeps their hands free and sleeves away from machinery, resulting in them needing to pin the sleeves back.

“But one of the most common problems I have heard from women is the lack of pockets on trousers. They simply can’t see why men’s trousers would have pockets and they do not. Women simply want the same practical considerations to be made for women and men.”

What are the main things women want from the PPE & workwear?

“The last thing they want is to be labelled ‘pink’ and stand out. They want to work alongside their male counterparts on the building sites, and engineering rooms, and feel just as comfortable, and most importantly safe, when working.

“Women want their modesty and comfort to be considered as well. They don’t material to be transparent in any way, and to have buttons on the correct side to avoid gaps appearing. Above all, women need to feel confident when they are wearing PPE & workwear.”

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