Project OR winner packs function and fit into pant design

Margaret Mussman's winning prototype addresses the needs of serious female skiers and snowboarders.

Ask any woman who is active in a male-dominated adventure sport (mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, the list goes on) and you'll hear a common gripe: the apparel for women has historically sucked. For years, women-specific designs weren't specific to women at all -- the guiding design principle was to "shrink it and pink it."

But Margaret Mussman is part of the solution. The former competitive snowboarder has won Project OR, a 48-hour apparel design contest that is concurrent with the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, an outdoor gear and apparel trade show that took place last week in Salt Lake City. Six contestants had 48 hours to produce a garment prototype that uses high-performance materials and has a practical outdoor apparel industry application.

This year the challenge was to create a women's ski and snowboard pant. Mussman's design is a kind of hybrid between pants and bibs that's designed for women who spend time both in resorts and in the backcountry. (For the uninitiated, bibs are pants with an over-the-shoulder harness -- think of overalls.)

"There aren't many proper fitting bibs for women," Mussman told SmartPlanet. "And you don't always want to have the bib. So with these you can remove the harness and make them pants for use in a resort. In terms of what is applicable to backcountry, an avalanche beacon is the most important thing to have. But if you are a female with bibs and you're wearing a beacon that's a lot of layers."

To avoid that bulk over the woman's chest, Mussman's design uses an unusual halter style strap, in which the harness sits between the breasts. The beacon is worn inside the harness, which makes it easy for the woman to access. And since she'd be wearing a backpack as well, having the bib straps in a halter style prevents the backpack straps from pushing the bib's hard plastic fasteners into the chest, which is a common complaint among women wearing traditional bibs in the backcountry.

Mussman’s' backcountry bib was comprised of primarily Polartec Neoshell. Polortec Powershield was used to add breathability and range of motion to the harness of the bib, while Schoeller fabrics added detailing and needed abrasion to the lower pant leg. Ideal Fastener Corporation zippers, and buckles and clasps from Duraflex were also used.

Mussman is currently a student of fashion design and product development at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design. Her Project OR win earns her an all-expenses-paid return trip to Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012, and a highlight article in Textile Insight. You can check out her portfolio here.

Image: James Mills Photography

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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