Early designs ideas created by 25 middle schoolers.

MN Impact: Culturally Sensitive Athletic Wear

June 1, 2016

 Issue (Who cares and Why)

A local community center built in the heart of Minneapolis' Somali neighborhood was struggling to encourage athletic activity among the young girls in the community. Simply put, traditional dress for Muslim girls and sports do not mix.

 What has been done

Researchers at the University collaborated with the Girls Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports program along with local coaches, community members and the girls themselves, to create practical sportswear for Muslim girls and women that would allow them to participate in sports while maintaining their religious and cultural values of modesty.

Researchers incorporated ideas from the girls into concept designs that were then voted on by their families and community members. Four prototypes were created that featured long sleeves, athletic pants, knee-length skirts and a more form-fitting version of the hijab headscarves worn by Muslim women.

Results

The girls were thrilled with the results and modeled the creations at a fashion show attended by their families and community members. The new uniforms allow them to practice and participate in team sports without being encumbered by their clothing and thus play to their full potential. Beyond allowing these girls to play unencumbered, this project has the potential to drastically impact the physical and psychological health of Muslim girls in Minnesota and around the world.

Significantly, the design is a uniform version of clothing traditionally worn by Muslim girls and women. It can be easily adapted to use team-appropriate colors, logos and design elements making it an excellent option for other communities with large Muslim populations.

A licensing agreement with startup company is in the works to produce the garments on a national scale.

Poster showing early wish list for new uniforms.

An early wish list for uniforms included requests for glitter, unicorns and rainbows but also practical needs like washable, breathable, proper movement and coverage.