Who are baby boomers? According to Wikipedia (2017), baby boomers are defined as people who were born during the post–World War II baby boom. This group includes people who are between the birth years of 1946 and 1965. As a group, they were identified by Wikipedia as the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation. They could reap the benefits of abundant levels of food, apparel, and retirement programs because they had received peak income levels. Therefore, this generation demonstrates significant annual spending power and discretionary income, which is similar to Green’s (2016) statement regarding influential over-50 segment in the market.
Clothing issues with female baby boomers: body changes, fit, and comfort
Chae and Evenson (2013) mentioned that many active sportswear styles are inappropriate for the mature female body—the garments do not fit well or limit body movement. Zhang (2004) pointed out that older women are a potential market for activewear, but fit is complicated by the physical changes of the aging process. In general, the lack of a standardized sizing system in the current apparel industry results in insufficient industry attention being given to baby boomers’ body changes (Lee et al. 2012). Several physical changes occur when a woman ages: stature becomes shorter, the waistline thickens, the abdomen becomes more prominent, the seat flattens, and there is a forward tilt of the head and shoulders (Chumlea et al. 1984; Goldsberry et al. 1996; Labat and Delong 1990; Reich and Goldsberry 1993; Rosenbald-Walin and Karlsson 1996). Khon (1996) highlighted the importance of providing well-fitting clothing for the older population because of their age-related body changes.
A poor fit has long been a major area of consumer dissatisfaction with ready-to-wear apparel, and this dissatisfaction was particularly evident among women aged 55 and older (Reich and Goldsberry 1993). Although clothing that fits properly is the most important consideration for older women when purchasing apparel, they typically experience difficulty in finding clothing that fits their body shape and styles appropriate for the aging body (Lee et al. 2012). Reich and Goldsberry (1993) found that 69% of women aged 55–74 were dissatisfied with the fit of ready-to-wear garments; indeed, fit was the dissatisfaction factor most commonly reported, especially clothing that was too tight in the abdomen, hips, thighs, waist, and crotch.
Sontag (1985) explained that physical comfort of clothing is “a mental state of physical well-being expressive of satisfaction with physical attributes of a garment such as air, moisture, and heat transfer properties, mechanical properties such as elasticity and flexibility, bulk, weight, texture, and construction” (p. 10). Sontag defined psychological comfort of clothing as “a mental state of psychological well-being expressive of satisfaction with desired affective states, such as femininity, sophistication, having fun, or aesthetic characteristics” (p. 10). Regardless of the type of sport being played, comfort could be one of the important factors in order to raise the performance of players (Mullet 1996). According to Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor (2015), women responded that comfort (46%) is their favorite feature of activewear, followed by fit (17%), style (15%), and breathability (15%).
According to Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor (2012), 77% of consumers indicated that better quality garments are made from natural fibers. This response has gone up significantly from 2008 (69%), 2009 (73%), and 2010 and 2011 (75%). Consumers prefer cotton for many of their apparel items. In fact, 71% of consumers want athletic wear made of cotton or a cotton blend.
Davis (1987) reported that overall preferences for fiber contents were as follows: cotton (38%) and cotton blend (56%) over polyester (14%). Consumers perceived cotton as comfortable and easy to care for (Forsthe and Thomas 1989). Also, Chae and Evenson (2013) indicated that baby boomers often prefer natural fibers such as cotton for their comfort and easy care. In Forsythe and Thomas’ (1989) study, the attributes of comfort, easy care, durability, luxuriousness, and practicality appeared to contribute the most influence to the first major component for cotton. Consumers may love cotton because it feels great against their skin; however, 100% cotton activewear is not ideal because natural fibers like cotton absorb and hold moisture (i.e., sweat; Feiereisen 2016). Many consumers think that cotton’s functional performance in activewear is limited because when cotton gets wet, it becomes heavy and takes a long time to dry. This problem has been solved by a new technology called TransDRY. A Cotton Incorporated investment, TransDRY is a patented, high-performance moisture management application that allows fabrics to wick and spread perspiration as well as or better than most high-tech synthetic fabrics. Consumers get the comfort and softness of their favorite cotton T-shirt along with wicking and fast-drying performance (What is TransDry technology? 2016). This technology is an innovative development that enables cotton to improve its performance utility in activewear. Although cotton remains consumers’ first choice for clothing (Robinson 2009), it does not appear to be manufacturers’ first choice despite the invention of TransDRY.
Teaching approach utilizing the baby boomers age and tennis wear
To create an industry-like approach to product development, the course was specifically designed for the fashion students as follows: (a) working in groups throughout the semester, (b) working with real-world clients (i.e., female baby boomer tennis players), and (c) focusing on the specific product category (i.e., tennis wear made out of cotton/cotton blends).
The baby boomer generation is not one to be ignored because it is the most active, health-conscious demographic in history. Furthermore, baby boomers are social animals who resist the idea of being sedentary (Sprecher 2005). The specific age group born around 1946–1965 affects the market. There are 79 million baby boomers in the United States now, and every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 people will turn 65 (Stone 2011). Therefore, preparing the changing marketplace for baby boomers is an important business for the fashion industry. Are fashion students prepared for a changing marketplace where they are faced with working with real-world clients? Teaching approaches to dealing with baby boomers could be an innovative way to motivate students to become active and confident when working with real-world clients.
Baby boomers are active. According to Stone (2011), the United States Tennis Association (USTA) tennis participation survey revealed interesting results: There are 27.8 million tennis players in the United States, which is about 9% of the overall population. About 3.42 million of that total, or 12%, is 50 and older. Only 2% of all new players, or 101,000, are 50 and older. More than 700,000 USTA members (~9%) are aged 65 and older. “Boomers are the first generation that grew up exercising, and the first that expects, indeed demands, that they be able to exercise into their 70s” (Pennington 2006). Tennis is one of the most popular sports among baby boomers because they can have fun and stay fit.
Baker (1995) described inventing as creating, and innovating as valuing, introducing, and inventing. Lunde and Wilhite (1996) stated, “Innovative teaching is more than the light bulb that comes on when innovation occurs, more than going where no one has gone before” (p. 156). Lunde and Wilhite also mentioned that innovative teaching helps students by making them take responsibility for their own leaning by, usually, relying on active learning strategies and creating a safe classroom environment. Students can be more actively engaged in a class through innovative teaching. In other words, innovative teaching supports students in active learning. The benefits of active learning include better critical-thinking abilities; improved time management, interpersonal, and communication skills; and higher levels of student motivation (Salemi 2002). Innovative teaching can help students to think logically to promote their creativity. Problem-solving learning is student focused rather than instructor focused. Creativity and problem solving are closely related (Banning and Gam 2013). Schools must critically consider both educational programs and environments to encourage and enhance students’ creative problem-solving abilities, skills that can lead to increased activities for students (Im et al. 2015). When teaching emphasizes active engagement, students tend to learn more positively and effectively. Teaching students utilizing a real-world situation with baby boomers in a product development class is one of the most effective teaching methods because it directs them to think beyond the younger target market with which they are mostly familiar. Therefore, identifying a needs assessment and developing tennis wear for female baby boomers could offer students an opportunity to get out of their comfort zone and find solutions for the clothing issues facing female baby boomers who play tennis. These activities keep the students interested and make learning relevant, interactive, and fun by providing both hands-on (e.g., physical) and minds-on (e.g., mental) instruction.
Watkin’s design process
The Watkins design process (1988) is widely used in studies on clothing design (Bye and Hakala 2005; Krenzer et al. 2005; Lamb and Kallal 1992). The process comprises seven steps: (a) accept (identify the problem), (b) analyze (analysis of user needs and wants), (c) define (identify needs), (d) ideate (refine preliminary ideas), (e) select (choose prototype designs), (f) implement (develop prototypes), and (g) evaluate. Bye and Hakala (2005) used the Watkins process as a framework to guide the development of a specific sailing garment for women, and Krenzer et al. (2005) likewise utilized the process to develop a sports bra prototype. Lamb and Kallal (1992) also used the Watkins process to develop a framework for clothing design that incorporated functional, expressive, and aesthetic (FEA) aspects and emphasized developing problem-solving skills.
Pitimaneeyakul et al. (2004) conducted a case study of knitwear product development. According to these authors, Watkins argued that in the design process, designers must employ both cognitive and intuitive approaches. Pitimaneeyakul et al. described a product development procedure that adapted Watkins’s process: accept the problem, analyze variables, define, generate ideas, and select and implement solutions. Implementation includes evaluating the developed designs (Pitimaneeyakul et al. 2004).