It Gets Better With Age: Naturally-Dyed Hot Yoga Apparel

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Green, Denise
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International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) Annual Conference Proceedings
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

The first national meeting of textile and clothing professors took place in Madison, Wisconsin in June 1959. With a mission to advance excellence in education, scholarship and innovation, and their global applications, the International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) is a professional and educational association of scholars, educators, and students in the textile, apparel, and merchandising disciplines in higher education.

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What if our active wear clothing improved with wear and with age? What if our bodies did the same? The impact of time, gravity, ultraviolet light, washing, and other forces are typically perceived as detrimental to our clothing and bodies, but this naturally-dyed yoga ensemble forces us to re-imagine the opportunities that frequent use, laundering, soiling, and consistent hot yoga practice may provide. With wear, human sweat, and washing the colors have become deeper and more robust. Rather than remaining static, this design actually gets better with age. "It Gets Better With Age" is an experiment in contact-dyeing plant matter onto a synthetic active wear fabric (80% nylon, 20% Lycra spandex) for the design of hot yoga clothing for women over the age of 50. Hatha yoga is the physical practice of yoga asana (bodily postures). Originating on the Indian subcontinent thousands of years ago, yoga is a mind-body discipline that includes seven other limbs in addition to hatha yoga asana; however, hatha is the branch of yoga most widely adopted in the Western world. Hot yoga is a type of hatha yoga, sometimes referred to Bikram Yoga, and is a set series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises performed over a 90-minute period in a room heated to 105F/40C and 40% relative humidity. Even hot yoga has been lauded as a safe and productive exercise regime for older adults, who now account for an increasing portion of the yoga practicing populace. According to an ISPOS Public Affairs survey conducted in collaboration with the Yoga Journal and the Yoga Alliance in 2016, approximately 38% of all yoga practitioners were over the age of 50. A study by Sunyang Park found that this demographic was disappointed by the availability of “appropriate” yoga clothing and frustrated by the “commercialized yoga wear market that opposes the philosophy of yoga” (Park 2016: 46-7). A smaller study of yoga practitioners in Finland found increasing desire for sustainable yoga clothing across all ages (Jason 2014). This design is therefore a necessary innovation that addresses the social, aesthetic, and functional desires of the hot yoga community, particularly the growing population of people over the age of 50 who practice yoga for improved mental and physical health. This design also creates opportunity for future research on the mordanting effect of human sweat on natural dyes over time, the impact of repeated laundering and wear, and development of large-scale industrial processes for contact dyeing with plant matter. With future research, this design would ideally shift from the category of limited production (LP) to mass market (MM) and would be targeted to the growing number of yoga practitioners over the age of 50.