When Charity Fox was first getting into the outdoors, women's gear frustrated her. She lists off a few of her beefs: "Poorly fitting hoods that didn’t function properly, cheap fabrics or no female equivalent to a high-end men’s style. I often ended up buying a men’s small to get a better functioning jacket, pant, or gloves—which never fit quite the way I wanted. Women’s colors were pretty terrible too, back then, but women want to look good. I care about the features I’m looking for in a jacket, but if it only comes in pink and purple, that’s not usually a color I would pick." Now Charity is OR's senior technical designer for outerwear, which puts her on the frontline, producing gear for women just like herself—who don't want to sacrifice function to have gear that fits and looks great. And lots has been happening in that department. We asked Charity for the background on what OR's doing go make things better for women in the outdoors. Here's what she said.
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Designing women's gear requires different problem solving than designing men's gear.
"With women’s apparel there is less real estate, so to speak, to use. So it can be a real struggle to have flattering-but-functional pocket placements, especially on the smaller sizes. Women often feel shortchanged when pockets are not large enough, so it’s something we are constantly trying to improve while maintaining the integrity and looks of a design. Fit is always a work in progress, making sure something is long enough to fit beneath a harness or pack hip belt while still allowing you to access and use your pockets or vents."
But the more women are in on designing gear, the better it will get.
"As a female designer and end user I’ve seen a ton of progress. Having people like myself, who are end users, design and build products helps build better things. I understand the activities, the elements you are out in, the challenges or things that drive me crazy while doing an activity that I constantly strive to improve."
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And we listen closely to feedback from real athletes.
"We have female athletes we get great feedback from, as well as discuss new product ideas and how to keep improving things. The past five to10 years has seen a huge focus on women's products. We gets tons of comments about color, the amount and placement of pockets for women, plus sizes as well as petite sizing. ... Ladies are tired of the safe pink and blue options or the color blocked styles are unappealing and a reason not to buy. I hear lots of ladies asking for greens, oranges, and reds—some more classic alpine colors that men often get and women don’t."
Last fall, OR launched an entirely new women's fit.
"We’ve been doing tons of work on perfecting our pant fits so our rise shapes and fit are so much better than they were before. Our fit now is pretty consistent, too, which take a ton of work but with all the work we’ve done in general, women should be buying the same size across all appeal where before we had some things people had to size up or down from their normal size."
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Offering a fully coordinated line—and all the goodies the men get is super imortant.
"We almost always have a women’s equivalent to a men’s style. There are a few exceptions where this does not happen, but to me, this is a big thing. Offering a women’s backcountry ski bib was a big deal to me this past fall. There was a time years back when we were only building Trailbreaker Pants for men, and I kept asking for a women’s version because women backcountry ski too! Now things like that are not even a question. Also, the way we color the line has evolved a lot the past two years ... We offer full kits now, from base layers to mid layers, insulation and outerwear, so we are better able to make sure all layers work together, giving the user a better outdoor experience."
And size really matters.
"We have been increasing our size ranges to fit a broader range of sizes—we're pretty stoked."
Charity's own favorittes from the OR line? "For sure the Hemispheres Bib is my fave this season. I have 35 days in those bibs alone this year!! My Ascendant Hoody, Deviator, and Baja Hoody are also staples, depending what I'm doing. (The Baja has become my indoor hoody this year, as our office is always freezing!)