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When Fashion Meets Function

CMU Fashion Merchandising and Design graduate student Natalie Zainea’s research on the thermal comfort of compression garments will be virtually presented at the International Textile and Apparel Association in November. Under Dr. Pimpawan Kumphai and Dr. Su An’s advisory, Natalie researches the thermal comfort of multi-layer knitted compression garments by utilizing hotplate technology. Compression garments are typically worn during recovery after a medical procedure. They are designed to help patients with blood circulation and provide posture control for children with cerebral palsy. The garments are made with strong elastic and stretchy knit fabric; the fabric combinations vary based on functional needs. 

Natalie tests the thermal comfort levels of different two-layered fabric combinations by using hotplate technology, which can be found in CMU’s Center for Merchandising and Technology lab. Thermal comfort is the temperature where an individual feels content. One may become distracted or uncomfortable if the fabric is too cold or too warm. The hotplate technology tests the permeability or breathability of the fabric combinations. While compression garments are widely used in the medical field, there is limited research on the effects of layering knitted fabric for compressional use. 

Natalie also uses her research on fabric permeability and thermal comfort to design an Alzheimer-friendly garment. She created fashionable and functional prototypes that combine tactile and sensory elements that benefit the wearer. These designs were inspired by her grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s. With the help of her mom, a caregiver, Natalie designed three customizable prototypes that have zippers, velcro strips, and magnetic buttons with the intent of stimulating the wearer. Additionally, her designs include an electronic tracking device at the back of the garment which helps caregivers safely locate the individual. Natalie is enthusiastic about her research on thermal comfort and sensory stimulation and hopeful that her garments will be available in the future.

At CMU We Do Creative, We Do Real World

Story by ORGS intern Hailey Nelson

November 2020