Strategic zippers and a proper fit: Power engineer designs work gear for women

A St. John's woman is designing protective clothing for women that looks the same as men's but is made to fit the female body.

Tenai Norman says one-size-fits-all formula created safety issues

Tenai Norman is the designer behind Gear Up Safety Solutions, a company that has protective clothing exclusively for women. (Facebook/Tenai Norman)

A power engineer from St. John's has designed a line of protective clothing for women who work in the skilled trades.

The coveralls, vests, jackets and more are customized to fit the female physique — unlike the products now on the market, designed for men.

"It's too big, and it's really a safety issue," said Tenai Norman, who found out first-hand during a work term at Country Ribbon.

"The coveralls were so big on the wrist area, the crotch area, the legs, I couldn't walk. It was a man's outfit," Norman said.

"And that's with everything — with gloves, with winter jackets, anything to do with safety is more one-size-fits-all when it's not really true."

Safety gear made for men is often too big and "clunky" for women working in the trades, according to a St. John's designer who is offering alternatives. (CBC)

Norman is branching out into a new career after being laid off from a job in accounting and finance a year ago.

Her designs include nine items — coveralls, jackets and pants, shirts and hoodies — in sizes ranging from XXS to XXXXL in regular, short (under 5 foot 2) and tall (over 5 foot 9).

'No pink in our line'

The colours are the traditional blaze orange and yellow. "There's no pink in our line," Norman said. She said the goal is not to look "sissy" but less "clunky."

There are also some interesting features, such as zippers strategically placed at the back of the coveralls.

"The rear-opening design is something that my sister actually came up with. She's an electrician and she found it really hard when she goes to the bathroom," Norman said.

"You flip up your waistline and you zip down, two fire retardant zippers, you zip down to your thighs, the whole thing flops open."

The specially designed rear opening on the Gear Up coveralls makes for an easier trip to the bathroom. (Gear Up Safety Solutions)

Gear Up Safety Solutions will offer a sneak peek at its designs in an event at The Lantern in St. John's Wednesday night.

Products will also be sold through an online store, and local distributors are picking up the designs as well, Norman said.

The market is small, with women representing eight to 13 per cent of tradespeople.

"But growing," Norman said. "We're going to grow with them."

With files from On The Go