Texas Tech designs apparel for oil industry women

By Patrick C. Miller | August 07, 2018

Last year when apparel manufacturer RPS Solutions wanted to create a new oilfield uniform design for Halliburton’s women employees, RPS reached out to Su-Jeong Hwang Shin at Texas Tech University.

Shin is an associate professor and director of apparel design and manufacturing in the university’s College of Human Sciences. She previously used 3D apparel technology—including a 3D body scan and a 3D pattern design system—to develop products and assess fit for retailers including Academy Sports + Outdoors and Under Armour.

Oilfield uniforms for women were a challenge because they’ve typically been designed for men only. Shin partnered with RPS to design the coveralls for Halliburton.

“When RPS expressed concerns with its existing uniform patterns and design that did not fit for everyone, it was interesting to me because this is one of my research areas that I have spent many years in—researching sizing systems and fit solutions for the apparel industry,” Shin said. “I knew what I could do with my expertise in apparel industry sizing systems and apparel technology that would enable mass production and customization.”

Shin began by analyzing the company’s size charts. After scanning the body of a female Halliburton employee, she tested how the company’s previous patterns fit this individual, then simulated a virtual clothing fit using advanced 3D software called 3D OptiTex PDS.

“The size chart was way off from the actual female model,” Shin said. “The company’s previous pattern set was not close to women’s body shapes. Again, these are very common issues in the apparel industry—it’s not only one company’s issue. Developing a good clothing fit for individual customers is a challenge for the whole clothing industry.”

As many people discover when shopping for clothes, clothing from different manufacturers often fits them differently. For Halliburton, Shin recommended different sizes, designs and patterns to revise their size charts for both the aesthetics and functional aspects of clothing for female workers. The company needed patterns that fit women’s body shapes, she explained.

Shin emphasized that, in a potentially dangerous industry such as oil drilling, how a person’s uniform fits is not just a matter of how confident they feel. “Considering safety and hazard, it is important to have functional protective clothing that is flame-retardant and anti-oil, but another very important factor to consider in the uniform is the fit,” she said. “The uniform should fit well so that workers feel comfortable and do not need to adjust clothing while working.”

Color also is important to consider—both for fashion and safety. “Red is feminine, yet functionally visible,” Shin said. “It’s easily noticeable in the oil-field working environment.”

Considering the purpose of uniforms is to be the same, male and female workers can’t wear different colors or styles. “It’s a uniform: Men and women can have the same style of coverall,” she said. “But they still have to have different size charts for men and women because men and women’s body shapes and measurements are different.”