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Lessons in Lycra from The Raiderettes

The Oakland Raiders cheerleading squad, the Raiderettes, spend countless hours dancing their way into the hearts of dedicated football fans around the world. Often referred to as Football’s Fabulous Females, these talented young women take their job of boosting team and fan morale seriously.

In April, nearly 300 hopefuls endured the nerve-wracking audition process for a coveted spot on the famous 40-member team. And since then, the chosen few have perfected their high-energy routines consisting of kicks, turns, and leaps.

The Raiderettes have been going strong for over 50 seasons and are known for their iconic uniform. While the design of the uniform is the most important, so is the material and fit. Like many dance and cheer teams, the Raiderettes have been wearing uniforms made from non-stretch and hard-to-wash material. That’s why the Raiderettes asked us to make the uniforms for the members of the 2012 Raiderettes. (A job that we, like the ladies we’re working with, took very seriously!)

We began by updating the uniform’s fabric content to reflect the style, needs and demands of today’s athletic woman. This meant banishing that old, hard-to-work-with fabric and bringing in stretchable, durable Lycra.

Now, when most people hear the world Lycra, they instantly conjure up images of 1980s aerobics classes or overweight women in shiny stretch pants. While Lycra certainly has been used for these fashion faux pas, it’s actually the best fabric for sports performance teams, hands down. And here’s why…

Lycra is flattering, so you eliminate the constant battle between fabric and fluctuating body weight, which in turn boosts the ladies’ morale and still looks fabulous on the field.

Lycra also lasts longer than traditional fabric, so that the uniforms last through the hard work put in by the ladies on and off the field. Just as it was with the Raiderettes, it’s important for every dance, cheer, theater and cruise ship performance group to realize that fabrics have come a long way since our old junior high sewing classes. Today’s fabrics are more durable, extremely user-friendly, and able to withstand the rigorous demands of high-performance use.

For example, many cruise ships today bring a tailor to conduct fittings and alterations on-board the ship for the entire length of the cruise. Why? Because it’s “the way things have always been done.” They’re used to doing multiple fittings because they’re used to fabrics and costumes being “difficult” to work with. To them, it’s about making the body work with the costume, not the costume working with the body.

There are two challenges in making the change from older to newer fabrics:

  1. Tradition – “It’s always been done this way,”
  2. Not understanding of a fabric’s behavior.

At D.A. Designs Dancewear, we’ve been working with Lycra for many years and we understand how it behaves. In fact, we consider it a gift.

Furthermore, there’s a right way and a wrong way to cut Lycra to ensure proper fit and allow room for ample stretch. Every day, we advise parents against the pitfall of ordering the next size up because they mistakenly think they need it to “allow room to grow.” But trust us; you won’t need it because Lycra loves to stretch.

It can take years to change people’s minds about fabrics. But once this change occurs, they discover a whole new world of greater flexibility, better performance and higher quality garments that will look as beautiful in 20 years as they do now.

 

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