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Lessons a Girl Can Wear on Her Sleeve: New Back-to-School Apparel Makes Learning Part of the Design
New back-to-school apparel is designed to boost tween girls' self-confidence and know-how in math and science. Design innovation comprises concise notes for quick reference (or "crib sheets") with girlish styling and embellishments.
By: Heidi A. Olinger, CEO, Pretty Brainy, Inc.
To anyone looking at the girl in the shirt, the words are upside down.
The shirt also features a short biography of Jackie Cochran, who, in 1953, was the first woman to break the sound barrier, and a 3-step lesson in converting fractions to decimals. That’s one math problem a majority of middle school girls finds difficult to solve say math educators, including actress and math advocate Danica McKellar. McKellar has authored two math books for girls. A girl has only to look down the front of her Pretty Brainy shirt to get the know-how on doing this math problem. And she can read her sleeve to know Amelia Earhart and Chuck Yeager were Cochran’s best friends, among other points about the aviation pioneer’s life.
The point, says Pretty Brainy founder and CEO, Heidi Olinger, is to keep girls confident during a time in their lives when their self-confidence and –esteem drop so low that some girls spend years trying to recover. And a girl’s lack of self-confidence, she emphasizes, often shows up in her low performance in math and science. The work of Nadya Fouad, distinguished professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, supports Olinger’s point. Fouad told Science Daily in September 2008, "The relationship between [girls’] confidence and interest [in math and science] is close. If they feel they can do it, it feeds their interest." The article states that Fouad’s research “has found evidence that confidence levels in math- and science-related tasks are lower for girls than for boys.”
“This is why grown women approach me about Pretty Brainy, saying, ‘Where were you when I was growing up?’” says Olinger. She says that when Pretty Brainy entered commerce in December 2008, she was surprised to see the number of women who bought larger-size Pretty Brainy Ts for themselves.
When it comes to communicating with young girls, however, fashion is the focus for Pretty Brainy. “We embellish the sleeves of many of the shirts with beaded-fringe or other trim because, as we say at Pretty Brainy, ‘Some days a cowgirl feels like a princess.’” Olinger explains, “Seven-to-
Beyond the beads, what else about Pretty Brainy is designed to appeal to girls? A classic, contoured style that complements everything else they wear for school, play, birthday parties, family gatherings, and so on. “There is nothing unisex about this T,” says associate and designer Abbie Kozik. “This is a girl’s T.”
Olinger incorporated Pretty Brainy in October 2008 and has launched the website in time for back-to-school 2009. Parents can shop for Pretty Brainy online at http://www.prettybrainy.com.
In addition to back-to-school apparel, the site features:
• Information for parents on raising a self-confident daughter.
• Top resources for ’tween girls, including
o Recommended books,
o Organizations through which girls can develop their talents and interests, and
o A link to the only social media site for ’tween girls in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Olinger’s inspiration for Pretty Brainy was a niece who, at 7 years old, had a keen interest in science and entrepreneurship. “I wanted to keep her as strong at 13 as she was at 7,” says Olinger. When Olinger could not find a gift appropriate for a little girl interested in science and math, she knew she would create it herself. “Before it was a Colorado corporation, Pretty Brainy was just a ’tween girl gift idea.”
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About Pretty Brainy, Inc.: Incorporated in October 2008, Pretty Brainy designs apparel and accessories expressly for girls 7 to 14 years old, or tweens. Our mission is to elevate the perception and expectations of what girls are capable of in the world. Our medium: tween fashion.