History of Sportswear

I’m going to start off with what is Sportswear!? It describes a broad range of comfortable fashion attire for sports.

The history of sportswear is a very interesting one and dates back to post-war. When chic yet casual clothing” as stated by Christian Blanken in The History of Sportswear Fashion from Chanel to Wang, he describes the type of clothing worn only for sports events and how it has been altered over the years by designers such as Chanel, Claire McCardell, Vionnet and Patou. This trend soon took off and heavily influenced women’s fashion. Sportswear remains at the forefront of trends all over the world and this effortless style is still reinvented by today’s well known fashion designers.

Exploring deeper into the history I came across an interesting article by Pauline Weston Thomas for Fashion-Era.com called C20th Sports Costume and Sports Dress Fashion History to 1960. In the early 20th century it was not considered important for women to succeed at competitive sports. Clothes were not designed to give the movement that would allow women to excel in any sports. By 1910 only golf allowed women to wear sports clothing and this was only to prevent clothes from tearing. They had expanding pleats down the sides of their jackets for when they did a golf swing. The pleats were there for a purpose and were by no means decoration.

In the late 30s women were doing a wide range of sports, these included water skiing, golf, running, tennis, fishing, mountaineering, shooting, archery, fencing, skating, riding and cycling. Sportswear then started to adapt to meet the very real needs of active women. When playing golf women wore smart suede jackets, slacks or box pleated skirts or culottes. For shooting and fishing women wore pleated jackets and skirts or culottes with Loden wool capes, decoration had by then started to be included by embroider detailing and strong colouring.

Upon further research it was clear to me that sportswear became increasingly popular over the years and not just in the UK, I read The birth of American Sportswear by Mandy Youngquist and she talks about advertisements using the word “modern” to promote it. She also talks about how sportswear has birthed a new mentality in American minds. Comparing college campuses in the United States to one in Europe. “Our casual dress has permeated our everyday lives. But how casual is too casual?  The sportswear of the 1930s – 1950s was a far cry from our sportswear today. Our concept of “sportswear” has evolved with the demand for higher functionality in our athletic clothing.  When considering the term today, one thinks of mesh gym shorts, Nike’s, and sweatpants. These clothes have, just as early sportswear did, integrated themselves into acceptable, every-day attire.  Fashion is an ever-evolving thing and is very influenced by the social and economic landscape in which it is born.” And she is right. Sportswear soon appealed to all types of women and men from housewives, people who work and who are also in education. It became affordable and clothes became more convenient to wear and maintain because of new materials being introduced which made it more appealing. Money started to be made and with that more sportswear choice. Over the years sportswear has become more of the “Norm” and I found myself being re-taught fashion from what I know of it today since researching into the history of sportswear. I was unaware that certain clothing I wear and have always worn were as a result from sportswear design and history, what some people today call casual trousers and a floaty top for the gym or even to wear as part of everyday living started off as pyjama’s!.

Today what we wear for exercise can be merely functional. It can however, also make a statement about who we are in the same way any clothes can, it shows what sport we like, what brands we buy and who we support in sports. I read a great article in OxStu that Alys Key wrote which quotes Dr Martin Polley saying “like all aspects of sport, from nutrition and psychology to playing surfaces and media coverage, sports clothing has changed immeasurably over the past century. New materials and technologies have made sportswear far more functional than the clothes being worn in the early twentieth century – it’s more aero- or aqua dynamic, it weighs less, it’s more breathable, and, in high-risk sports such as equestrianism, climbing, and motorsports, it is safer. A good way to look at this is to compare the all wool swimsuits being worn by Olympic swimmers into the 1920s with the high-tech skins that imitate shark skins now.” Which to me summarises perfectly how sportswear has not only changed its appearance over the years but because times have changed it has also progressed in its reasoning for sportswear to. Gender has become more equal than pre-war, women are competing in all sports and sportswear for women is not just about not tearing their garments. In my opinion sportswear has clearly adapted through the ages and become more about aiding the person, regardless of sex, to maximise their skills in whatever sport they do and do so in style. Sportswear is evidently a huge part of fashion and will continue to be. I am so excited to be a part of this brand launch, learning about the history of the type of clothing I will be helping to launch has given me a drive to do the best I can to help launch this British based brand.

Christian Blanken in The History of Sportswear Fashion from Chanel to Wang- Christian Blanken, 2016. The History of Sportswear [online]. Available at: https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/general-books/visual-arts/The-History-of-Sportswear-Christian-Blanken-9780857856463. [Accessed 20th April 2016].

Mandy Youngquist webpage article The birth of American Sportswear– Mandy Youngquist, 2016. The birth of American Sportswear [online]. Available at: http://www.mandymnewman.com/2012/05/american-sportswear.html. [Accessed 20th April 2016].

OxStu article by Alys Key- Alys Key, 2014. Fashion- The secret history of sportswear [online]. Available at: http://oxfordstudent.com/2014/05/08/the-secret-history-of-sportswear/. [Accessed 20th April 2016].

Pauline Weston Thomas for Fashion-Era.com, C20th Sports Costume and Sports Dress Fashion History to 1960-Pauline Weston Thomas, 2016. C20th Sports Costume and Sports Dress Fashion History to 1960 [online]. Available at: http://www.fashion-era.com/sports_fashion_until_1960.html . [Accessed 20th April 2016].





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