Sportswear over the Centuries

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By Erica Maré

Since the twenty-first century, “sportswear” refers to a category of fashion-oriented clothes based
on clothing developed for sports participation. It has become the clothing of the world, and some
people say that sportswear fashion is probably one of the main contributors to the history of fashion
design.
The sportswear industry was the first one to introduce new styles, open discussions on gender
rights, and empower women in many ways. It is suggested that women’s sportswear was probably
one of the most problematic fashion industries during the early ages of sportswear (and of today!).
At the time, their clothing wasn’t designed to make movements easier, because it wasn’t important
for women to win. For example, female tennis players had to wear hats, long skirts, and tight
sleeved jackets to cover the whole body. Thankfully, in 1922, Suzanne Lenglen decided to show up at
the court wearing a short and comfortable skirt, without a hat. After that, a huge shift in women’s
sportswear began.
One of the most influential factors in sportswear, was war! After the end of the Second World War
in 1945, a new range of synthetic fibres gained popularity in sportswear, for example nylon. From
the introduction of lastex and spandex, active sportswear has turned attention toward sleek bodies
and speed. The Australian swimwear company, Speedo, first introduced its one-piece stretchy suit in
the 1950s. Swimwear became sleeker and tighter, but more comfortable because of the
manufactured stretch fibres. Since then, the concept proved irresistible for men and women in all
active sports: new stretch textiles produced ski pants, bicycle shorts, all-in- one cat suits for skiing,
sledding, speed skating and even running.
The new active suits, shorts and tops were a hit; even the non-athlete wanted the look, asking
fashion-wear manufacturers to adopt the comfortable tight-fitting clothing that technology made
possible.

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