Activewear has come a long way. Not too long ago, men and women were playing sports in clothing that today, you’d see in a business meeting or at a fancy dinner. Minimal stretch with no room to move, it took a few bold ladies to shift women’s fashion and the evolution of synthetic fibres to create functional pieces to better support movement and sweat. Read on for a glimpse into the evolution of workout styles from the 1900s through 2000!
1900s – 1930s
Early on it wasn’t ‘important’ for women to win in competitive sports and therefore clothes were not designed with movement and function in mind. Stiff tweeds and tailored pieces that today are often seen worn in business settings were worn for activities—talk about setting them up to fail! It wasn’t until around 1920 that women wearing trousers was accepted, until then it was long skirts, fitted jackets and proper hats.
Imagine playing any activity in that attire?! Vogue was one of the first publications to challenge the norm, telling women to stuff their skirts in their rucksacks skiing and just cruise down the slopes in the trousers they wore underneath. It was often bold women in sport that would toss out accepted forms of dress for more functional—looser and shorter—styles, paving the way for future female athletes.
1940s & 1950s
Pre-war styles and colours were muted; post-war saw new synthetic fibres hit the market in a wider variety of colours for both males and females—nylon being the most poplar new kid in town.
Something really cool was that functional features like stowable hoods and adjustable elastic cuffs were added to activewear using techniques developed in the military. At the same time, more feminine cuts and functional styles for the active woman were designed and were gaining popularity.
Colour coordination begins! Full tracks suits with matching tops and bottoms (odd trouser bottoms had been worn with nylon windbreakers, it just wasn’t working) began to hit the market. Tennis whites became available to women in a range of styles, and the availability of more fabrics and goods from the previous decade meant that looks started to take a back seat to functional fabrics and styles.
The start of the bodysuit, the 70’s also saw men wearing short shorts and tight shirts. Yoga, squash, tennis, jogging and pumping iron were the popular workouts and more synthetic fibres and dying techniques were just starting to come out. People were starting to wear their workout clothes on the streets, people were busy and needed clothes that would function for a variety of activities. Classic sporty piping was all over fitness apparel and clothes were starting to get tighter and tighter…
Do you miss 80’s style as much as we do? Body suits paired with leggings, neon, sweat bands and crop tops—mixing them all together was almost an art. It took more planning to get dressed for aerobics than a black tie affair; and the hairstyles? If it wasn’t big or feathered you weren’t showing up to class.
Dance and jazz tap inspired, this is one of our favourite decades for fitness fashion as it was colourful and anyone could rock it. Baggy tops let you cover up if you wanted to and off-the-shoulder styles still let you show a little sex appeal. One thing we did question: Were those body suits actually comfortable when doing squats?
Grunge was in, colour was out and clueless they were not. Black is flattering on almost everyone and the loose fitting styles so popular in the 90’s meant covering up was cool.
There was as tomboy vibe in women’s workout wear, taking inspiration from sports uniforms—referee stripes for example—and making them short and tight. Oversized sweatshirts paired with spandex shorts were a go-to style, as were baggy basketball shorts worn with sports bras.
Juicy Couture velour track suits, the start of a craze that made comfort cool. They gave celebrities an opportunity to sip Dom Perignon while looking their laziest; pairing purses that cost more than a car with candy pink terry cloth sweats was the name of the game.
It still boggles the mind, how this monotone tracksuit trend was accepted, grown adults strolling the streets in matching velvet in shades of baby blue and seafoam green. It’s hilarious to think about yet we find ourselves wishing they’d make a comeback, it made deciding what to wear so easy!
2017 & Beyond?
The future of activewear is only getting brighter and HEMM will continually strive to be on the forefront of it all! Our first concept store is opening in weeks, so you will soon be able to see, feel and try on (and fall in love with) the latest in yoga and activewear.
Stay Fierce ~ HEMM