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From harem pants to leggings: what women went in for sports before and what now

Sportswear has taken a strong place in our wardrobe, and we have been wearing this style outside of the gym for a long time. But do you know what path a women’s tracksuit has traveled in the history of its existence? Experts from Smith fit talk about the evolution of images and the conceptuality of modern styles.

Struggle for the right to sport

Women lead an active lifestyle not so long ago – only from the middle of the 19th century. Then they adopted the fashion for playing croquet from men and later mastered figure skating, tennis, and cycling. At that moment, the question arose about comfortable clothing for sports.

If men could get by with ordinary shirts and trousers, then women were supposed to observe the “standards of decency.” However, a long dress is hardly conducive to free movement, and the corset does not allow breathing at all. The very desire to wear comfortable clothes was already a challenge: when the suffragette Amelia Bloomer presented an outfit of trousers and a short dress to the public, a storm of criticism fell upon her. The Bloomers were mocked, the image of Amelia was called unheard of. But hundreds of women liked the outfit – they wrote letters to Bloomer and asked to share the patterns. What can’t you do to do away with long, heavy skirts and dresses?

The industrialization and development of the women’s rights movement, along with changing fashion, have led to the creation of complete sportswear. Already in the 20th century, the leading fashion designers of that time, Jean Patou, Coco Chanel, and Elsa Schiaparelli, adopted a lot of what girls wear today.

Sports to the masses

Since the 30s, there have been more and more sportswear models for women. When fashion designer Madeleine de Rauch did not find a suitable form for riding, she simply sewed it herself. Rene Lacoste did the same when he needed a shirt for the US Open.

In the Soviet Union, one of the main fashion designers of that time was Varvara Stepanova. In the post-revolutionary period, she created images for the “new” men and women. Comfort and functionality were prioritized over beauty.

The fashionable wave was slightly slowed down by wartime. The resources of many countries were redistributed in favor of helping the front, and then in favor of restoring life. During the Second World War, the factories of the Dassler brothers (in the future, the founders of Adidas and Puma) were even confiscated. Sport faded into the background.

The wars of the 20th century did not bypass those regions where the demand for training clothes still remained – military clothing appeared in the wardrobe. The style itself appeared later, but people wore “military” costumes even during the First World War – it was a protest. They did not like the fact that the production of civilian clothes was suffering due to the political situation. The same thing happened in the middle of the century. The peak of the popularity of the military came in the 60s – during the Vietnam War. And fashion designers Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton are considered the founders of this style – they began to use camouflage colors and soldier styles for suits for different occasions.

In the 50s and 70s, the sports style as a whole firmly established itself in the women’s wardrobe, and not only as a specialized outfit but also in the form of elements of everyday clothing – trousers, jumpers, tennis skirts. Skinny trousers, for example, even appeared in the collections of Soviet designers. They were considered convenient for outdoor recreation and tourism, as well as for cycling and sports.

The tracksuit experienced a new boom in the 80s, in the era of lurid outfits and endless aerobics. Since that time, sports clothing has become tighter and tighter so that people can observe themselves during training and at the same time demonstrate the achieved result to others.

Those who have caught the fitness of the 80s will certainly remember Jane Fonda – she raised aerobics into a cult and proved that not only male bodybuilders can hold dumbbells in their hands. Jane’s video workouts literally made people buy colorful swimwear, leggings, leggings, and a headband. Sport has become a subculture and women all over the world have rushed to join it.

The ubiquitous sportiness was influenced by another course of time – the disco style. Dancing in the clubs has become more active and frequent – this is no longer a ball of the late 19th century. Shoes quickly changed shoes or sneakers, and skirts and dresses – shorts and T-shirts.

Inconsistency of the XXI century

The need for the attention that amateur athletes wished to attract with all their might has not gone anywhere. The word “shaping” is literally imbued with zero – with its help they kept themselves in the form of a woman of the early 2000s.

It was then that sports became a way of life, not a hobby or a forced measure for losing weight. The sports suit began to talk about the personal qualities of its owner – about his inner freedom, even liberty, about energy, and, of course, about his style.

People “in sports” could be found not only in training but also in schools, universities, even offices, cafes and clubs (then the time of Pasha-face control had not yet come). Among women, the legendary velor suit of bright colors has come into fashion – and yet some hundred years ago it was a luxury just to change a fluffy dress for … less fluffy one.

Velor has become an integral part of the wardrobe. The main manufacturer of such a suit was Juicy Couture. Those who disliked fitness bought it anyway as a morning outfit for a coffee trip. Velor, without taking off, was worn by Paris Hilton, which has become a model of style for many young girls around the world. In an interview, she admitted that she bought hundreds of these “plush” suits.

The world is tired of the extravagance of images. In the same way as from the rules and attitudes of fashion houses. The key rule of recent years is no rules! In the list of trends, oversized materials made of soft materials of calm tones coexist, and fitted bright things.

Modern women have retained the “practicality” of their predecessors, but multiplied it with a sense of style – it appeared thanks to social networks and watching. Now people not only wear sportswear for no reason but also combine it with other styles. We are seeing a trend towards versatility. Preference is given to things that can be combined with others, creating a variety of images for all occasions. And here one cannot fail to mention the popular seamless suits.

Clothes like a second skin

Surely you have more than once seen a photo of stars in leggings, sewn, it would seem, without a single seam. This is one of the latest trends – especially in sportswear. Such suits are like a second skin: they fit snugly, but at the same time do not feel on the body, allowing it to move freely.

Of course, there are seams in these suits, they are simply made using special technologies – they are hidden in the fabric, welded along the edges, using the flat seam method. Each manufacturer acts in its own way, and for the owner of a seamless suit, it is only important how comfortable she feels in it during and after training.

If a couple of centuries ago people were striving exclusively for the functionality of a sports uniform, now manufacturers also act for the sake of ecology. High-tech fabrics work not only for humans but also for the planet – in addition to strength and durability, they are also non-toxic.

Buying such a suit is extremely economical – its durability allows it to withstand many washes. In addition, all collections overlap, which means that you can collect different bows for every taste: for morning yoga, and for an evening walk with friends. Remember the trend for wardrobe versatility you talked about at the very beginning?

In response to sexualization

But if a tight-fitting silhouette is not what you are used to in life and in training, joggers will come to the rescue. Despite the complete opposite of a seamless suit, they are also at the top of the essential items in the modern man’s wardrobe. One thing unites them: an organic combination of convenience and style.

Through the efforts of designers and fashion designers, loose pants are appropriate both at home (we bet many have sat in them during the whole pandemic!), And in a cafe, and in the office, and, of course, in the gym – there are joggers on a special account.

One of the most obvious benefits of a pair of trousers is warmth. The dense material most often used in sports joggers allows us to sweat faster and lose extra calories. Another plus of oversizing is complete confidence in the movements. No matter how many experts talk about the durability of leggings, there are those who look with apprehension at their legs during stretching. With joggers, the risk of getting into an awkward situation due to a hole in your clothes tends to zero.

Interestingly, the popularity of joggers was added by the trend for their own safety – physical and psychological. Some people think that tight suits can sexualize their wearers in the eyes of those who come to the gym not to swing, but to watch people. Sometimes even real “fit babies” can be seen in shapeless hoodies and the very joggers behind which they carefully hide their true forms.

This item of clothing can also be adapted for yourself – in addition to a variety of materials and styles, joggers are lace-up, with an elastic band or cuff, even with buttons.

We often hear about cyclical trends and the return of fashion of the past. However, in the sports environment, the last 200 years have been an exceptional evolution. Each new generation, albeit with an eye on the “parents”, but sets its own rules.

So far, society does not have a single chance for the revival of dresses complete with harem pants. The world is full of other combinations – no less interesting. It remains only to look among them for those that are ideal for us. Extravagant hats or jackets with a defiant print – we see them all the time during Fashion Week – in real life can really be out of place. However, for example, a tracksuit that matches flawlessly with a top, a hoodie, a jacket, and jeans, is definitely a must-have this year.

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Stories under this byline are written/directed/published by the staff and editorial board of MegaloPreneur magazine. Some of the MegaloPreneur journalists may also be involved in investigating and finding facts.

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