The Evolution Of Women’s Activewear

Pauline Hansen

Posted on January 02 2020

The Evolution Of Women’s Activewear


Fashion is an ever-evolving concept and this is true whether the clothes are being worn in the high street or in the gym!

Sportswear Style Through History

Sportswear style has been influenced over time by many different aspects of society. It can be inferred that initially activewear would have consisted primarily of garments simply designed to cover a person in a comfortable and sensible way. However, over time as the concept of fashion continued to develop, this became as applicable to sportswear as it did to other areas of the wardrobe.

The earliest sporting activities that people can be observed participating in are arguably those that involved shooting and hunting. Therefore, some of the very earliest active wear choices can be seen to have been tailored to these activities. Tennis and golf were also popular early sports.

Women in Sport

When it comes to the clothes that were designed for women to wear whilst engaging in these sports, the garments were certainly designed more to suit the attitudes of society at the time. The clothing would often be quite heavy and actually restrict their movements. This is because it was seen to be more important to keep the body covered for modesty than it was to be able to move freely.

It wasn’t until the early 1920’s that women’s sportswear began to evolve to help the player, rather than just to keep her covered. In 1922, Suzanne Lenglen started to smash expectations of women in sport when she turned up to play a tennis match in a short skirt and without her hat – the first woman to ever do so!* Although this was a huge step forwards, it was a further decade later until women began to wear trousers during sports.

Shifting Attitudes

From this point onwards a shift in society began to emerge in regards to what was acceptable for women to wear during sports. This is a concept that was further fuelled by the push for gender equality that was apparent during the Second World War.

When World War Two came to an end in 1945, synthetic fibres became more prominent within the clothing industry. This opened up a whole new world of activewear potential. Nylon was a particularly popular choice for making sports garments at this time, and was used to create clothes that were not only comfortable but that looked good too!

In fact, it is fair to say that by the 1950’s attitudes in regards to women’s sportswear had shifted from conforming to societies expectations, to satisfying the fashion choices of the individual.

Activewear Today

A balance between style and comfort is evident when observing the clothing choices that people make for physical activities today. Both men and women have the freedom to make their individual choices when it comes to their sports clothing. For many people functionality and comfort is the most important thing. However, due to the endless availability of different styles of sportswear today, it is easy to find clothes that are both stylish and practical!

Choosing the Right Clothes

The clothes that you choose to wear to exercise will first and foremost be influenced by the sport that you are doing. For example, you wouldn’t wear the same clothes to yoga that you would wear to go skiing!

Your clothing choices may also be influenced by your interest in preserving the resources of the planet by opting for sustainable fabrics. A subject that you can click here to read more about!

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