I think it’s safe to say that most women are breathing a sigh of relief at the fashion world’s current love affair with sneakers and wearing sports-inspired attire in every day life. Chanel’s frenzy of gym shoes sent down the runway in Fall 2014 followed DKNY’s sneaker sneak peek for the Spring 2014 season. Turn your head in any direction during fashion week, whether in New York, Paris, London or Milan, and you would see the cool it girls of fashion rocking a pair of sneakers in their own unique way. A jersey as a dress, or perhaps a blazer with gym shorts? Neither would be seen at all as unusual today, but when did it all start and what influenced all of this casual and comfortable clothing?
History of Sports in Fashion
Prior to the 1900s, competitive sports for women was unheard of and comfortable clothes that allowed for freedom of movement were seen as unnecessary. When golf became a popular pastime at the turn of the century, women wore long skirts and fitted blouses with pleats that prevented rips and tears in the fabric. As time went on, shorter skirts were popularized in the sport, followed eventually by trousers. Silky pajama pants and “beach trousers” were worn on the beach or casually by the end of the ‘20s, but pants were still a rare sight for females of this time period. Tennis skirts took on their short, flared silhouette only after a brave Suzanne Lenglen strutted around the look in 1922. Clothing worn for skiing throughout the 1930s had a long and lean look, with “boxy jackets…that accommodated sweaters beneath them.” Knitwear and stretchy fabrics grew in popularity, as well as the Fair Isle patterns and nature motifs that have made a recent comeback in winter wear. Soon, women were involved in a wide range of sports, including figure skating, in which short skirts and dresses became the norm and allowed for a wide range of movements. Riding sports like motorcycling and biking brought out the popularity of wearing denim pants and leather for safety, as well as stretchy fabrics like Bri-nylon stretch jersey. Pleated culottes were also widely accepted for sports like golf and shooting. Jodhpurs, a hardhat and a blazer have always characterized the grace and elegance of horseback riding. In fact, Polo is what inspired the classic American brand Ralph Lauren.
Polo Style: Ralph Lauren
Although originally selling men’s neckties, Polo Ralph Lauren was centered on the idea of the rugged sophistication of this popular sport. Lauren’s vision of a wardrobe built for tackling earth’s rough terrains and wild creatures created a lifestyle brand that lasts. Rugby was another sport that inspired this American designer and some of the Polo shirts that we see today, as the cotton fabric and stripes provide a flattering look that is desired by the public. Ralph Lauren has often been involved in the sponsorship of sports and designing specially made looks for athletes. The company signed on as the “official apparel sponsor” of the US Open in 2005, as well as the designer for Wimbledon in 2006. Other ventures for this fashion brand have included sponsoring a number of US professional golfers, as well as being the official outfitter of the US Olympic Team in 2008.
Dance Style: Prabal Gurung, Rodarte, Olivier Theyskens and More
Just like the classic elegance of horseback riding inspires clean, tailored clothing, the graceful movements of classical ballet inspire designers to create similarly sinuous garments. Thin, wrap front cardigans, light pink and elegant black, flowing silhouettes, strappy sandals and ballet slippers are all key items featured in this trend. In an interview regarding his costume creations for the New York City Ballet, Prabal Gurung discussed his process of studying the dancers and the choreography, commenting that he “was very much inspired by the emotion in the piece and wanted the costumes to mirror the highs and lows.” How could this be achieved? With garments that are “form fitting but not restrictive” and “harnesses to play into the overall feel of the piece.” The Nepalese designer, Iris Van Herpen and Olivier Theyskens each created a collection of pieces for the New York City Ballet, which was presented at the 2013 fall gala event hosted by Sarah Jessica Parker.
Other high caliber designers in the fashion world have also been known to collaborate with the dance world, including Rodarte, Paul Poiret and Stella McCartney. Rodarte’s dreamy, romantic style successfully landed the label’s design duo Kate and Laura Mulleavy a gig creating all of the costumes for the 2010 movie Black Swan.
Modernist Paul Poiret was inspired by the vibrance and sensuality of the Ballets Russes in 1910.
Today, dance’s influence on fashion can be seen everywhere. The theme of Stella McCartney’s Resort 2016 collection is “Cuba,” and the free-flowing, flouncy garments all suggest that dance is a major factor in Cuba’s passionate culture. In the “better” price point category, brands like For Love & Lemons and Free People have also presented collections inspired by ballet and dance.
Borrowed from the Boys: Basketball, Baseball and Football Style
The high fashion world has embraced the trickling up of this sports craze, featuring a collection of mesh jerseys, player numbers, baseball caps, joggers, sneakers and logos. Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, Jeremy Scott and Tom Ford have all seen major success in offering womenswear items typically only seen on the court or out in the field. Big name sports brands have also seen a recent surge in popularity, with designers like Stella McCartney, Yohji Yamamoto and Jeremy Scott all collaborating with Adidas, and Alexander Wang and Riccardo Tisci partnering with Nike. Celebrities like Rihanna, Rita Ora, Miley Cyrus and Azealia Banks have all given off sporty vibes that are in line with female empowerment.
No longer is this style reserved just for the boys that play these sports on the field, but for strong women who lead comfortable and active lifestyles as well.
Perhaps this is a leap in the right direction for our gender and it can inspire us to participate in currently male-dominated arenas.
What’s Next for Women in Sports: Skater Style
A popular new sport and pastime for women around the ages of 16-35 is skateboarding or longboarding. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of cruising around on a board with your friends, feeling the wind in your hair and your oversized flannel or pleated skirt. Feeling the earth beneath your feet and your heart racing as your body glides around a curve at top speed is what these girls live for.
Vans or Nikes are a must, as their sturdy bottoms keep your feet from becoming one with the concrete.
Top the look off with your sleekest sunnies and a badass attitude, and you’ve just about nailed the laid-back skater style! While skater skirts and sneakers have already made their way through the product cycle, we are seeing a lot more logos. The overload of branding and sponsorships involved in the professional skating world has aided in the popularity of this trend, and we have seen this overload of logos in collections by Alexander Wang and Moschino as well. What sport most heavily influences your style? Let me know in the comments!
Thomas, Pauline W. “Sport Fashion Clothing 1900 to 1960.” Fashion-Era.com. Web. 7 Aug. 2015.
Levinson, Lauren. “The New York City Ballet Will Do Pirouettes in Prabal.” Elle.com. Web. 7 Aug. 2015.
“Bio.” Rodarte. Web. 7 Aug. 2015. http://www.rodarte.net/bio/