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Sports Wear: Between Fashion, Innovation and Sustainability

Sport is an important part of many people’s lives—as both recreation and entertainment. It is also a sizeable industry with political and economic ramifications in today’s world. Within the last half-century or so, sports wear has become a driving force for new trends in fashion and for textile innovation. This special issue of Fashion Practice was inspired by the “Spandex to Sportstech—Fashion and Innovation in Sportswear” conference, organized in 2011 by guest editor Mette Bielefeldt Bruun at the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen.

A 'tool to empower': The evolution of women's sportswear

Before the advent of designer activewear, women's sports wear ranked low on the list of fashion priorities. But a new exhibition demonstrates that sporting attire has long been a valuable tool for self-expression and an important path towards greater liberation."Sporting Fashion: Outdoor Girls 1800 to 1960" includes about 65 ensembles from mainland Europe, the UK, and the US, ranging from Victorian hunting dresses and couture-level leisure wear to tailor-made team uniforms. Organized by the FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles and the American Federation of Arts, the show opens at the Frick Art Museum in Pittsburgh on July 3, before touring nationwide through 2024.

Design innovation

Garments from the early 1800s are tailored to strolling in parks, gardening, and ice skating -- easy, acceptable activities for women propelled outside by an interest in horticulture, health and fresh air.

The idea of a woman exerting herself was still taboo: In 1806, an article in the popular British magazine La Belle Assemblée, excerpted in the show's comprehensive catalog, warned that, "the constitution of women is adapted only to moderate exercise; their feeble arms cannot perform work too laborious and too long continued, and the graces cannot be reconciled with fatigue and sun-burning."

That's the outlook for men's sports wear as the fall wholesale buying season gets under way this week. And while merchants and manufacturers have been expressing their traditional optimism as the new lines open, the unknown factors resulting from President Nixon's economic stabilization program have brought a modicum of caution to the trade.

Consumer spending for men's and boys’ apparel amounted to approximately $16‐billion last year, with sportswear a major but undefinable percentage of the total. What is even more significant, however, is that while production of a number of other categories of men's wear, such as suits and dress shirts, declined during the year, sportswear manufacturing was greater in 1971 than ever before.

And while statistics on the sportswear category are not collected by any government agency or trade association, conversations with retailers last week indicated that 1971's volume advances would he continued at the same rapid pace in 1972.

WHY ARE SPORTS BRAS IMPORTANT

Physical activity makes breasts bounce up, down and even in a figure-eight. Continuous and repetitive movements can result in soreness, pain and sagging.

Women's sports bra is made to reduce this movement. Breasts have no muscle, yet without proper support, the skin and Cooper's ligaments (ligaments near the breast which give them their size and shape) can break down and cause sagging. Once your Cooper's ligaments stretch out, they do not bounce back.

Like military uniform, that other stalwart of menswear, mens sportswear set has long been valued for the rugged characteristics it both possesses in itself and indicates in its wearer. And in sport, like war, competition results in game-changing technological breakthroughs. What we wear on the fields of battle and play has advanced more dramatically than what we wear elsewhere. If sportswear is at the cutting edge of fashion right now, that’s because – in technical terms – it always has been.

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