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.
The stated purpose of Fashion Practice is to provide a site for multidisciplinary treatments of the practices of fashion. “Spandex to Sportstech” was designed as a cross-disciplinary forum for renewed consideration of functional, social, aesthetic and environmental issues connected with sportswear, and some of the papers presented here are rooted in original conference contributions. This journal issue is truly cross-disciplinary, beginning with fashion history, represented by Michael A. Langkj?r with “Urban Fitness, Gendered Practices, and Fine Art: The Significance of Antonio Lopez’s Sporty Styling of Fashion” and moving on to the sportswear industry itself with its brands and markets, represented by Kristine Holm-Jensen with “Specialized in Sportswear: Transformations of the Generic Knitwear Industry in Post-War Denmark.” Several articles then consider fiber and textile technologies and their design applications. Jane McCann leads this group with her “Sportswear Design for the Active Ageing.” McCann is followed by Deborah A. Christel and Nicole H. O’Donnell with “Assessment of Women’s Plus-Size Swimwear for Industry Applications.” Alicia Potuck, Sarah Meyers, Ariana Levitt, Erik Beaudette, Hong Xiao, C. C. Chu, and Huiju Park complete the group with their “Development of Thermochromic Pigment Based Sportswear for Detection of Physical Exhaustion.” In “What’s the Problem? Odor-control and the Smell of Sweat in Sportswear,” Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Madeline Buck, Kirsi Laitala and Marit Kjeldsberg look at how fiber technologies connect with our social values associated with body odor and its suppression; in doing so, Klepp et al. also mention the issue of sustainability. A forthright appraisal of the problem of sustainability within the sportswear industry is given by an industry representative to Lena Erdnü? in “A Perspective on Sustainability Initiatives of a Swedish Outdoor Brand: An Interview with Lennart Ekberg from Hagl?fs.” Finally, Lauren Downing Peters has contributed a review of the Museum of the City of New York’s 2013 exhibition: “Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced.”
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.
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.