Guest Post: A Short History of Workout Clothes


Women’s workout fashion has gone through major transformations over the years, and it has come a long way. Today, it’s even grown to become everyday leisure wear, and instead of being worn solely to the gym, workout wear is often the main part of an everyday outfit. Whether it’s for running errands or going to break a sweat, sportswear has found its way to our hearts and is here to stay and become part of every outfit.

19th Century sportswear


Women had a really difficult time performing any type of more intense activity in the 1800s as their apparel allowed them a very limited movement. Heavy materials of the dress alongside cinched waist were not the most comfortable outfit to box in, for instance. Add a pinned hairdo to the mix and workouts were a serious fuss. A long dress, together with a fancy hat was mandatory at tennis matches which were quite popular in the 1890s, and you can only imagine what it must’ve been like to pull off a backhand being all dressed up for a gala. A lack of breathable materials, with an entire body covered up, was anything but encouraging for women to practice any kind of sports.

The beginning of the 20th century


Image courtesy of: Oliver Sjöström, Instagram: @ollivves, Website:

In the early 20th century, somewhere around 1925, women’s sportswear became slightly more relaxed. A golf-fashion look, which many Parisians showed off, included a frock and with the very shapeless cut to it. A graphic-patterned frock with a high hem going up to the knees, alongside lighter materials, made golfing significantly easier than playing tennis back in the 1800s. Some of the bold women of the time, such as Lili Alvarez, even had the audacity to flaunt a romper that exposed far more than it was socially accepted at the time. Shorts were a main hit in the ‘30s and women were finally able to experience what it felt like to perform sports without any constriction. Soon, after shorts, shorter skirts have become the norm as well, finally giving women the chance to wear whatever they felt comfortable in. That trend has continued up until today, so much so, that women can’t imagine having a workout without a pair of trendy women’s socks that will make their workout outfit fashionable and their exercise comfortable, while also allowing them to withstand long runs and training seasons in their sports footwear. Exercise sweaters got the spotlight as soon as Marylin Monroe showed them off in one of her yoga advertisings.

Gym wear after the 1950s


A one-piece stretchy swimsuit made of stretch textiles was first produced in Australia in the 1950s. From that time on, swimwear became sleeker, tighter but offered more comfort as well, thanks to the manufactured, stretch fibresBicycle shorts in the ‘70s, suits for sailing, sledding and skiing were soon made of the same elastic material, making the sports activities so much more enjoyable. With the rise of popularity of the Olympics, the interest in sportswear started to grow as well, and everyone started paying more attention to what type of tops, shorts and suits they’re wearing. Vivid colours and prints have first been introduced in the 1970s and they are present in the world of sportswear even today. From neon leotards that we’ve seen Jane Fonda rock in her 1980s aerobics videos, to high wedges and lycra shorts, the fitness scene of the late 20th century has certainly left a huge mark on many teenagers of the decade, that are currently setting trends in the fashion industry of the 21st century. Towards the end of the 20th-century crop tops have made their debut, making clean lines the talk of the town.

The modern workout clothes


Black isn’t the only colour of leggings we love to invest in today, but neon pink, yellow, orange and green are also welcomed shades on the 21st century’s tops and bottoms. A pair of leggings with a statement print, paired with a tank top, a pair of socks and slippers, is something many celebrities and even top models throw on, on their way to the gym, proving just how relaxed sportswear has become. Full-length leggings, alongside roomy hoddie and vests on top, make for the perfect leisurewear that women love to rock even when it’s not time to work out. Dance fitness has become widely popular, and so did the crop trend matched with a ballet-inspired look. This is precisely why, today, we can see ballet stockings layered under stretchy black, bike shorts and matched with a black cropped top. Throwing over a white cardigan and a gym bag and topping everything off with ankle boots makes for the ultimate 21st-century gym-to-streets kinda look.

Sportswear has certainly evolved immensely over the course of the years and we can say that there’s a rather thin line between gym wear and streetwear. What we used to wear only to our workouts is now widely accepted as our running-errands-outfit which saves us plenty of time on changing. We can only hope that the trends are going to be even more diverse and offer us plenty of more pieces of clothing to experiment with in the future.

About the Author:

Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.

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