Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fitness and women's fashion

'Tis the season for unabashed (well there is some bashedness--at least on my part) consumerism.
Anyway, I thought it would be as good a time as any--if not better--to address some articles I have come across in the last few months about women's fitness fashion.
This one [oops--I lost the link--sorry; this whole holiday thing has me a little discombobulated] out of Colorado has a "see how far we've come" theme that includes a timeline detailing what female athletes wore over a century ago to do things such as swim and play tennis. The author credits the passage of Title IX with the changes in women's fitness clothes though it should be noted that the jogging craze of the 70s had little to do with Title IX but apparently everything to do with the creation of the sports bra in 1977 when two women sewed together two jock straps for support during their runs. [A little bit it blows my mind that there was no such thing as a sports bra when I was born given that over half the bras I own are sports bras.]
But the article has points with which I take issue. First, it cites historian Patricia Campbell Warner, whose new book When the Girls Came Out to Play: The Birth of American Sportswear I have not read though it looks interesting. Warner says that "men and women are finally, finally able to wear the same kinds of clothing." Umm...I don't think so.
I suppose if she's referring to the fact that women wear pants and no one wears corsets and petticoats anymore then, well, okay. But men don't wear skirts or dresses or nylons or bras (and yes some of them have significant breast tissue--more than many women I know). And that's just general fashion.
In the realm of sport and fitness, let's note that men don't wear tennis skirts--despite how comfortable they are and the amount of room underneath them for stuffing extra tennis balls! And there's my never-ending search for workout bottoms with pockets. All summer I looked for shorts with pockets. One, I need them for when I don't wear a skirt playing tennis and two, I don't carry a purse so after workouts or softball games or tennis practice I want a pocket to throw my wallet and keys in. It took me months to find a pair of basic black sweatpants with pockets. But women's clothes--workout and non--just don't seem to come equipped with pockets. [I heard Michael Kors say on Project Runway a few seasons ago that women don't like pockets because they make them look fat. I love it when male designers speak for the female population at large. I want my pockets, Michael Kors! And I am not the only woman out here with such a desire.] Men's shorts and sweatpants more often than not have pockets.
Warner's belief in the equality of fashion is actually contradicted a bit in the article which highlights the company founded by triathlete Nicole DeBoom that makes skirts for running, biking, and other athletic pursuits. The reason they are selling out is not because men are clamoring for a skirt to run in. They are marketing and selling difference.
This brings up another issue with women's fitness clothing: a lot of women don't want to wear it because it's very girly looking. Does everything really have to be pink or some other soft color? Do we have to endure cycling shirts with leopard print? Or running tights adorned with lotus flowers? Ski caps with daisies? (Check out sites dedicated to women's fitness fashion like Title 9, Lucy, and Terry and you'll see what I mean.) Sure some don't mind these things; but I know a lot of women who generally don't wear a lot of women's clothes (because of the uberfeminine look). But it's difficult to find men's fitness wear that fits right.
This article from WaPo announces Under Armour's new line of clothing for women. And I have to say a lot of Under Armour stuff is pretty gender neutral looking. It's good gear clearly meant to function for and fit serious female athletes. Of course it took them over a decade to develop a decent line for women and the majority of their production is still of men's high performance clothing.
But enough of this. I have to go Christmas shopping now--for not-too-girly, with pockets, still stylish fitness clothes. It may be a long day.

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