Activewear Through the Ages

Activewear throughout the ages 


The explosion of activewear over the past ten years has dominated the retail market, with just about every brand jumping on the athleisure band wagon. And whether you’re living for Lululemon or can’t get enough of your Nikes, the evolution of how these brands came to be is pretty interesting. Fabric, design and technology have certainly come a long way since the good old days so we took a walk back in fitness fashion time to see just how far we’ve come.



Women of the 1930’s were known for being perfectly polished, and their appearance in the gym was no exception. Activewear was tight, fitted and hugged in all the right places. Our friend Joseph Pilates was also no stranger to the trends and wore tight fitted shorts when teaching most of his classes!




1940’s fashion was all about creating a silhouette. Think wide padded shoulders, nipped in waist and tailored skirts and trousers. Workout wear followed suit with women playing sport or exercising in clothes very similar to that of their day-to-day attire. It was considered unfeminine to tone muscles or even break a sweat in the 1940s, so playing tennis in what was basically leisure clothes was completely acceptable.



The 50’s were a time where women spent more time cooking, cleaning and raising kids than attending exercise classes, but this didn’t stop them from embracing the occasional workout. Activewear inspo was taken from the fashion of the time which featured soft knitwear and nipped in waists quite similar to the previous decade. Marilyn Monroe was no stranger to the short-sleeve sweater, but we didn’t know she wore them to workout in too!




After years of loose workout apparel, tight workout clothes started to make an appearance. Innovations in both fabric and technology saw the introduction of spandex and the arrival of the portable Walkman, allowing people to exercise differently. Shorter shorts and ‘pedal pushers’ made their way onto the scene.



In the mid 1970s, Bruce Lee is credited with bringing the classic stretchy tracksuit into mainstream fashion. Suddenly it was cool to wear athletic tracksuits in polyester, cotton, terrycloth and velour for activities (some that were not even remotely athletic). The humble tracksuit became a huge activewear sensation, with no design to bright or bold for the fitness enthusiast. Bonus points for matching with your partner!

Also in the 1970s, Adidas’ designed iconic Stan Smith tennis shoes for playing tennis. The sneakers were rereleased with much high fashion fanfare in 2014 and have now reached coveted cult shoe status.


1980'S, Two Women In Workout Clothes Doing Aerobics. (Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)


Probably the most fun decade in the history of activewear was the 1980’s where bright shiny leotards were all the rage. It was an era where you could get away with just about any accessory (leg warmers, colourful scrunchies and headbands) and cardio and aerobic classes really took off. In 1982, Jane Fonda released her first exercise video, Jane Fonda’s Workout. It became the highest-selling video of the time and was the real start of the group fitness craze.



Step fitness classes were huge in the 90’s and Denise Austin dominated the scene with her at-home workouts (on VCR of course). Brightly coloured and loudly patterned lycra was still having its moment, often teamed with chunky white Reeboks.



lululemon2000sYoga had a huge surge in popularity in the early 2000’s with athletic apparel retailer Lululemon bursting onto the scene in 2001. With a huge focus on comfort, style and longevity, Lululemon very quickly became the label to wear and today is still breaking boundaries with innovative design and technology.


dsc_06152010 and beyond

These days we’re constantly seeing stunning new styles in the activewear department, with so much more available at the click of a button thanks to the rise of online shopping. Technology has come a long way too with sweat wicking and compression capabilities plus improvements in cut and fit. Current trends include athleisure slides, sport luxe looks, matching crops and bottoms and soft, easy-to-move-in Pilates wear. And we’re loving every minute of it! Our current fav is Swedish brand, Casall who have recently launched in Australia and are planning an extra special birthday event with us soon! (Stay tuned)


Categories: Lifestyle