Switching on any sports channel on television, you will quickly discover that men dominate most of the sports played around the world. Whether its rugby, football, basketball, or whatever the case, almost all these sports’ most professional team base consists almost entirely of men. There are a few reasons for this, but one of the main reasons is that men tend to prefer more physical activity than women, and men also have a much deeper competitive nature, causing them to want to compete against their fellow man for whatever the reason. Despite this, women have long been part of every sport that men play, and are just as talented and skilled in anything they take part in.
Looking back at women playing sport over the last two hundred years, one of the factors that has changed the most is the type of sportswear that has been available to them. Like with other types of clothing, such as every day and bathing clothes, sportswear has undergone a number of changes due, at first, to the social status of women from the cultural perspective, and then later on changes came into effect because of practical reasons. Whether you are watching a female jockey racing down the horse, or have money down on your favourite player in AFL Grand Final betting, we can all appreciate how women’s sportswear has evolved over time to what it is today.
The Early 20th Century
During the early 20th century, women were not believed to be very competitive in sports, and because of this, many of the clothing produced for women was designed to be fashionable above practical. This meant that much of the clothing restricted movement to varying degrees, and some sports became extremely difficult for women. Clothing items such as skirts and blouses were quite common, and it’s not hard to see why a skirt might impede movement.
A few decades on, and things go a little easier, as women started wearing trousers, which began replacing skirts for most sports. This made movement far easier for active women, and allowed them to compete at a higher level than before.
Post World War Two
The War gave rise to a lot of different innovations, and one of these was clothing, which was coupled in with mass production techniques. The end of the war was also the early starting point for much of the women’s rights movements that would take place a few decades later. Synthetic fibres began being produced across the world and in large quantities, meaning that clothing was able to be created quickly and cheaply. This also meant that much of the aesthetic qualities of older generation clothing fell away as functionality became more important.
From the 1950s to today, fashion became a huge part of the western world, along with increasingly better mass production using cheaper materials. This eventually culminated in much more functional sportswear for women that evolved alongside many of the women’s rights movements that changed the modern world.
Today, women have access to practical clothing that allows them to take part in any sport of their choosing, and long gone are the days where women’s sportswear only existed to promote fashion.