“Fashion doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” says British Vogue’s deputy editor Emily Sheffield. “It’s a part of everyday conversation so Vogue has always focused on a wide variety of personalities: performers, writers, artists, politicians — and sportsmen and women too.” In the run up to the 2016 Olympics games, all the glossy fashion magazines around the world had the sportspersons in the spotlight. Whether portrayed as heroines who have beat the odds, gladiatorial icons decked out in on-trend activewear brands or muscular heartthrobs posing with slinky fashion models, these editorials are a testament to the increasingly interconnected nature of sports and fashion, for the simple reason that these sports people are so inspiring and motivating, they stand tall as the icons of youth, be it for their grit, determination, hard work and skilled showcase of their talent, or for the fashion and style statement that makes them even the biggest of style icons. Whatever a great person does anyways becomes a style and that’s what sports stars are, the Gods/Goddesses of the present society. And hence they also are a muse to the fashion magazines apart from what they are anyways applauded for, ie, sports.
These fashion magazines have the potential to capture the resilience of athletic achievement and marry it with powerful imagery of equally ambitious sartorial prowess. Although there are umpteen no. of sports but when it comes to sports fashion then these sports here have a fashion quotient unparalleled to any other sports.
Dressage is one of those Olympic sports that is legacy stuff, like archery, or the hammer, that sneaked into the Games at some point and hasn’t quite been thrown out—although dressage has come closer than most. It found a new chapter with the individual freestyle, a more expressive, interpretive event that projected the riders more as performers, creative artists in the gymnastics tradition. It’s a sport when the horse almost performs ballet like movements and rotates on the same point, pirouette.“The correctly piaffing horse”, de la Guérinière wrote, “stands in awe of the rider’s hand and legs.”
As this sport sounds so exotic, it also is to be followed for its fashion and style statement, for its regal touch and elegance involved in all equestrian sports alike. Even within the expensive world of equestrian sport, dressage stands apart for the aristocracy of its ideals and the wealth of its participants. We all are particularly impressed with the Britain’s own queen of the refined, impossibly mannered world of piaffe and trot and pirouette, Charlotte Dujardin, whose relationship with her broody horse Valegro is arguably one of the great love stories of this Olympics. Charlotte Dujardin, a thirty-one-year-old British rider who is the European, World, and Olympic dressage champion is my muse for the most pompous sport and the aristocratic sportsperson. She is the defending champion this time in individual dressage.
The other sport that draws the attention for its shimmer and shine when it comes to fashion is Gymnastics.
When the women’s gymnastics team marches into the arena in Rio to compete at the Olympics in August, all eyes are on them. This is due, in part, to the fact that gymnastics happen to be one of the most stylish sport, highlighting the feminine form and art, and accentuating strength and elegance at the same time in the fluidity of the graceful and skilled movements; But another reason is that they are decked out in the shiniest and trendy leotards. The jewel-toned leotards in deep pink, red, and purple and the various hues and colours were adorned with anywhere from 3,500 to 4,000 crystals for the US team. Leotards didn’t always look this way. Back in the ’30s and ’40s, during the earliest years of women’s gymnastics, leotards looked like : the leg lines were low and boxy. The lower half offered maximum butt coverage. All that was missing was a little skirt and a cap to make it into a beachwear.But over all these years the fashion in sports has evolved tremendously so far. It has become stretchier to allow for a greater range of motion and sleeker, to accommodate the gymnasts’ increasingly muscular bodies.The cuts, to a modern eye, look dramatically different: the high cut gives the impression of longer legs of the gymnasts. The invasion of bling has added extreme fashion to the leotards. In the past few decades it was about patriotism, but now the gymnasts leotards are designed in all kind of colours; they need not be sticking to the colour of flag. A lot of details goes into designing leotards says McKeown and Marta Karolyi, who is currently the national team coordinator for the US. McKeown, executive vice president of design and corporate relations at GK Elite, the other major leotard manufacturer in the gymnastics game believes that all of the little details help make the gymnasts feel special. “When you think about the psyche of a teenage girl—and a lot of them are either teenagers or just into their early twenties—it’s like showing up to the prom,” she says. “You don’t want to look like another person. You want to feel special. You want to look beautiful. It all plays into how you feel, and how you feel affects how you perform.”
So not only the fashion invasion but also the movements in gymnastics have seen a sea change in terms of evolution from dance to highly skilled movements.The early gymnasts did not do much more in terms of acrobatic than a walkover etc. So the stretch that goes in nowadays in the performance needs the fabric to be such that it allows that kind of fluidity in the movements.
There are other sports as well which highlight the kind of work goes into designing the apparels also. I particularly love the tennis fashion too, apart from the beach volleyball.
A lot of fashion brands are responsible for the design of the official Olympic team of their countries, such as Lacoste for France, Stella McCartney for UK and Ralph Lauren for the US. Hermès, for example, is the official sponsor of the Brazilian equestrian team.
Many a critics have been of the opinion that fashion is just objectifying male or female body, but we see it is all about our perception; rather it could also be awe inspiring, motivating and content oriented, celebrating the grit, determination and the unimaginable potentialities of human form and body.