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Sunday, September 18, 2011

workout fashion throughout the ages

Okay, not "throughout the ages". From 1977 to now. Whaddya think? People hit the gym in 1393? They were too busy dying of the plague, yo. And the ancient Greeks hit the gym nekkid, all the better to ogle each others' junk. 'Cause you know how they were. Look up "sodomy" in the dictionary.

Uh, where was I? Oh, yeah. You would think that workout clothes wouldn't go through trends and fads. They're just supposed to be functional, right? But human beings are chimps that like shiny stuff. We generally are compelled to throw some bells and whistles in with our function. And thus it is with athletic clothing.

When I was in high school in the late 70s, we wore these running shorts in gym class:

If there exists a garment that is less flattering on a woman with short little legs and Bulgy Polish Catcher's Thighs, I dunno what it is. Thus I hated changing into my gym clothes and avoided it whenever possible. Luckily, our gym teachers were there solely to collect a paycheck and couldn't care less about our physical fitness or lack thereof. I didn't have to wear my ugly green gym shorts very often.

But free from high school gym class, I did actually have an interest in becoming fit. I made some abortive attempts in the early 80s to go to the gym, usually joining up with a girlfriend who swore they would go, then bailing when they bailed. I was shy. The thoughts of taking my leotard-clad, uncoordinated self through the gym alone was too daunting. Leotards? you say. Oh, yes. This is what Jane Fonda wrought:

I KNOW! With belts and everything! As I love to remind y'all, you cannot make this shit up. As horrifying as this is, it was a step up for me. Those leotards were a lot more flattering on my particular body type than the running shorts. The tights on the bottom kept the thighs in check and you know my waist looked good under the belt. (Seriously, WTF? How did that not cut off our circulation while we were "pulsing" or whatever the fuck it is we were doing?)

In the late 80s and early 90s, I became a gym rat for awhile. It was all about the Stairmaster and the recumbent bike. What did we wear to drip our sweat everywhere while pretending we were climibng to the top of the John Hancock Tower? Why, bike shorts, of course!

Do you know how else we deployed our bike shorts in the early 90s? We wore them peeking out under our babydoll dresses. I also wore a lot of red lipstick, but I didn't smear it all over my face like Courtney Love. If pictures exist of this, you will never see them. But I'm getting off topic. Unlike the spokesmodel in my example picture, I generally was too self-conscious to wear just a sports bra with my bike shorts in the gym. (Yes, yes, I know. I just posted a crapload of pictures of myself in my underwear for anyone to stumble across on the internet. I have come a long way in vanquishing my shyness since 1992.) Back then, I usually wore my bike shorts with a hugely over-sized Ocean Pacific t-shirt:

My personal favorite one was lime green. Don't judge.

You know what else we wore a lot of in the early 90s, when we weren't wearing our babydoll dresses? Leggings! This translated to gym fashion in the form of the unitard:

I had one almost exactly like the one on the right. Do you know what's scary? This image is of garments for sale NOW. Apparently the kids are wearing these things to the club. Damn hipsters. Excuse me while I clutch my pearls.

I became disenchanted with the gym, bought some home exercise equipment, and didn't exercise anywhere other than my house or the great outdoors for fifteen years or so. When I came back, it was all different.

Yoga pants had been invented:

This was a good thing.

Sports bra technology had advanced to the point where even chicks like me with big boobs on tiny frames could run in comfort.

This was also a good thing.

Clothes promised to wick away your sweat.

I suppose this is a good thing. I myself prefer to go old skool and wear cheap beaters from Tarzhay:

I take the big sweat stain that I get across my abdomen as a sign I'm doing something right.

But bike shorts are back! Or maybe they never went away. However, they are now available in magical miracle fabric spun by fairies and if you are willing to pay Lululemon prices, they'll make you look better than you have any right to look. And by "you" obviously I mean me. This is a very good thing.

I stand by my decision to waste money on these things.

What will we be wearing to the gym in 2020? Your guess is as good as mine. But if they bring back leotards with belts, I'ma sit that one out.



  1. How did anyone ever get belts into the workout wear realm? HOW, I ask you?

  2. This was JUST PLAIN FUN! Laughed throughout the entire thing.
    Shhhh I used to wear my very fashionable, color coordinated leg warmers with my skirt, clogs and football shouldered tops. No, not while exercising, while at work. Thank goodness there were no camera phones... That could be blackmail material.

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