What We Wore:
Fitness Fashion Fads
Over the years, exercise style has moved through many twists and turns. Rompers and skirts worn while doing spa calisthenics in the late '40s gave way to some of the first tracksuits in the '50s. As exercise became more fashionable, people wanted clothes to match, with leotards and leggings echoing personal style. (Remember metallic leggings? We've forgotten too.) Here we take you around the gym track of time.
The post-WW II era saw a rise in exercise, concurrent to a 1949 study released by U.K. scientist Dr. Jerry Morris, who made the first acknowledged link between sedentary occupations and heart disease.
These were the very early days of American spa, where visitors engaged in newly developed exercise programs. Sandra Mendoza-Daly, vintage style expert, notes how exercisers back then wore rompers, shorts, even skirts during their workouts, as can be seen here in this old photo of guests doing their daily sit-ups at Rancho La Puerta.
"In the 1950s, the skirt over the playsuit was gone, allowing women to wear shorts and button-up shirts for sport activities," she adds. "Women also started wearing track suits, which were once reserved for men."
Starting in the mid-'70s and moving into the '80s, exercising became quite chic. The first fitness spa, The Ashram, debuted in California, in 1974, and Tuscon's Canyon Ranch further popularized fitness and spa in 1979. In fact, from 1978 to 1987, the number of people who participated in aerobics went up to 19 million. Previously, that number was at 6 million.
As aerobics became more popular, exercise clothes became a little more stylish and featured some flare with leotards available in various colors and textures, and leggings and socks to match, as illustrated by these fitness enthusiasts doing floor stretches at the Oaks at Ojai in the late '70s.
Let's Get Physical
After Olivia Newton-John released her music video for "Let's Get Physical" in 1981, many people were inspired to become exercising fiends. Women layered leotards with tights of all sorts of colors and styles and men donned tight tanks and spandex. Some even adorned their workout ensembles with belts and headbands like these enthusiastic exercisers at Canyon Ranch in the '80s.
Jazzercize & Step Aerobics
The world was introduced to the step aerobics workout craze in 1989 by Gin Miller. In the late '80s and early '90s, the mentality was "go big or go home." Exercisers liked to make a bold statement in the workout room. From animal prints, like Ms. Cluff and her team model here, to graffiti style, they rocked their looks as they stretched and moved.
The Kickboxing '90s
From cotton to nylon sweats, when those cardio kickboxing video routines came out, so did a tough aerobics routine style. Since exercise programs included repetitive kicking and punching heavy bags, wearing baggy attire became kind of a strategy. Here, guests at Hilton Head Health take a cardio boxing class and wear a range of clothing.
Yoga in the New Millenium
Even though yoga has been alive and well since ancient India—as a component of the meditative practices of Hinduism and Buddhism—the workout really took centerstage in the last decade or so, with stars like Madonna becoming fans. Along with it came incredibly comfortable clothes that really move and stretch with you, such as stretchy, form-fitting cotton tanks and flare-legged pants, which are sometimes made of organic cotton. Here, yogis stretch out at Cal-a-Vie.