re-picturing FITNESS FASHION


am I underdressed in my shirt and shorts?

When did the runway replace the running path?

My academic work recently took me to Washington, D.C. for the annual American Psychological Association conference. One morning I rose early to run on the National Mall. I ran the few blocks from my hotel to the reflecting pool in front of U.S. Capitol and was feeling good. My knee wasn’t hurting, it was warm, but not hot, and I was enjoying taking in the sights.

As I became aware of my surroundings, however, I had a completely novel running experience. I felt…underdressed.

No, my ass wasn’t hanging out of my shorts and my sports bra was in place. However, as I looked around, I noticed that the runners around me, especially the women, were not just sporting the usual shirts and shorts, but many had donned cute, brightly colored skorts, skirts, and even dresses.

It looked more like a catwalk than the Mall and instead of sporting the latest fashion trends, I felt like I got stuck with the ill-fitting leftovers from last year’s goodwill sack.

Well, it turns out that my experience wasn’t unique. It seems that retailers have recently introduced several lines of athletic clothing in which women can be fashionable and functional at the same time. The August edition of Runner’s World featured a cover model sporting a hot pink and orange outfit with an argyle skirt, arm warmers, and a spaghetti strap sports bra. According to Runners Word, fastinistas are the new fashionistas. Instead of wearing shorts and shirts (with bonus points for a synthetic, non-cotton, singlet that wicks sweat away from the body), women appear to be donning skorts, skirts, spaghetti strap tanks, dresses, even mumus and shrugs.

Although I have nothing against function with fashion, I can’t help but feel a little a loss. The running path used to be sacred space. The only requirement was a good pair of shoes. It was a place where someone could wear what she wanted and be in her body without worrying about how she looked to others. As I reflect back on my time at the Mall, I am struck by the fact that in an instant I went from enjoying being in my body and seeing the world around me to thinking about how the world saw me, focusing on how my body looked rather than how my body felt.

What do you think about fitness clothes? Function, fashion, or both?

    • Tiffany Hogan
    • August 18th, 2011

    I had no idea – tells you how long it’s been since I went running. I don’t like it in principle, feels like marketing to get us to spend money on yet another ‘must have’ item(s). However it’s nice to have more options (I guess) for those who are more ‘fashion’-inclined. Great pic, btw!

  1. I really like fashion and am all for cute dresses, but this sort of makes me say UGH! Also, now that I think about it, I’m surprised we haven’t seen this trend sooner! Whatever the case, I’m sticking with my shorts and tank top. I don’t think this trend has hit Boston yet and since we’re often behind the fashion times, hopefully I won’t feel like I’m under-dressed when I run through the park for a long time!

  2. I’m with Tiffany and Melissa on this one. Although I have recently bought 2 skorts, I’ve used them for travel, not for running.

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