Vintage Running Clothes
Over at xoJane, I talk about running and, um, bladder control. Here at The Sew Weekly, I'd like to talk about something far more controllable: what I wear when I run.
Now, as someone who loves vintage styles and sewing my own clothes, I'm faced with a total dilemma with regard to athletic clothes. Despite my love for the styles of the past, I'm practical when it comes to certain types of contemporary clothing. Sports bras, running shoes and sweat-friendly athletic clothes were invented for a reason. As cute as a 1930s or 1940s gymsuit is, I'm not going to feel comfortable wearing it while running a 5k. And even if said gymsuit was suitable for running, there's no way I'm pairing it with modern running shoes (and I'm not ditching the modern running shoes despite them being the ugliest shoes in existence).
Thinking about my options, I decided to see if there were any photographs of Dita Von Teese (someone who famously maintains a vintage look at all times) doing the exericse thing. It turns out that even when Dita Von Teese is exercising, she keeps her look. But that's at the gym. And, she's barefoot. I want to know what she would wear going for a jog!
I guess the answer to that is: DITA VON TEESE DOES NOT JOG!
So then I thought, "when did women begin competing in running events at the Olympics?" Surely, there would lie the answer to my appropriate running apparel question!
Here's a fascinating bit of history about long-distance running in the Olympics by women:
Before the 1980s, there were no women's distance races in the Olympics. In the Moscow Games, the longest race for women was the 1,500 meters, which had been instituted in 1972. Women had been excluded from track and field competition altogether until 1928, when the longest race was the 800 meters. Despite a world record by winner Lina Radke of Germany, many of the competitors had not properly prepared for the race and several collapsed in exhaustion. This led Olympic organizers to consider the race too strenuous for women. The president of the IOC, Count Henri Baillet-Latour, even suggested the elimination of all women's competition from the Games. Such a drastic move was not taken, but until 1960, when the 800 meters reappeared, no race over 200 meters was contested by women in the Olympics.
So what did Lina Radke wear? Here's a photo of her running in the 1928 Olympics:
It's her competitor, Hitomi Kinue's, outfit that really blows my mind. Her racing clothes look so incredibly modern, down to the pre-Adidas racing stripe!
More research led me to K.V. Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with an issued number (Roberta Gibb had run the race the year earlier, 1966, without a number. She had hid behind a bush at the start). By using her initials, Switzer had gone unnoticed as a woman until two miles to race. That's when Race director Will Cloney and official Jock Semple physically tried to remove her from the race.
As you can tell from the photographs, she wear a very practical sweatsuit. In later photos from the race, she wears simple dark shorts.
Here's another shot from a college race where she unofficially ran for Syracuse. Her outfit below looks totally practical and, actually, fashionable. I also like the bow in her hair. And she's wearing running shoes.
After some minor research, I think I found the solution to my fashion dilemma: These women had to kick some serious butt to be able to compete. Therefore, the last thing they were going to do was wear some society-approved skirted playsuit in order to do the sport they loved. It's okay that I want to be fashionable, but not at the expense of performance or comfort.
And, I can wear a bow in my hair.