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Old Lady Gains Blog Women's Fitness Fashion through the decades

Throwback: A Look At Women’s Fitness Fashion Throughout the Decades

A lot has changed over the years in both fitness and fashion. There was a time that it was frowned upon for women to exercise at all, and sweating was not something you voluntarily took part in.  Looking back over the decades of gym wear, I can’t help but be thankful that I live in the era that is not so restrictive and allows for comfort, flexibility, and variety.


During the 1920’s women were most often seen wearing bloomers to exercise. They were large pleated pant legs with elastic around the knee and were so full that they resembled a skirt.  These were a compromise between mens pants and long skirts and were usually navy or black. 

There was also something called a gym suit that consisted of bloomers on the bottom half with a button up middy top attached. The shirt had a large sailor collar, elbow length sleeves and a belt around the waist. They were paired with black stockings for a modest look. 

When women worked out at home or in a women’s only environment, they would wear a wool swimsuit that allowed for more flexibility and movement. The swimsuit consisted of a tank top with skirted shorts attached and were knitted for better comfort. 

Old Lady Gains 1922 Bloomers exercise clothes


The 1930’s didn’t change a lot from the 1920’s. Women still continued wearing bloomers, but in the mid 1930’s they changed the bottoms to pleated skirts instead, with shorts underneath. The tops became more tailored and feminine and the waist was raised back to the natural waist as opposed to the lowered waist of the 1920’s gym suit. They also were offered in a variety of colors instead of just navy and black. 

Old Lady Gains 40s exercise fashion


By the 1950’s shorts were finally an acceptable attire for women. Satin shorts or pants with knit shirts or tank tops were common. This was the era of the hoola hoop as it was thought to slim the waistline. 


The 1970’s was a fun era, and the exercise attire became more flamboyant and spicy. Shorty shorts were in, tracksuits hit the market, and the popular velour became a hot item. Leotards were also a thing and were often worn to the new exercise class in town, better known as jazzercise. 


This decade is perhaps the most iconic when it comes to fitness fashion. Known for its vibrant colors, leotards and leg warmers, your personality was given the green light to shine through your workout clothes. The bigger and flashier the better! 

The big hair, neon leotards paired with flashy tights and colorful leg warmers made for a big, bold look. Most of the fabric choices were spandex, lycra, and velour, and with Jane Fonda and Arnold schwarzenegger making exercise popular, the gym and workout scene was a cool and hip place to be.


The 1990’s ushered in step aerobics and a more streamlined look. Leotards over tights were still in, with crop tops and sports bras becoming popular. Track jackets made their way onto the scene as well. 

Old Lady Gains 90s fitness fashion


The 2000’s is the decade that yoga pants and leggings became popular, along with low-rise everything, which means the leggings were also low-rise. How we survived without high rise leggings and yoga pants, I’ll never know. 

Breathable and stretchy material was used to make workout attire more functional, breathable, and comfortable. Colors became less flashy than the 80’s and 90’s for a more subtle and smooth look.  


Today we live in an era where anything goes. Crop tops, sports bras, shorty shorts, leggings of all colors and styles, and hundreds of cool tanks to choose from. You can show up in the gym with baggy sweats and an oversized tshirt and workout alongside someone in shorty-shorts and a sports bra. The options are endless, and there is a style that fits everyone. 

The fabric of today focuses on comfort, with our shirts consisting of a tri-blend of 50% polyester, 25% combed ring-spun cotton, and 25% rayon for the softest, most comfy feel you’ve ever experienced while working out. I’m not even kidding. I will reach for these shirts first every time because of how comfortable they are.

Our halter tanks are a hot item, and are also made with the popular tri-blend fabric so you can experience the comfort and ventilation that you are looking for during your workout. We’ve got designs that range from cute to badass, and everything in between.  And I’m pretty sure they’re known to increase your gains by a massive percentage, so there’s that too.

Taking a walk through the decades makes me grateful for the decade I’m in with comfort and versatility being a focus. Our goal is to make workout attire that you love, and that loves you back with its soft feel and modern design.

Old Lady Gains Blog Women's Workout Fashion
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