Good Sports Attractive Togs Work Their Way Into The Gym

January 17, 1991|By Catherine Cook | Catherine Cook,Sun Fashion Editor

The wardrobe stylist's credit for last Thursday's Today In Style cover photo was inadvertently omitted. The stylist was Kristy Vant of T. H. E. Artist Agency.

The Sun regrets the errors.

We have at least a couple of months before it's necessary to shed the comforting camouflage of bulky winter clothes.

But once you begin calculating the amount of time necessary to drop those extra pounds, trim those thighs and flatten that tummy, the swimsuit season looms ahead all too quickly.

Baggy gray sweats will certainly suffice for the task of getting trim, but even serious exercise enthusiasts know how much an attractive, stylish reflection in the dressing room mirror can help with motivation.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Over the last couple of years, exercise clothes have been so influenced by ready-to-wear trends and vice versa that street clothes and gym clothes are virtually interchangeable.

"Until about 1987 you probably would have felt uncomfortable or the center of attention if you'd worn stretch gym clothes on the street, but now it's totally acceptable," says Alan Shapiro, vice president of marketing for Jacques Moret, one of the largest exercise wear companies in the country.

He credits designers such as Donna Karan and Betsey Johnson for making stretch clothing with Lycra acceptable outside the gym and sparking a tremendous expansion in the casual-wear )) side of the exercise business.

"Customers used to just buy clothes to work out in, but then they discovered they liked wearing the cropped top later under a shirt, and it started evolving from there," he says.

The core pieces of the exercise wardrobe -- wherever you intend to wear it -- remain the leotard, leggings, T-shirt -- cropped or oversized -- bra top, bike shorts, short shorts and unitards. Individual style is achieved with artful layering.

"Women with a great body will still show it off by wearing as little as possible," says Leslie Sexer, director of marketing for Jacques Moret. "That might mean just a bra top and bike shorts. But for other women, they [have the option of] an ankle length legging and a long T-shirt over the hips."

The most popular twist on the leotard is the thong suit, which cuts the rear of the suit to a thin strip over the buttocks and is worn over tights or leggings.

"It's been around for a while," says Ms. Sexer, "but lately it's gained much more acceptance. We even do a mock thong now that gives the appearance of a thong, but it's built into the tight."

At Body & Sole in Baltimore, buyer Barbara Janoff says, "We've always done well with the thong leotard. Coming into summer, we'll be seeing more [Lycra] bike shorts, and they're also showing it short, like hot pants. But I'm not sure how well that will do, unless your legs are fabulous. It does nothing to shape you out.

"We're also doing a lot right now in unitards and catsuits, especially the cropped lengths in white and black that women like because they can layer anything over. Some have very low backs that they're putting bra tops under."

The penchant for layering has led to the manufacture of a variety of combination garments. Cropped or bra tops are sewn at the shoulder under deep U-necked tank tops, and tight Lycra bike shorts come with briefer, loose jersey shorts attached over top.

The latter are called B-ball shorts, says Ms. Sexer. "It's something basketball players started, and it's trickled down to bodywear."

Some old favorites have also started to return to bodywear -- the use of prints and classic colors such as pink and blue.

"For a while everything was solid or colors that were mixed and matched," says Ms. Janoff. "Now there are swirls and flowers and lots of lace. We also have pastels for the first time in a long time."

Pastel shades are just one of the options of a wide variety of colors. "Neon has been on the wane for a while, but I think people will always gravitate to bright colors, even if they're just incorporated with other colors," says Ms. Sexer.

The increase in pastels, lace and floral prints -- bold and pale -- does portend a more feminine direction for future exercise seasons. Some of the very newest suits even reflect the influence of lingerie detailing with sweetheart necklines and wire shaping.

Trend lineup

* Prints, especially '60s psychedelic swirls and florals.

* One-piece unitards.

* Lingerie detailing, including underwiring and lace trim.

* Sweetheart necklines.

* B-ball shorts combining long bike shorts under short jersey shorts.

* Duo tops layering cropped U-neck tanks over bra tops.

* Bra tops worn with leggings or bike shorts.

* Thong-styled leotards and faux-thong suits.

* Fewer logos and graphics emblazoned on T-shirts.

* Bright colors remain exercise classics, but neons are dimming.

* Graphic black-and-white prints and a resurgence of feminine shades such as pink and blue.

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