Olympic Fashion & History

The 21st Winter Olympic Games begin Febraury 12 (this Friday) in Vancouver, Canada. Ralph Lauren designed the US team’s official opening ceremony outfits (pictured above), and was inspired by “classic outfits worn during the 1932 competition in Lake Placid.” But what exactly did the opening ceremony outfits look like in 1932?

Lake Placid 1932-Opening Ceremony-The American delegation (USA). (Via olympic.org)

Lake Placid 1932-Opening Ceremony-The American delegation (USA). (Via olympic.org)

The 1930s saw a huge rise in interest in winter sports attire, especially ski-wear. According to Charlie Lee-Potter, author of Sportswear in Vogue Since 1910, “Between 1930 and 1933 the smart ski silhouette for men and women was long and narrow. Waists were accentuated by short, double-breasted, boxy jackets with the broad shoulders introduced by Schiaparelli, and wide lapels worn with Norwegian-style trousers with gathered hems (the precursor of plus-fours).” The Painted Woman blog, has  more wonderful images on 1930s winter sportswear for women. Those looking for a little more should read Pat Warners, When the Girls Came Out to Play: The Birth of American Sportswear, and be sure to check out Worn Through‘s related posts from 2008.

Schiaparelli Ski Suit, Harper’s Bazaar, December 1938.

Schiaparelli Ski Suit, Harper’s Bazaar, December 1938.

Some other examples of historic winter sports attire include:

Ski Jacket, House of Lanvin, 1924/25, MET, Costime Institute

Ski Jacket, House of Lanvin, 1924/25, MET, Costime Institute

wool ski suits from the fall/winter 1937-38 Montgomery Wards (via Fuzzylizzie.com)

Wool ski suits from the fall/winter 1937-38 Montgomery Wards (via Fuzzylizzie.com)

1930, Skating dress by Hattie Carnegie, Met Costume Institute

Skating dress by Hattie Carnegie, 1930, Met Costume Institute

Gretchen Fraser, 1948 Olympic Gold Medalist (USA) in St. Moritz

Tenley Albright, 1956 gold medalist (USA) in figure skating, at Cortina d’Ampezzo

1967 Ski Ensemble by House of Balenciaga, Met Costume Institute

Ski Ensemble by House of Balenciaga, 1967, Met Costume Institute

Rodard and the Olympics, 2010

Johnny Weir in custom Rodarte

Johnny Weir in custom Rodarte

Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who make up the hot and rapidly expanding* fashion duo, Rodarte are getting in on the Olympic action with a photo editorial in the New York Times Magazine. The ‘loopy’ video is entertaining, but indications are that these high fashion/costumes won’t appear in competition.To tie in to both the Olymics and New York Fashion Week, The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York is having a ‘Quicktake’ exhibition of Rodarte (tomorrow through March 14). The Cooper-Hewitt Design Blog has some good behind the scenes information.

*Rodarte, in case you’ve been hiding under a rock, are quickly becoming an empire. In addition to their spread in the New York Times Magazine this past weekend, and the exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt, they recently developed a collection for Target, announced a menswear line, and were even featured in a New Yorker profile.

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