Is the Room for Fashion in Sport or Sport in Fashion? Heather Fell, Modern Pentathlon

In the past athletes might have been labelled as a tracksuit loving, high-heel phobic, fashion clueless group, I think it is safe to say that that myth has well and truly been dispelled in the last twelve months. I am obviously referring to the female sporting population; men in sport have had a much stronger and established relationship with the fashion industry.


The natural human instinct of thinking the grass is always greener is quite possibly responsible for my love of fashion. Having been brought up in sport or should I say in a  tracksuit I have come to jump at the opportunity to throw off my trainers and replace them with a sexy stiletto heel. My athlete friends and I spend hours discussing how we yearn to slip on a figure hugging pencil skirt with a feminine blouse and head to work looking groomed and professional. My wardrobe has several barely worn structured day dresses, smart blazers and flattering tailored trousers that I purchased for their pure beauty before reminding myself that if I am lucky I might find a just couple of suitable occasions per year.


From a purely Olympic view fashion has certainly been embraced by sport, a prime example being the collaboration of Stella McCartney with Adidas for the striking design of the Team GB kit. This initiated debates from the critics questioning the need for such a dramatic change to the traditional Great Britain kit but was answered by the majority of female athletes embracing the new cut and designs, quoting the positive effect that looking good and feeling good has on their performance.


There are numerous examples in recent years beyond the Olympics where sport has been affected or influenced by fashion. However I believe this is incomparable when reversed, the effects that specific sporting outfits have had on fashion over the centuries is far stronger. A perfect display of this was the award winning “Sport in Fashion” exhibition held at the Bath fashion museum last year. The samples of high end fashion combined with professional sporting outfits arranged alongside each other demonstrated this relationship perfectly.


The strong influence of horse riding reflected in the dominant fashion houses such as Dior and Chanel is visible season after season. This is filtering through to high street and in recent years there has been a resurgence of the sport lux look which does not seem to be disappearing any time soon.


I see the building of relationships between sport and fashion as positive and exciting and I will never pass on an opportunity to swap my trainers for a pair of heels (unless on the track) or spend the day wearing make-up as opposed to the bedraggled “just-out-of-the-pool” look. However I am cautious not to step over the line between sport and fashion. This fear stems from a clear memory I have of asking my mother “why is the lady wearing jodhpurs and riding boots in the town?” which as an athlete is one look too close to home for me.


Bath is celebrating the third year of its fashion week starting today with catwalk shows, talks, films and exhibitions. I am delighted to be involved once more and have spent many hours during my long hard training sessions planning my outfits, no prizes for guessing I will be steering away from the sport lux look this season.

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