Courting fashion in the play ground

Clothes in the sports arena has gone high fashion keeping with today’s mood, PRAMITA BOSE discovers.

During the recently concluded Wimbledon, the Centre court, as usual, was the focal point with the world’s best tennis players vied for the coveted title. But no less of interest was the high-street by fashion reflected in the sportswear adorned the players serving up aces, smashing the ball hard and winning a point.

Over time, custom-made sportswear -hand-crafted or machine-stitched, have set a trend. Fashion has increasingly forayed into sports arena, thanks to an upsurge in consumer culture and corporate sponsorships. The lifestyle and sportswear brands are going in for the kill in the market by flooding it with sportswear that make a statement.

Gone are those old austere dresses of the vintage Victorian era when women players were restricted to a slick, classy white dress with long-sleeved shirts and foot-length skirts. Cut to the current scenario of tennis and badminton, where hip, haute fashion and luxe glamour today rewrite the rules of the dress-code.

Designers too track the trend in sportswear undergoing a sea-change. For women, the modest hemline of old has

Courting fashion in the play ground

gone up and up and necklines are also dipping. The T-shirt with collar has given way to lacy backless tops.

“We’ve always viewed sportswear in fitted silhouettes and solid colours. With people turning more health-conscious and increasingly investing in the same, the stress is on fashionable active wear,” observes Delhi-based designer Ishita Mangal.

Given a choice, she would definitely wish to style up the Russian tennis beauty Maria Sharapova. She would like to drape her “in a loose sleeveless shift dress which is simply cut out in a round neck with a tunic shape to breathe through because, the game requires a lot of movement to maintain the momentum.” She selects metallic dyes like a lustrous watery gold to do the honours. “The gold material has to be in a see-through, transparent gauzy fabric with very subtle appeal to the eye. Inside, she can wear high-waist hot pants and a cropped top in off-white lycra texture. I think she would totally pull this off on any tennis field,” she suggests.

Says designer Masumi Mewawalla of Mumbai-based Pink Peacock Couture, “Fashion has surely become integral to sports and it’s a concept much in vogue. Both men and women sports icons seem to embrace this trend too. Meanwhile, the global brands are endorsing the sports-idols as they feel their brand-ambassadors know how to carry it off well.”

Courting fashion in the play ground

Agreeing that fashion has made a deep inroad into the fitness sector, Mewawalla catalogues apparels to fit from training workout sessions to on-field jerseys. “A novel snug fashion-cum-sportswear is doing the rounds now with a slick T-back or crossed-back tee teamed with a skinny pair of three-quarter tights, a contrast head band and bold-coloured shoes. Great for showing off a toned body. “

For men, baggy loose tracks with stretch vests and a smart cap can complete the perfect get-up. “For the on-field option, the jersey with its brand-loyal logo and a brazen monochrome look is the ideal mantra, while off-field, an iconic sports-figure can smoothly parade comfort with a stylish edge,” she summarises.

Accessorising is also an art to be cultivated with accuracy. “It enhances the fashion appeal in the best possible way. Keeping the flavour of the season, sports accessories come in smart shades, head bands, caps and the widely-used latest gadget of pedometer bands which is a must have,” Mewawalla adds.

The chrome-palette is vast and vibrant varying from elegant whites, blacks, pinks to jazzy neons. For the Indian runway, she votes for Virat Kohli and Sania Mirza to grace it as Mewawalla reasons: “Kohli knows the gentleman’s game as well as fashion in the correct proportions which is an impeccable quality.” Tennis diva Sania, according to her, “walks the ramp like she owns it”. Internationally, former England soccer-legend David Beckham knows fashion like the back of his hand, she observes.

“Often the relentless match-schedules, rigorous training and constant monitoring in public domain make things too

Courting fashion in the play ground

suffocating for comfort. There steps in the necessity of a suitable wardrobe to ease the aching pressure off one’s back,” observes Olympic bronze medalist badminton player Saina Nehwal. “One can certainly modify or tailor-make the dress as per requirement in order to perfectly fit the body. It also depends on the type of physique the player has with a view to look best in the garb. Besides, the fabrics must be cosy to the skin and weather-friendly,” shares the 25-year old, presently ranked second in the world.

With an affinity for orange, light blue and black hues for her costumes, Saina picks up simplicity for casual wear. “My style statement is to don something which suits me best. Many a time, I put on a track suit which is cushy for travel purposes. But it is my mother who mostly takes the call on my sartorial choices,” she reveals.

Opting for “hygiene which means health”, the world-class player never forgets to stockpile a box of comfort-lingerie and inners to feel good.

Menswear designer Medhavini Khaitan looks into the paradigm shift in sports designer-wear. “Earlier commercial brands would chip in for the players’ kit and their wardrobe. But now couturiers look for the job individually.” Designers being a creative lot would naturally love to broaden their repertoire with theme-oriented stuff. From gym-addicts to kids’ clothes to lifestyle products, they aim to stamp their legacy.” There is a difference between designing a single man’s outfit to a composite squad. “There’s more scope in a one-man show than an entire club, where you have to follow a set code of norms,” she explains.

For the soggy monsoon season, Khaitan roots for sky blue, burnt yellow, orange and tints of mint. Looking back to the more ‘old school style’ of players’ ‘dressing room’ Medhavini mentions the retro debonair Nawab of Pataudi, Ravi Shastri and Mohd. Azharuddin as the most well-dressed men for their sheer sense of fashion and sophistication.

Sportswear manufacturing companies with top-rung brands are also into getting mileage out of fashion with functionality facility. Premium brand names are swamping the market to unpack an extensive array of fashion-friendly leggings, jackets, tees, tracksuits, joggers’ pants, sports-bras, racerback tanks, plimsolls, gym-shorts, go-faster stripes to add loads of killer attitude to the wearer’s wardrobe.

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