It all started out with a whisper of sports and a whole lot of attitude: a cool cap thrown on for good measure, a hoodie left on for extra comfort, a pair of sneakers worn on days that required a lot of walking. And then the inevitable happened: sports fashion grew up and with it, the lines between style and convenience got blurred. The athletic influences became less obvious and something about them screamed of pure luxury.

Now, the athletic trend takes one final step forward, completely erasing any gap that may have still existed between what’s fashion and what’s practical as gym gear. Somewhat of a faux pas in the past, dressing like a gym addict (even without necessarily loving the “working out part”) is now considered the coolest thing in the world. So it’s no wonder that retail is so deeply infatuated with activewear.

After the break, a look at the cultural shift towards casual dressing, runway to the street.

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Athletic chic: S/S '16
Athletic chic: S/S '16
Athletic chic: S/S '16
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Athletic chic: S/S '16
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Athletic chic: S/S '16
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Athletic chic: S/S '16
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Athletic chic: S/S '16
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Athletic chic: S/S '16
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Athletic chic: S/S '16
Athletic chic: S/S '16
Athletic chic: S/S '16
Athletic chic: S/S '16

The rise of activewear.

About clothes that give us total function without compromising the style part, about overloaded schedules that require for our daily uniforms to transition from one activity to the next, the marketing message that lies behind the rise of activewear appears to be saying that we’re all suddenly too busy to be putting anything else above comfort when it comes to dressing for the day.

Gym-to-street clothes evolved as an official clothing category, it’s how people dress now, it’s a lifestyle. All it takes is going out on the street to understand that both women, and men, live in gym clothing now, so it’s no surprise that the high-end workout clothes morphed into the new street-style uniform.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley via


The whole activewear as daywear and weekend wear shift made it socially acceptable to wear gym clothes 24/7 and yet, the gym-to-street category focusing on clothes worn for both sporty and leisurely activities hasn’t really been assigned with a proper name.

Enter “athleisure“, the newest vocabulary hybrid including all sorts of comfortable, casual, sporty looks fitted for both an active use, and as everyday wear. Think “activewear that’s not really meant to be sweat in at all”, like leggings-all day, loose t-shirts over bralettes, or yoga pants for brunch.

Free People Movement “The Move On” Lookbook

Sportswear on the runway.

With all of the gym-ready looks allowing every woman to play it casually cool at all times while out and about on the city streets – whether they intend to hit the yoga studio or not – the athletic mood prevailing on the runway leans instead towards the idea of bringing a sportswear-minded approach to luxury clothing.

Showcasing a definite athletic inspiration but one that’s being polished off to the max, the sporty silhouettes seen on the spring 2016 runways worked to complement the following fashion trends:

The minimal ’90s.

Sportswear looks with a ’90s twist came plenty on the spring 2016 runways, some bearing a cool, urban feel, others hiding a grunge flavour, most hinting to the past decade’s minimal aesthetic. If you want to celebrate the 1990s revival with an on-trend take on luxe sports, look out for:

  • supple and simple shapes in soft, natural fabrics like linen, cotton, mesh and voile;
  • delicate bra tops and loose, pant silhouettes in light colours, to be styled with undone low ponytails and cool fanny packs;
  • sporty dresses oozing of off-duty-cool, imploring to be layered over mesh tops and complemented with a pair of white sneakers.

sports fashion trend spring 2016
Sportswear at Balenciaga and Alexander Wang, S/S ’16

The bohemian sports.

Now that’s a fashion hybrid that is all about celebrating what is modern and fresh now. Perhaps unexpected, the clash of the romantic bohemian with the cool sports made for a highly individual aesthetic defined by smart contrasts and an impossible sense of effortlessness. To achieve the look try:

  • mixing sporty blousons, sweatshirts and hoodies with airy, floral printed, floor-sweeping skirts;
  • clashing the two aesthetics in one super-garment, such as a breezy boho dress silhouette made anew with athletic-inspired detailing, cuts and motifs.

sports fashion trend spring 2016
Sportswear at Chloe and Alexander Wang, S/S ’16

Retro sports.

Throwing it back to the 1970s, the retro sports trending for spring 2016 is the kind that embraces a sense of uncomplicated ease. Think loose silhouettes, rich earth tones, bold graphic prints and luxurious fabrics, melted into silhouettes that are both casual and chic. Printed tank tops to track suits and mesh tees allow you to channel the trend, styled with natural waves, flat sandals and versatile sneakers.

sports fashion trend spring 2016
Sportswear at Paco Rabanne and Tommy Hilfiger, S/S ’16

Sporty pastels.

Whether you want to infuse a bit of urban cool into your favourite pastel shades, or you love your sportswear with a side of femininity, the juxtaposition of laid-back, athletic-inspired silhouettes to delicious fairyfloss pink and baby blues allows you do to just that for spring 2016.

Add more contrast to the resulting aesthetic by:

  • layering an oversized silky bomber over bare skin and pteaming it with a pair of ornate culottes and pointy flats;
  • accenting the soft, feminine feel set by the pretty colour scheme with slick, sophisticated silhouettes bearing subtle athletic details; think fitted twin sets and body-hugging dresses.

sports fashion trend spring 2016
Sports luxe at Iceberg & Stella McCartney, S/S ’16

Orange-coloured sportswear.

Marking its return on the runway, orange makes for one of the most prominent spring 2016 fashion trends, the bold, citrusy hue painting sports luxe in a bright, cheerful disposition. To play along the lines choose:

  • girly dresses that carry the athletic influence in the details; wear them with slip-ons or sneakers during the day, and switch to ankle strap heels for the evening;
  • laid-back, t-shirt frocks with shredded edges, chicened up with gold accessories and statement heels.

sports fashion trend spring 2016
Sports luxe at Sacada & Opening Ceremony, S/S ’16

Key elements.

The luxe tracksuit.

If you aim for the kind of laid-back gym-ready sports looks that allow you to play it casually cool throughout the day, do invest in a luxe tracksuit. Keep an eye out for:

  • edgy prints (think camouflage), luxurious fabrics (think silk), and bright colours (think red, orange, yellow);
  • bottoms ranging from boxer shorts, to relaxed three quarter pants and full-on slouchy silhouettes;
  • pointy flats, cool aviators and sexy bralettes to dress up the athletic-inspired suits.

sports fashion trend spring 2016
Sports luxe at Bottega Veneta, Paul & Joe and Lacoste, S/S ’16

Easy tank tops.

They’re the easy ones to throw on bare skin, layer underneath a cool bomber or on top of a lacy bra, and they’re about as versatile as they are effortless to wear. If you plan on adding a sporty tank top to your closet this season, invest in:

  • neutral shades and minimalist designs to pair with both boho skirts and tailored pants;
  • bright colours and cool graphic prints to mix and match, adding clean lines and a bit of sheer to the mix for an overall modern-meets-chic sports look.

sports fashion trend spring 2016
Sports luxe at Chloe & Stella McCartney, S/S ’16

Cool bombers.

Leather to satin, cropped to oversized, dark hues to pastel shades, make a sporty bomber the one statement piece your wardrobe doesn’t lack for spring / summer 2016. Updated with floral embroideries and lace trimmings, style your bomber with:

  • flowy skirts featuring sexy thigh-high slits, and soft knits;
  • sheer tops and silky skirts featuring asymmetrical hems;
  • add to its regained luxe feel with a pair of classic red lips, statement heels or ornate flats.

sports fashion trend spring 2016
Sports luxe at Topshop Unique & Emilio Pucci, S/S ’16

How to wear it.

During the day:

  • use easy layering to make the most out of your favourite sporty-minimal silhouettes: think white tees slipped underneath silky dresses, mesh tops worn underneath sporty bralettes, maxi dresses paired to cool bombers;
  • choose sexy cut-outs, exposed shoulders and bright hues to invoke the kind of sporty, sex-appeal that casual garments often lack; statement heels and slicked back hair work weel in ehancing the mood;
  • try faux-leather and dark hues to toughen up the sporty-chic, pairing oversized bombers and short shorts with high heels and graphic eyes.

sports fashion trend spring 2016
Sports luxe at DKNY, DSquared2 and Fendi, S/S ’16

During the night:

  • use luxurious fabrics to balance out the sportswear influence: think silky tops and sequined shorts in sophisticated, neutral hues;
  • use a sporty bomber over a floor-sweeping evening gown to bring together the best of two worlds, minimal accessories and natural make-up crowning the casual vs. elegant juxtaposition.

sports fashion trend spring 2016
Evening sports at Tibi & Fausto Puglisi, S/S ‘ 16

Activewear on the streets.

Mesh, sporty brallettes, fashionable leggings and an entire selection of directional sneakers: these are the sports elements prevailing on the streets, sure to take you from gym to the shops to brunch and back home without a single shift in gear.

Rocked by the street-style darlings and off-duty models with the same aplomb, the sporstwear fashion continues to mix high and low, formal and active, but where one ends and the others begin is no longer clear. But now that spring is almost here, you can easily use a cool leather biker, a luxurious coat or a colourful statement bomber to polish off your high-end workout clothes and build upon luxe layers.

sporty street style

Sports fashion: the trend in the past.

This season, sports fashion finally moves from being influenced by particular sports, to being more about generic sporty twists and sleek athletic lines. Spring 2012 was the first season to mark a subtle return to femininity, with the lines becoming cleaner and the silhouettes going minimal. In 2013, the sporty aesthetic continued to slowly but surely morph into an entirely new embodiment of casual-chicness. It’s the bold volumes, the hi-tech fabrics and the old-school approach to styling to keep the sports fashion highly sophisticated, as one of the most prominent 2014 fashion trends.

Here are the main elements to build the new take on sports fashion, as seen on the spring 2014 runways.

Luxe fabrics.

Silk organza, washed satin, leather, wool crêpe, neoprene, it all goes as far as experimenting with texture. The more luxurious the fabric, the higher the contrast set for the sporty silhouette, which is pretty much all you will be needing in order to capture the modern-sports spirit of the season.

Look out for:

  • Track pants and basketball shorts, in bold patterns and sumptuous fabrics, like Gucci’s lurex, jacquard and matte satin sportswear.
  • Jackets, loose pants and derby inspired shorts in washed satin, sequins or crepe, like Marc by Marc Jacobs haute athletic wear.
  • Light coloured pencil skirts, bomber jackets and sleek tops, cut in satin or tweed, borrowing inspiration from Prabal Gurung’s gorgeous athletic offering.
  • Sleeveless dresses and flared skirts cut in electric blue neoprene, like DKNY’s sporty-chic renditions.

sporty fashion luxe fabrics

Sports mesh.

The netted fabric never looked quite as luxurious as it did on the spring 2014 runways. Layered on top of sexy camisoles and triangle bras, or used merely as a subtle statement on flowy dresses, the sporty mesh is enough of an athletic element to be channeling the best of this spring’s sports vibes.

Look out for loose tops, bomber jackets, sporty tanks and long sleeved sweatshirts cut in black or white mesh, and pair them to perforated leather or metallic boxer shorts, and satin track pants.

sporty fashion mesh

Of course, you could also be layering a sporty mesh blouson over a fitted dresses featuring a bold print, or on top of a laid-back pair of dungarees, and trust the impact to be even higher. Regardless of how you choose to wear it, make sure to style mesh with a pair of sexy ankle strap-heels for a taste of this spring’s effortless take on femininity.

sporty fashion mesh

Sporty minimalism.

One of the other novelties of the season, lies in a fresh sports interpretation that fuses the best of two worlds: luxury and minimalism. Sleek, clean, but bearing recognizable athletic influences, the sporty minimalism is defined by relaxed silhouettes, clean shapes, little embellishments, all veiled by an overall sophisticated feel.

We could be talking about perforated crop-tops and tennis whites alike, about boxy silhouettes and skirt-lengths hitting casually below the knee, about easy dresses worn underneath sheer bombers. In a nutshell, keep an eye out for sporty clothing that looks both relaxed and ultra-simple.

sporty minimalism

Refined use of hoodies.

There’s nothing slouchy about the use of hoodies this season, quite the contrary as the sporty style appears to have underwent a refined transformation on the runway. If you’re planning on making it a spring statement, try wearing the hoodie:

  • Underneath/or part of a loose, flowy dress, cut in a delicate fabric; style the look with statement necklaces and boots for added contrast.
  • Underneath a tailored blazer, paired with a tennis-style skirt and a pair of cool sneakers.
  • As part of a mesh bomber jacket, thrown over a matching bandeau, styled with a fitted pencil skirt and high heels.

hoodie sporty chic

Sports fashion: the key styles.

If you’re planning to update your spring wardrobe with a few, smart items meant to allow you to develop your own take on spring’s sports fashion, here are the key styles to consider:

The bomber jacket.

This is without a doubt the key piece to invest in for spring / summer 2014. While you should try to preserve its lightweight, sporty shape, try to opt for ultra-luxe fabrics like washed satin, tulle or laser-cut suede (mesh) for this season’s bomber.

sporty bomber jacket

If you really want to turn sports into a statement, look out for an embellished bomber instead, the perfect piece to make the transition between super-casual and highly-luxurious. Seek inspiration in the ornate versions to have walked the runway at Marni and Erdem.

embellished bomber jacket

The tennis-style skirt.

Another nobrainer, the tennis-style skirt carries a particularly appealing sports feel, in being both fresh and fun, ultra-chic and cool. Look for clean, neutral pieces to style with a cropped shirt (a la Alexander Wang), tennis-influenced pleated mini skirts to wear with loose tops and visors (a la DKNY), or something a little more sleek and minimal to pair with a complementary bomber jacket (a la Lacoste).

the tennis skirt

The luxe track pants.

There was a time when the simple use of heels and track pants in the same sentence would have been granted as unacceptable. For spring 2014 though, the luxe track pants are only meant to be dressed up. A textured top, or a minimalist crop-top, a bold lip colour and a cool pair of heels are sure to instantly glam up spring’s ubiquitous track pants.

luxe track pants

Sports fashion: fall 2014.

As we transition towards the colder season, we notice the sports silhouettes turning somewhat slouchier, with the volumes becoming more exaggerated; the sturdier choice of materials doesn’t affect the use of mesh, but the employment of leather does become more prominent. There’s also plenty of room left for casual layering with quilted and leather bomber renditions, and a cool juxtaposition of contrasting fabrics.

Solid fabrics.

The sports attitude for fall 2014 still builds upon sophistication, but the choice of fabrics is eventually determined by the dropping temperatures. While the use of fur, velvet, leather and wool becomes predominant, the luxe feel is being reflected in the choice of voluminous silhouettes, and in the string of precious jewel tones defining this season’s sportswear.

Look out for:

  • Leather track pants, tennis-style skirts and dresses, as seen at Alexander Wang, DKNY and Kye.

leather sportswear luxe

  • Super-loose velvet sweatshirts and sweatshirt-dresses, as seen at Viktor & Rolf and Tommy Hilfiger.

velvet sports luxe winter

  • Wool jackets, fuzzy, jersey style dresses and voluminous sport-shirts cut in fur, as seen at Alexander Wang, Jeremy Scott and Kye.

warm furry sports luxe winter

Quilted detailing.

In between Jonathan Saunders’ beige bomber worn casually over a matching flared dress, to Miu Miu’s gorgeous athletic interpretation of quilted nylon that spans over windbreakers, sporty skirts and vests, there’s no doubt sportswear got more wearable all of a sudden, though not less pretentious.

sports luxe quilting

Sporty minimalism.

The preference for sporty minimalism transitioned quite effortlessly to fall and winter, with the easy crop tops, sleek dresses and gym-shorts being replaced by voluminous sweatshirts, satin boxer shorts worn with a coat, and brocade bombers worn on top of laid-back dresses featuring mesh detailing. Choose cool chokers, heeled ankle boots and darker lips to complement fall’s take on sports fashion.

sporty minimalism for fall

Key pieces for fall 2014.

Come fall, the athletic influences should meet the idea of comfort, in pieces allowing you to layer easily, while still looking cool when worn on their own.

Invest in:

  • A pair of leather track-pants to be worn with slogan sweatshirts, and slouchy jackets.
  • A quilted bomber featuring a sporty shape, cut in either leather, nylon or a dark-floral print.
  • A hooded pullover in plaid or dark wool, to effortlessly throw on top of a lightweight dress. (Rag & Bone, Rebecca Taylor)

sport luxe styling for fall

  • A cool jersey inspired dress with long sleeves, fluffy and warm for the day, covered in colorful sparkling sequins for the night. (Jeremy Scott,Tom Ford)

sporty luxe for fall

The trend for spring 2013.

Before being able to approach the athletic direction from a fresh and slightly different perspective, it is important to underline what’s new in terms of sporty fashion and what exactly changed from last season up until now. Starting with the previously mentioned subtle quality, moving towards the polished vibe exuded by the garments, we finally get to the elements of novelty that helped shape the sports trend’s current face.

DKNY S/S ’13

By taking a quick look at the spring 2013 runways you will find plenty of fashionable clues and lots of inspiration that will help you get a better understanding of what fashionable sportswear is all about for spring 2013:

  • Overall, the looks appear rather minimal, featuring clean lines in basic silhouettes
  • White becomes the number one color as chosen to redefine the sporty aesthetic as a chicer manifestation, at times complemented by bold color-blocking
  • Sports elements are still being mixed with sophisticated tailoring

Tommy Hilfiger S/S ’13 and Richard Nicoll S/S ’13

  • Lots of mesh inserts are being used as to complement the sharp cuts and to accent the sporty feel of the luxe garments
  • The midriffs and cutaways point towards a regained sense of femininity and allurement

Ohne Titel S/S ’13 and Richard Chai Love S/S ’13

Sportswear sensibility for spring 2013 – what to wear

Luckily, sports as a fashion trend for spring leaves plenty of place for its current manifestation to be reinterpreted. According to your own aesthetic, search for pieces that will effortlessly blend in your wardrobe, making you fashionably fit for summer but still true to your style. Choose basic silhouettes with sporty twists that are easy to complement, to dress up or down, dependent on the occasion.

With that being said, keep an eye out for mesh skirts, tops and dresses, as well as for slick sports bras and bodysuits. They can effortlessly assure a smooth transition between styles and daily activities.

Sportmax S/S ’13 and DKNY S/S ’13

A pair of impeccably tailored shorts or a t-shirt dress represent another smart take on sports separates.

Diesel Black Gold S//S ’13 and Lacoste S/S ’13

The use of color is not completely ruled out in what regards sports as a fashion trend, so don’t be afraid to embrace bold hues for your future athletic inspired looks. As long as accessorizing goes, it’s all best kept to a minimal, but a cool pair of sunglasses, a chic bag or a pair of wedges can make the difference.

Rag & Bone S/S ’13

Sporty chic: complimentary trends

There are plenty of spring 2013’s other trends that can merge well with a hint of the sporty chic. For example, an androgynous yet sexy look can benefit from some boyishly sporty elements. Transparent plastics and perspex have an inherent slickness that makes them perfect for complimenting other sporty-luxe pieces.

As far as accessories go, baseball caps have been standing out as their own trend, and are themselves an ideal way to inject a sports mood into any outfit.

For any sports inspired outfit a wet look hairstyle, whether it’s worn out or thrown up into an easy wet chignon, is a perfect accompaniment.

wet hair sporty

Trend Updates

The evolution of sporty fashion

Sporty clothing for men

While a number of menswear collections for spring 2012 directly quoted Olympic sports as inspiration – notably Nicole Farhi and Moncler Gamme Bleu both referenced sports like fencing and rowing – many also leaned gently to the functional. As with women’s a mix of effortless sporty cuts and tailored pieces was key across menswear, a mix that should be looked to in a man’s wardrobe for the season. For men, the most obvious and most popular way of incorporating a sporty feel into spring is by way of outerwear: hooded coats in parachute silks or jersey, varsity jackets, and parkas are all strong options.

mens fashionable sportswear
Nicole Farhi S/S ’12, Moncler Gamme Bleu S/S ’12

Sleek, body-conscious cuts aren’t reserved for womenswear, either: a sporty mens jacket or pant cut can take its cues from motorcycle leathers, scuba-gear or other more streamlined sports cuts. At the opposite end of the spectrum loose slouchy pieces or relaxed tailoring offers up a casual sporty aesthetic that can be smartened up by way of luxe fabrics or the right accessories.

mens sporty fashion trend
Alexander Wang S/S ’12, 3.1 Phillip Lim S/S ’12

Sporty fashion in 2010

You know what’s happening now, read on to find out where it’s evolved from.

Alexander Wang’s inimitable cool factor put him at the fore of this trend. The young, fresh interpretation he sent down the runway for Spring 2010 saw us all looking to American football for an injection of youthful tomboy cool into our wardrobes come Spring. But while football is key, it’s not the only sportswear inspiration: don’t forget to look to sports like baseball & hockey, tennis, scuba-diving, and dance.

Alexander Wang: sport trend 2010

Sports trend: the looks

The possibilities for 2010’s sportswear fashion trend are many – but it’s also easy to go wrong. Thus, we’ve singled out four key looks for how to wear this trend in 2010: the tomboy, the sporty flapper, the urban dancer, and the Bond bombshell.

The tomboy

She’s the pretty girl at school with the rough-and-tumble attitude, the one who’s blissfully unaware of her own beauty; the one that kicks the ball with the boys oblivious to their crushes. Alexander Wang epitomised this look with his Spring 2010 collection: youthful, unimaginably cool, and ultimately sexy. The cool factor is engineered by way of cropped tops, pants low slung to expose the waistband of an under-layer; leather cross-lacing, jersey fabrics, football-style shoulders. Woven into the effortless tomboy look are super-feminine elements like sheer fabrics and high heeled shoes, placing the look firmly in 2010.

Along with American football – which was also an inspiration behind Alexandre Herchcovitch‘s Spring 2010 collection – you can also take your fashionable sportswear inspiration from other tomboyish sports like hockey, baseball, rugby league, and soccer.

Alexander Wang Spring 2010 runway

The sporty flapper

If she were a character, she’d be The Great Gatsby’s Jordan Baker; athletic, boyish, cynical, seductive. Golf or tennis are the flapper girl’s games, so in 2010 it’s preppy with a 1920s twist. Look no further than Hermes – with drop-waist pleated skirts and sports stripes in classic colours – for inspiration.

Hermes Spring 2010 runway

The urban dancer

She’s a little more Dirty Dancing than Swan Lake; but that said it’s not an 80s costume party free-for-all either. We simply mean that – as with any take on the sports trend in 2010 – it’s best when femininity is kept low key. There’s an element of the urban, of the street. A little bit of toughness and carelessness. Look to Charlotte Ronson as a perfect example, with a subtly stonewashed bodysuit given modern flair; soft ballet pinks and creams transferred into skinny pants and flowing sheer hoodies, her looks capped off by topknots and understated braided sweatbands. Bottega Veneta‘s slouchy sweats in pastel yellows are another prime example.

Charlotte Ronson Spring 2010 runway

The Bond bombshell

Bond girl bikinis

You know all those knock-out Bond Girl bikinis that somehow suggest an element of the functional, and yet are really nothing more than sex bomb swimwear? Ursula Andress’ belted bikini, or the red scuba suit in Thunderball… that’s what to think of when you attempt this look.

Based heavily in scuba and diving wear, sleek modern takes were seen on the runways of Gucci, Julien Macdonald, and Alexander McQueen for Spring 2010. Any dabbling in this type of sporty look should be skin-hugging, sexy, and most of all – dangerous.

Sports trend at Julien MacDondald
Scuba-inspired outfit at Julien Macdonald, Spring 2010

How to style it

As described above, there are many ways to add a sporty look to your wardrobe for Spring 2010. For any sporty style, the important thing is not to look too sloppy like you’ve just spent an hour at the gym, or too “glamorous” either – no Juicy Couture velour tracksuits please. Here are a few things more generally that you can try to work the look:

  • Messy long hair, the side braid
  • Sexed up with super high yet sport-inspired heels
  • Incorporate some knee-high socks – look to Alexander Wang’s cut-out back socks, or sports socks with stripes – but in luxe fabrics. The right kind of leg-warmers can also work
  • Cross-lacing – particularly in leather – reminiscent of baseball gloves and boot laces
  • Shoulder pads, football player style
  • Work in the hot pants trend for a sporty take on hot pants or bodysuits
  • Cut off tees
  • Jersey fabrics; mesh
  • Pleated tunics (elegant ones – no super-short cheerleader skirts)
  • Utility elements like plastic buckles, snap closures, and rope ties
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