While most sports enthusiasts tend to think of bodybuilding as a male-oriented sport, women have been making headway into the professional bodybuilding world since the 1970s. With women’s growing interest in bodybuilding has come a greater need for functional, practical bodybuilding outfits that are tailored to and compliment the female body.
When the sport first took off, options for women’s bodybuilding clothing was quite limited. Clothing designed for men was often worn, as this allowed women freedom of movement and room for muscle growth, but these options weren’t very flattering and weren't designed with female bodybuilders in mind. Bikinis were typically worn in competitions, but these were swimsuits, not dedicated sportswear, and tended to objectify rather than support. Bodybuilding isn't the only way women are incorporating intense workouts, the rise of female martial artist's have led to a surge in spats shorts designs.
Bodybuilding Gym Clothing History
The fitness craze of the 1980s meant that stretchy, feminine workout clothes were more widely available, and many female bodybuilders made use of the wide array of spandex clothing now available to help them squat, bend, stretch, and move freely. While an improvement over men’s tank tops and shorts, these options were designed more for basic aerobics, and didn’t really help powerlifters show off their bodies and toned physiques.
Nevertheless, the rise of spandex and lycra in the 80s and 90s paved the way for manufacturing female bodybuilding clothing to be easier, while shorts and tops became smaller and tighter to accentuate the physique. Also popular were garments that offered more coverage, similar to the strong-man leotards of the early 20th Century.
Specially designed bathing suit-like garments have become popular as well. Starting in the 90s, this trend for female bodybuilding clothing allows for a greater range of styles, colors, and designs that allow athletes to express themselves while accentuating their muscles and figures. These clothes are also cut and fitted in ways that allow muscular women to flex, move, show off, and stay comfortable without having to wear clothing designed for men, or leggings designed for yoga.
Crop tops have been hugely popular in recent years, as they provide more coverage than a bikini top while still showing off abs and arms. These crop tops come in a wide range of styles and materials, from cotton to polyester to spandex, and allow women to express themselves through their clothing choice as well as show off their muscle gains. These newer fabrics also do a better job than cotton alone of absorbing sweat, keeping athletes cool, and dry.
Another popular option for female bodybuilders in the past 20 years has been the sports bra. The sheer range of styles now available mean that female bodybuilders have a range of options for color, coverage, and material to choose from. Sports bras are soft, flexible, designed for workouts, and offer ample support and structure where needed.
Banded sports bras and high-waist shorts allow women more coverage and professionalism when lifting, blended fabrics give wearers garments that are likely to last for years. Seamless, stretchy shorts are another hot new trend, and the range of beautiful colors and patterns now available allow women into weight training to get a high-quality garment without compromising on style or attractiveness.
Women's Bodybuilding Apparel Trends
Today’s trends in female bodybuilding apparel are also leaning towards sustainable and eco-friendly fabric choices, such as recycled fibers or which use environmentally friendly manufacturing processes. Companies like Girlfriend Collective and Wolven Threads create beautiful, eye-catching garments meant for workouts, and their sports bras would be especially well-suited to female bodybuilders.
Whatever type of clothing a female bodybuilder chooses, the range of styles, materials, and cuts are sure to allow anyone to feel comfortable and confident. Gone are the days when all women could choose from bikinis; today’s female bodybuilding clothing is beautiful, flattering, eco-friendly, and provides greater ranges of coverage.