Remember that time Maria Sharapova walked onto Centre Court at the 2014 U.S. Open in her saucy little black dress studded with beaded crystals? Covetworthy, chic and boasting flawless details, the dress was an absolute stunner and took sportswear to a whole new level, recalls Team Fibre2Fashion

Sharapova may have walked off Centre Court since then but the women's sportswear industry, over time, has witnessed phenomenal growth. Are you wondering what drives this spurt?

From rising health awareness to increasing fitness activities, quite a few factors are motivating consumers on the global scale to become more health-conscious, making the sportswear-as-activewear sector increasingly attractive attractive to leading sportswear manufacturers.

With the market anticipated to witness momentous shifts in upcoming years, the sportswear industry is gearing up for a humongous boom. 

Yesteryear's sportswear

The 1900s saw women including renowned athletes like Suzanne Lenglen and Babe Didrikson playing tennis and golf in floor-grazing skirts, hats, and corsets made of heavy materials like serge and wool. 

The golf and tennis dresses of the past years, with pleated skirts and tailored tops, were comfortable and washable. Also known as the shirtwaist dress, it became a widespread phenomenon. 

However, women's sportswear witnessed a breakthrough after World War II. During both World Wars, women's fight for gender equality, rights, and invention of new materials were hugely influential on women's sportswear fashion. More women became active participants in sports such as golf, skiing and swimming after World War II. 

Enter, casual lifestyle sportswear. 

Bidding farewell to constrictive and uncomfortable sportswear, women shortened their skirts and brought in sports bras. This was just the beginning. 

Market shifts leading to innovation

The invention of Spandex in 1959 changed the sportswear game. Sportswear became stronger and more flexible allowing for better mobility. Synthetic stretch fabrics and nylon enabled sportswear manufacturers and designers to design knit pullover dresses and sports tops that had unprecedented comfort and performance. 

The generational, societal, and cultural shifts toward less formal fashion styles over the last few decades eventually led to paying more attention to innovative sportswear. Baggy cotton sweatshirts and knit leg warmers of previous years ended up replaced by performance fabrics. 

From moisture-wicking fabrics to compression clothing, sportswear of today is increasingly working hard to maintain the balance between fashion, performance, and functionality. 

The high fashion choice

At the beginning of the 21st century, the term 'sportswear' meant a broad category of fashion-oriented, comfortable clothing developed for participation in sports. We have come a long way since then. 

Once thought to be a dominating trend of the 2010s, athleisure is marking its presence everywhere. A hybrid of business, casual and sportswear, athleisure is more than just a fad. Owing to its durability and other properties such as wrinkle- and odour-resistance incorporated into its tech-infused fibres, athleisure is becoming the high fashion choice.

Tapping into the booming women's sportswear market are the Big Four - Adidas, Reebok, Nike, and Puma. Obsessed with constant innovation, these brands are the big daddies of athletic gear. The global sports apparel market is expected to reach US$ 184.6 billion by 2020. 

In fact, now, there's a whole industry of fashion-meets-function brands, which are offering women's sportswear-as-activewear across a wide range of sports and styles. They are helping revolutionise the entire approach to fashion, sports and indeed, the way women live.