Sportswear has been called America’s main contribution to the history of fashion design, developed to cater to the needs of the increasingly fast-paced lifestyle of American women. The term started out as a fashion industry term describing informal and interchangeable separates, and in the 1920s became a popular descriptive term for relaxed, casual wear typically worn for spectator sports. Since the 1930s the term has been used to describe both day and evening fashions of varying degrees of formality that demonstrate this relaxed approach while remaining appropriate wear for many business or social occasions.
The term can also refer to active-wear, which is clothing designed specifically for participants in sporting pursuits.
In 2000, the Lifestyle Monitor, an American trade magazine owned by Cotton Incorporated published that their surveys showed that an average of 64% of women interviewed preferred casual wear, including sportswear as distinct from active wear.
Notable New York sportswear designers of the 21st century include Zac Posen, Proenza Schouler, Mary Ping, Derek Lam, and Behnaz Sarafpour, who were all featured in the Sportswear section of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s New York Fashion Now exhibition in 2007.
Designers who do not typically work in the sportswear tradition such as Monique Lhuillier sometimes incorporate elements of sportswear and activewear into their work. Lhuillier, mainly known for formal gowns, introduced sporty necklines and aerodynamic elements into her collection for New York Fashion Week, Fall 2011.