Ski wear

A look back at fashion on the slopes

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Looking fashionable on the slopes hasn't always been easy. At the beginning of the 20th century, ski wear was more function than fashion. Heavy wool garments — sweaters, trousers and jackets — often in somber colors of gray and navy, kept skiers warm albeit soggy.

In the 1940s, functional fashion began to appear on the slopes when Austrian-born Aspen ski instructor Klaus Obermeyer invented the quilted parka by turning his goose down comforter into a jacket. By the late 40s, as noted in "A History of Ski Wear" by shrimptoncouture.com, designers such as Frederick A Picard (Bloomingdale's consultant for its ski shop) were opening shops specializing in ski wear.

The prosperity of the 1950s combined with the introduction of synthetic fabrics helped launch the first wave of fashionable ski wear. Polyester sweaters replaced heavier wool ones. Munich-based designer Willy Bogner introduced a line of stirrup pants — wool/nylon blend ski pants that were held snuggly in the boot by a stirrup strap under the instep of the foot — that were made popular on and off the slopes by the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield. His wife, Maria Lux, is credited with the introduction of bold colors (reds, yellows, bright blues) to the line.

In the 1960s, chic clothing came to the ski slopes through fashion icons Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly and others. Ski fashion tended to reflect the glamour of the runways. It was during this period that psychedelic hues made their first appearance in the array of available colors now appearing against the stark white landscape.

By the 1970s, wool was out and synthetics were in. Fashion designers the likes of Dior and Chanel were putting ski wear on the runways. Nylon jackets converted to sleeveless vests. Fleece, a mainstay of staying warm on the slopes today, also made its debut during the era. Bold patterns and colors were in. So were capes, bodysuits, ski moonboots and fake fur.

Not even Ski-Doo could escape the fashion trends of the early 1970s. A ski-centric issue of The Berkshire Eagle Sunday Sampler in 1970 featured a look at the new Ski-Doo fashion line, which included one- and two-piece snowsuits featuring high collars, bold stripe sand harlequin patterns. The suits were available in bright blues, yellows and reds.  One suit featured a jacket made with faux leather and fur. Blizzard capes, for both men and women, were a popular item, as well.

Some say that fashionable ski wear hit its peak in the 1970s, giving way to bib overall ski suits in fluorescent hues and abstract patterns in the 1980s and 1990s. The early 2000s seemed to confirm that theory for fashionistas, as "park rat" clothing (knee-length puffy jackets, hoodies, baggy pants) came into vogue.

Is fashion dead on the slopes? Maybe not. It appears fashion designers, as seen at Snowmag.com, have once again turned their heads toward the mountains and are drawing inspiration from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


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