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    Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Ski Fashion

    Throughout history, winter coats have always had a dual purpose- warmth and style. Back in the day, high-tech apparel and chic fashion styles were not as ubiquitous as they are today.

    Though winter coats have evolved over time, one thing has never changed: winter rolls around every year! What about the skiers of our earlier days? If you want to enjoy yourself outside, you better find a snug coat.

    Scroll down below to hear about the evolution of winter fashion and ski wear.


    Skiing grew in popularity, spreading from Europe to the U.S. In the mid1850s, skiing was exclusively for wealthy Europeans who had a hankering for outdoor adventure.

    But all of that changed with the turn of the century. More and more people wanted to ski. Even women wanted in on the fun! They wore fur scarves, flowery hats, and elegant gloves. 

    1910s and 20s

    French fashion was big in the U.S, especially during World War 1, as we wanted to support our ally. Yet, the war caused limited accessibility, so the French fur trend became more limited.

    Wool dominated fashion. Mimicking the military, dark colors were the most popular- such as black and navy. Wool is not exactly the best fabric to wear in the winter, particularly while skiing. It absorbed moisture, leaving the wearer drenched and weighed down by their heavy wool coat.

    In the 1920s, we recognized a need for a change. Zippers came along, allowing for more mobility on the slopes. With the first Winter Olympics came a realization that perhaps functionality outweighs extravagant winter costumes.

    1930s and 40s

    Another reason why wool was not worn as much in the 30s was due to the Great Depression. Wool was a precious, expensive commodity and people could not afford it after the economy crashed. The down jacket was invented in the 30s, still seen today.

    A lot was happening on the slopes- rope pulls and ski lifts were invented. Skiers wanted to be able to easily glide down the hill. With aerodynamics in mind, more skiers began wearing tight clothing. Manufacturers began making waterproof attire.

    Synthetic material began to take shape in the 1940s, as Klaus F. Obermeyer entered the picture. He’s known for inventing ski parkas, turtlenecks, nylon wind-shirts, and soft-shell jackets. 


    The popularity of skiing as a sport soared! People were able to travel more easily and access the slopes. By this time, all of the skiers are wearing nylon.

    No one wanted to wear the cumbersome wool jacket down the hill. How can you get any speed with that honking coat dragging you down?  It was all about light, form-fitting synthetic materials. Polyester was first invented and being purchased all of the time in this decade.


    Hollywood influenced fashion, even on the slopes. Audrey Hepburn was a popular fashion icon; snow began to be equated with glamour. Articles were broadcasting that women would glow with beauty when they skied.

    Sports Illustrated was trying equally hard to have the public idealize functionality rather than glamour. They were creating straps on the ski suits that took pressure off of the knee and allowed for warmth, comfort, and functionality.

    Looking stylish down the slopes in a functional jumpsuit was happening on the regular. Chic parkas, streamline pantsuits and bodysuits were all the rage.

    1970s and 80s

    What’s happening in the psychedelic 70s? Think flower power and rainbow! Innovators went all out in their ski suit creations, letting their imaginations run wild. There was fur, there were capes, and there were…moon boots!

    Also, the fleece mid-layer was worn down the slopes, which is a necessary piece of apparel that we wear today. With the rise of the 80s came the rise onesies, puffer jackets, and overalls for men and women.

    1990s and 2000s

    The 90s ski-slopes mimicked the streets- think busy, neon onesies. No more leg warmers, but you can see the resemblance from the 80s.

    Skiers have learned a lot through the years about what to wear and not to wear when it comes to going fast and staying warm. The snowboarding industry is becoming popular and there’s a ton of fashion evolution happening in that department.

    In addition, heated apparel and other technological advancements are paving the way to a different type of skiing experience.


    Thanks for reading this blog post about 20th century ski-fashion! It’s pretty interesting to think about the first skier, strapping a pair of sticks on his feet and gliding along.

    There have been plush fur garments, wool coats, and neon onesies. The marriage of the fashion industry and the skiing world has transformed through the century. Still, functionality and style play large roles in our society- even on the slopes.

    With our high-tech world, it will be exciting to see the evolution of fashion trends in the upcoming decades.

    Annie Foley

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