Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

Sewing The Seventies: Sportswear


At the start of the year, everyone focuses on kicking off the sloth from Christmas and the New Year and starting the year with laudable intentions to do more exercise. The shops seem to be full of activewear and January’s issue of Burda magazine always has a collection of patterns specifically for wearing to Yoga class. Although I never make exercise one of my new year resolutions, I will concede that activewear is one of the biggest gaps in my current wardrobe. I’ve been wearing the same tracksuit bottoms and t-shirts to my Yoga class for what seems at eternity (probably about ten years) and I’m keen to make myself some alternatives. As I’m well into Sewing The Seventies now, I’ve been looking through sportswear sewing patterns from the decade, and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on these.

The sewing patterns for sportswear in the 1970s seem to reveal the fitness crazes of the decade. There are tennis dresses and tracksuits, leotards and dance outfits.

In the UK I can only surmise that the popularity of tennis ensembles may be, at least, in part due to the success of Virginia Wade. There is nothing like a successful UK tennis player to bring out the forgotten tennis racket from the under-the-stairs cupboard!

Virginia won three Grand Slam singles titles, but her most famous success was winning Wimbledon in 1977. I remember seeing this particular match as a kid and my Mum commenting about Ms Wade’s frilly knickers!

The American sewing patterns on sale from this era are often branded with Chris Evert’s name. She was extremely successful winning 18 Grand slam singles championships and three doubles titles in the seventies and early eighties.

Chris Evert Butterick sewing pattern

Chris Evert Butterick sewing pattern – These tennis outfits are so cute!

Later in the decade there seem to be a variety of tracksuit patterns for running or jogging. The craze for jogging seems to originate from the late 1960s. In America there had been a decline in physical activity and sedentary lifestyles in the general population. This prompted William Bowerman, a Professor of Physical Education at the University of Oregon along with co-author, Seymour Lieberman to devise a fitness programme.  They launched the “Joggers Manual” and the jogging craze really took off.

Tracksuit from the seventies

William Bowerman, incidentally was also a track and field coach and co-founder of Nike. He pioneered many developments in running shoe design. His inspiration led to the introduction of the “Moon Shoe” in 1972, so named because the pattern of the tread resembled the footprints left by astronauts on the moon. Bowerman, also developed the idea behind the “Waffle Trainers

“We were making the waffles that morning and talking about (the track). As one of the waffles came out, he said, ‘You know, by turning it upside down — where the waffle part would come in contact with the track — I think that might work.’

There was also interest during the seventies for forms of exercise such as Yoga. Several influential Indian teachers of yoga including B.K.S. Iyengar and K. Pattabhi Jois (1915–2009) had already come to the west. The teaching of Yoga during this time was mostly Hatha Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga, which are both forms of Yoga practice that focus on poses, although Ashtanga Yoga tends to be more fast-paced.

In the UK, London Weekend Television treated its audience on Sunday mornings to a Yoga lesson. These were presented by Richard Hittleman, with Lyn Marshall demonstrating the poses. Lyn went on to front her own series, called Wake Up to Yoga.

Although there were not any particular outfits designed for specifically for Yoga among the 1970s sewing patterns . I did have a look online to see what people wore for Yoga in the seventies and it does seem that people either favoured wearing a leotard or just some loose-fitting clothing.

Yoga in the seventies

My next make is going to be a seventies style outfit that I could wear to Yoga practice. The pattern I’ve chosen is a tennis outfit, but there are two lengths available. I’m going to make the shorter, t-shirt length top. I’ve chosen some white jersey and I’m going to use some left-over jersey from my purple v-neck t-shirt for the raglan sleeves.

McCalls Tennis Outfit


1. William Bowerman  – Obituary in the Guardian and Biography

2. Lyn Marshall – Wake up to Yoga

3. Wimbledon fashion – A history in pictures


Author: steelyseamstress

Sewing a new wardrobe

2 thoughts on “Sewing The Seventies: Sportswear

  1. These patterns all look somewhat familiar, although I had forgotten the tennis ones or maybe did not see them in the US. The track suits, espcially in velour, were all over the place, plus a lot of patterns for them. Have fun!

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