vintage ski jacketsJuly 31, 2015
Ski wear has come a long way since its beginnings as, um, non ski wear. Vintage ski jackets used to consist of normal warm weather clothes, and there was a vogue for skiers in the early 20th Century to wear nice warm knitted jumpers or “Alpine” fashions. But the technical fabrics came later.
A brief history of vintage ski jackets
Skiing became a fashionable sport in the later part of the nineteenth century but was really established by the 1920s, especially because of that era’s celebration of sports and of athletic female figures. This popularity was firmly cemented in 1928, when skiing became an olympic sport.
Designers including Jean Patou created elegant and practical ski suits, which could be worn “On or Off the Piste” and although in the early years women had worn skirts, divided skirts or skirts over bloomer like trousers, by the 30s they were simply wearing trousers with matching jackets. Most suits were made from wool which is naturally warm and water repellant, sometimes with cotton flannel lining. The invention of elastic material Lastex in the late 30s meant that stretchy cuffs could be added to trousers and vintage ski jackets. These ski suits gave women freedom to move, and men had outfits in similar materials.
Ski jackets in the war years
In the 1940s, the war years, people continued to ski – in fact Austrian refugees fleeing to America helped the trend to spread even more. But due to fabric restrictions vintage ski jackets had to become more streamlined. Ski pants came in, made from a lighter wool gaberdine than the heavy weaves that had gone before, with a slimmer cut sometimes using zips on the legs to help the wearers get into them. They had elastic stirrups over the foot to prevent rolling up. Jackets were correspondingly much simpler too.
By the 50s fast-drying nylon had been invented and so the heavy wool could be cast aside. It was quilted in lightweight layers. The designer Emilio Pucci started his career by designing vintage ski jackets in his characteristic colours and swirly patterns for the rich jet-setters, in 1949. Stretch fabric was an even better improvement for ski pants.
60s and 70s ski jackets
Through the 60s and 70s, vintage ski jackets and other ski wear continued to become lighter and tighter, and hugely colourful. Quilted jackets and ski pants also crossed over into mainstream fashion and street wear. Wool was hardly ever used any more because companies were continually experimenting with man made fibres – bri-nylon (British Nylon) was heavily promoted for its colourfast, easy wash, drip dry properties both on the piste and off. (No-one mentioned that it was sweaty and not breathable – not ideal qualities for sportswear!)
By the 80s, the stirruped legging like ski pants were everywhere, whether you were going skiing or not, and quilted colourful jackets with shoulder pads were all the rage. But today fashionable ski wear (think Moncler puffer jackets) has diverged quite a lot from the all in one lycra ski suits that professionals wear to compete. Although onesies have become accepted as streetwear, the world isn’t yet ready for skin tight neon lycra bodysuits on the high street yet.