Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Brief History of Yoga Clothing

Once upon a time, I was a clothing designer in New York City. It was a rough world, where they loved you one day and wouldn't "buy you" the next. I'm lucky I got out of the rag trade before it ate me up. Yet I've always been fascinated with how folks adorn themselves and it's in my DNA to watch styles change and evolve (sometimes to my dismay), even in the yoga community.

Waaay back in the day, when only men did yoga, the

dhoti was the regulation garb. The dhoti required the ability to master a complex wrapping technique to arrange the fabric just so. Once it was on, it allowed great freedom of movement!

In the very first yoga classes that I attended in the 1960's, folks were wearing white yoga suits. This was a short lived style inspired by the Kundalini community, great for sitting and meditation, not so great for trying to get your foot behind your head.  There was an innocence and modesty to this style that I loved. But it didn't last long...

Along came BKS Iyengar, who modernized the dhoti into shorts, a radical move at the time, which went against the tradition of his teachers and peers. There was a teensy problem with regular shorts, though. In various wide legged and inverted poses, one's intimate parts were all too easily exposed to the world. Ergo the birth of the yoga bloomers, or as we used to call them, yoga diapers, made by Hugger Mugger and still available today. They feature a snug band around the thighs that prevents peek-a-boo in class. In the 1970's, virtually all yogis, men and women, wore this regulation uniform of t-shirt and yoga bloomers. Personally, I never wore yoga diapers because, with my skinny legs, they made me look like Minnie Mouse! 

Instead I was inspired by Jane Fonda, the budding fitness industry, and Flashdance, and wore leotards over tights, often with leg warmers. The problem of having to get undressed to use the bathroom was an impediment, until a dancer friend of mine imparted the secret knowledge of pulling all the material to one side to do the deed. A distasteful aspect of this fashion was the tendency for women to wear black tights with white panties you could see underneath their
This is the unitard we all wore, with the criss cross straps!
 leotards. I never got that one! 

There was the brief period of the yoga unitard, or what we dubbed the yogatard, and what I called my sausage casing. You really couldn't go to the bathroom without peeling this whole thing off! And, to my amazement, Marie Wright Yogawear still makes these! 

It was a real relief when the yoga fashion time machine marched on and we realized we could wear two separate pieces of clothing, unattached to one another. The era of the yoga capri was born, along with the great innovation of the foldover waistband. Super comfy; why didn't anyone think of this before?! When these waistbands first came out and weren't around much, I called Hugger Mugger and asked if they'd be making them. The woman there said, "No woman wants more bulk around her waist. These are a fad that will fade." She was epically wrong, as this waistband has become the norm for women's yoga pants.

I would be remiss in my history of yoga fashion if I 

failed to mention Be Present yoga pants, which everyone seemed to wear for about five minutes before yoga fashion marched on. They are made of cool stretchy fabric, move when you move, and are kinda dorky. Not many people seem to wear them anymore, but as I get older I become more and more a fan of awkward and dorky, so I still wear mine.

Currently, in the real world of the yoga studio we're in a phase of ankle length leggings for women, which I love because of the great variety of creative and unusual prints. 

In the alternate universe of the media and public figures, we've been treated to (or assaulted with?) some yogic style excess that is truly hedonistic. Tara Stiles being driven around New York in a glass box in which she does scantily clad yoga, and in the hot yoga subculture, I know the uniform for women is a bra and shorts. But that's not my subculture and I just stick my fingers in my ears and say: "la la la," and pretend I don't know that it's happening. I've got a healthy bit of discernment arising on the border between personal style and hyper-sexualizing the yoga room. We'll save that for another time.

In the men's department, it's pretty same-same. The biggest fashion controversy seems to be: shirts on or shirts off in yoga class? We actually polled our students a few years ago, and they overwhelmingly preferred that men keep their shirts on; even the men voted this way. 

We've come a long way from the dhoti and the baggy cotton yoga suit. Any predictions on what we'll be wearing to do yoga in the next ten years?

In the meantime, GET PHYSICAL however you can! 

Love and peace, Denise Benitez


  1. Yoga cloths have come a long way since the beginning of yoga. Had no idea it used to be white yoga suits, and then went to the bright pink leotard. Can't wait to see where yoga cloths go in the future.

    1. Just admiring your work and wondering how you managed this blog so well. It’s so remarkable that I can't afford to not go through this valuable information whenever I surf the internet! Yoga Apparel

  2. hi was just seeing if you minded a comment. i like your website and the thme you picked is super. I will be back. Affordable Men's Workout Clothing

  3. Nice A Brief History of Yoga Clothing post.Really enjoyed reading it from start to finish and I am interest for your next valuable.It's more informative with us.
    mens bodybuilding clothes

  4. Lots of Good information in your post, I favorited your blog post so I can visit again in the future, Thanks.
    workout clothing

  5. Great post about Yoga clothing. Recently, I join a yoga classes, so am looking to buy yoga clothing. This information is very helpful for me.
    Fashion Haul

  6. Yeah I agree that yoga clothes have come a long way. Happy to read history of yoga clothes. Keep sharing such posts. I like wearing yoga clothes for my classes. Mostly I prefer alo yoga clothes as they fit me perfectly.

  7. I have bookmarked your blog, the articles are way better than other similar blogs.. thanks for a great blog!
    yoga teacher training in dharamsala

  8. Yoga is best exercise to keep our body fit and slim.I really like a brief history of yoga clothes.In early morning we all do yoga to keep our body healthy and flexible.I also purchased yoga clothes from Free country which gives all kind of clothes in cheapest price using promo codes.

  9. Yoga is my favor fitness exercise.The Yoga clothes in the article is attracted. It is hard to find the budget and fashion women Yoga clothes.I found the Gearbest women Yoga clothes is fashion and its price is good.What is your idea?

  10. I really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us. I assure this would be beneficial for most of the people.Eid Collection

  11. I really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us. I assure this would be beneficial for most of the people.

  12. Really a great addition. I have read this marvelous post. Thanks for sharing information about it. I really like that. Thanks so lot for your convene.

  13. Most of the time I don’t make comments on websites, but I'd like to say that this article really forced me to do so. Really nice post!
    Wedding Dresses

  14. Wow. Really beautiful post I am glad to read your lovely article. outlook customer care

  15. Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting? I'm pleased I discovered it though, ill be checking back soon to find out what additional posts you include.
    Bridesmaid Dresses

  16. Welcome to chrome support service. We provide solution regarding chrome support number. Visit us to know more.
    chrome support phone numbe

  17. thois post is really very helpful to me. i need to do workout.
    Canon Customer Care

  18. Yoga now a day is considered as a trend but yoga is not only a trend it is above than that because it is really very needful for your health. many people are getting Yoga Teacher Training in India so that they can aware other people too. So visit our website to know more.

  19. Hello! It looks like the writer of this blog is really very professional because I never read such kind of writing before. The way of writing and the way of using right words on right place shows some expert skillsชุดปกติขาว

  20. I could've sworn that the yoga wear for woman was a swimsuit-style top with stockings on the legs and feet, rather than complete bare feet back in the 1970's according to a few pictures and a few images on TV.

  21. Somewhere the content of the blog surrounded by little arguments. Yes it is healthy for readers. They can include this kind of language in their writing skill as well as while group discussion in college.