The history of Après Ski fashion and how mountain style has evolved over the years

This winter, the fashion discourse was dominated by ski clothing. Khaite launched a ski capsule; fashion labels cross paths with sports brands — see the LoveShackFancy x Bogner Fire + Ice collaboration and the Michael Kors and Ellesse drop — to create trendy pieces for the ski slopes; and legacy houses like Prada have teamed up with Aspenx to create designer cushions. Mountain style, which encompasses what you wear on and off the slopes, has become a major lifestyle selling point for brands and retailers as customers look to adopt the alpine aesthetic.

The Depop team reports that they saw a 135% increase in searches for “ski jacket” and a 112% increase in “ski pants” in 2022. Pinterest notes that searches for “après ski style” on its website were 12 times higher when comparing data from December 2021 to December 2022. As for retailers, the MatchesFashion team tells TRZ via email that its ski category grew by +35% for Spring/Summer 2023, which shows that customers have invested heavily in this area.

If you are wondering why ski style is so popular right now, this can be linked to several factors. But the most impactful could be the return to travel after the lockdown. The Denver-based National Ski Areas Association reported that in 2021, the 358 ski resorts in the United States generated annual sales of $4.3 billion, up roughly 3.8% annually compared to the previous year. Accordingly, when you’re “out of the office” and posting on the ‘Gram, there’s an unspoken pressure for your vacation ensembles—whether you’re on the slopes in Aspen or on the beach in Mexico—to be picture-perfect.

“With the rise of Instagram and TikTok, people are trying to create these bold and vibrant images for content,” shares Apparis founder Lauren Nouchi, who recently launched a ski capsule in December 2022. “People want to feel special and they want to look different.” Rebecca Hessel Cohen, founder of LoveShackFancy, agrees. “I love to ski and obviously I love fashion, so I always try to keep my clothes cute, even on the ski slopes,” she adds.

As social media continues to fuel people’s desire for a trendy, fashion-forward element in every aspect of their lives, brands and retailers are happy to fill that void — right down to Slim Aarons-worthy ski looks. (Note the influencer in a bird’s-tooth suit posing against tall, snow-covered evergreen trees.) Today, it’s all about how you stand out on the mountain compared to the 1930s when everyone wore the same style of snow pants and that’s be it.

The fashion slope category just keeps growing — WWD reports that the domestic ski jacket market is expected to reach $2.26 billion in annual sales by 2031 alone — but this isn’t the first time customers have taken notice. To better understand how ski fashion became what it is today, scroll ahead and see how it has changed over the years. Along the way, you might even spot correlations between the colors and silhouettes that are trending today and what was popular in, say, the 70s or 80s.

’20s to ’30s

Back in the 1920s, women wore ankle length skirts and thick sweaters for skiing. However, after the first Winter Olympics held in Chamonix, France in 1924, European designers such as Lucien Lelong, Egidio Scaioni, and Madeleine Vionnet began producing more modern ski clothing that included two-piece pant suits and warm knit accessories. In particular, Norwegian pants became popular among women in the 30s because they were more practical to wear than skirts.

Additionally, until the 1930s wool (and fur) were primarily the choice for ski clothing, but when American fashion brand Eddie Bauer introduced the first goose down jacket in 1936, skiers began to opt for this lightweight , warm and waterproof material over wool. It was also around this time that skiing as a recreational activity in the United States boomed when the first chairlift opened in Sun Valley, Idaho at Sun Valley Resort. This was the first destination ski resort in the United States, created by Union Pacific, and immediately attracted wealthy tourists to the area upon opening.

’40s to ’50s

Several important moments defined mountain clothing in the mid-20th century. First, you can thank Emilio Pucci for creating the one-piece ski suit. In 1947, the Italian designer and his art director, Massimo Giorgetti, introduced the chalet style with their close-fitting, colorful ski uniforms, which caught Harper’s Bazaar attention of editor Diane Vreeland. Vreeland then published Pucci’s ski suit creations in a 1948 gloss edition – and the rest is history.

In the fifties of the last century, the French term après ski was coined in Europe, which translates as “after skiing”. Fashion also followed this vernacular as skiers looked for modern, technical pieces that could be worn on the slopes and later looked together in the lodge. The growing popularity of the sport as a pastime in the 50s meant that skiers could experiment with their clothing beyond being purely functional.

In 1952, German fashion designer and professional skier Maria Bogner created the first stretch ski pants that showed off the curves of a woman’s body, ushering in the era of “sexy ski wear.” They were made of nylon and wool in rainbow bright shades, which were fascinating at the time because skiers were used to colors like black, navy blue, gray and forest green. Bogner gave them shades like red, royal blue, brown and beige. Fashionistas of the time such as Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot wore Bogner’s underwear on the ski slopes, further popularizing the look.

“Marija introduced that outdoor fashion element at an early stage [to more traditional ski wear],” says Linda Ashman, vice president of sales and marketing at Bogner. “You could wear her pants while skiing in the Alps or Aspen and then easily stroll through the countryside in them for that chic [après ski fashion moment].”

’60s to ’70s

Spandex, which was invented in 1959, ushered in a snug fit for mountain wear. Puffer outerwear and brightly patterned sweaters styled with the aforementioned stretchy pants have become the most common look on the mountain. (American photographer Slim Aarons captured this fashion particularly at the time.)

The 1960s brought the snood as well as modern ski goggles, inspired by space-age fashion, after Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969. Silver lurex and vinyl also hit the slopes. Meanwhile, designers like Christian Dior, Pierre Cardin, and André Courrèges began producing haute couture lines of ski wear that appealed to jetsetters like Sophia Loren and Princess Grace of Monaco.

But après ski style really hit its stride in the 70s when people embraced technicolor shades, Moon Boots and fleece fabric (for more effective layering). Interestingly, during this decade, Canadian brands such as Cougar, Kamik, Sorel and Canada Goose began to integrate ski style into everyday streetwear. For example, you might see quilted nylon ski jackets with zippered sleeves that were then turned into vests for an off-slope look.

’80s to ’90s

The invention of Gore-Tex (a highly durable, breathable, waterproof and windproof fabric) changed the fashion landscape of ski clothing in the 80s. The pieces were now light and super practical. Skiers wore fluorescent neon snowsuits, brightly printed one-pieces and jackets paired with Levi’s and wellies. (For a quick, visual representation of what mountain style looked like back in the day, check out Wham!’s Last Christmas music video or check out Princess Diana’s ski looks during this decade.)

The candy-colored suit trend continued into the ’90s as women often wore a colorful coordinating headband with their ensembles. Mountain style has also begun to take cues from street fashion as brands such as The North Face, Columbia and Patagonia have created collections that bring both realms together. Additionally, during the 90s, snowboarding culture became popular, so the look on the slopes was looser and looser to allow for better movement.

2000s to 2010

In the early years, the baggy cut – in keeping with the snowboarder’s aesthetic – was all the rage. Alpine sports enthusiasts wore quilted parkas with faux fur hoods, while neon hues were replaced by pastel blues, whites and beiges. Entering 2010, metallic puffer jackets and reflective sunglasses were accepted on the slopes.

This winter lifestyle has become a major selling category for brands and retailers. Luxury houses such as Chanel and Fendi, for example, release annual ski capsule collections for their resort-bound customers, and the Alpine aesthetic continues to be revisited every few seasons. (You may recall that in 2019, for Karl Lagerfeld’s last collection for Chanel, the historic Grand Palais was transformed into a winter wonderland complete with a ski lodge and fake snow.)

It would also be remiss to discuss mountain style without mentioning the influence of social media in promoting the alpine lifestyle during the 2010s. (Instagram was created in 2010 and TikTok in 2016.) Brands like Perfect Moment, whose popularity has skyrocketed over the years, have embraced this by creating ski wear that combines technical design with an on-trend fashion focus.

“[At Perfect Moment, our] customers want assurance that they will be warm and comfortable in wet and cold conditions, but they also want to look stylish,” says Jane Gottschalk, co-founder and creative director of the brand. “People want to look good on vacation and because of technology [ski wear] fabrics have improved considerably [over the years]this allows for a more modern focus [in design]ditto.” Gottschalk singles out the label’s skinny pants, which feature four-way stretch fabric and a waterproof exterior, as a piece that can be worn with sweaters and boots for an après ski look or as leggings on a casual weekend.

2020 and beyond

These days, ski wear and après ski style continue to draw from the past while remixing it all for the ever-growing TikTok and Instagram first generation of customers. “We see a return to classic Americana and people who want to [that look],” says Jason Lyon, co-founder of vintage retailer Morphew. “We can never keep Ralph Lauren’s vintage cozy sweaters in stock. The color palette is pleasant beige, white and jewel tones. [Shoppers are] go higher for that après ski [meets] cozy in the cabin [vibes]and [they’re] drink, party. [I see] classic Americana with a nod to ’80s glam, like shoulder pads and sequins.”

In addition, the line between what is appropriate on the ski slopes and trends in everyday wear is still blurred. “[MatchesFashion] customers are looking for [ski] pieces that have a fashion point of view but are also made to the highest quality with all the performance features you could want and need,” says the site’s senior bath, Jenni Thompson. Ashman adds, “What’s great about Bogner is that we [have continuously offered après ski pieces like reversible vests] that people can wear on the ski slopes, but when they go home, they can still wear those same pieces and feel really good in them.”

Take Gucci, which announced its Vault Altitude collection on January 5, offering pieces that blend the utilitarian aesthetic of skiwear with urban street style. The house has incorporated eight brands such as Moon Boot, Yniq and The Elder Statesman to create a mix of accessories and ready-to-wear meant to be worn from the snowy peaks of Aspen to the streets of the Big Apple. If this is not top Alpine chic, what is it?

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