While 1920s Paris designers offered haute couture designs that could be considered sportswear, it was typically not their design focus. A notable exception was the tennis player Jane Régny (the pseudonym of Madame Balouzet Tillard de Tigny), who opened a couture house specialising in clothing for sport and travel. Another famous tennis player, Suzanne Lenglen, was director of the sportswear department at Jean Patou. In contrast to the flexibility of American sportswear, these expensive couture garments were typically prescribed for very specific circumstances. Many couturiers began designing clothing that, whilst suitable for sport, could be worn in a wider range of contexts. Coco Chanel, who promoted her own active, financially independent lifestyle through relaxed jersey suits and uncluttered dresses, became famous for clothes of "the sports type." In 1926 Harper's Bazaar reported upon Chanel's sporty garments, noting the absence of equivalent apparel from New York fashion presentations. However, Martin has noted that while Chanel was undeniably important and influential, her work was always based on couture construction rather than the easy-wear nature of American sportswear.
Along with many other designers, Gernreich took advantage of the development in the mid-1950s of upgraded machine-knitting techniques to produce his work. Double knitting (which was developed in Italy) enabled the mass-production of easy-to-wear knitted suits, coats and dresses that retained their shape and became a key American look in the 1960s and '70s. Another knitwear development involved varying the lines of the classic T-shirt so that it could be extended into dress-length versions, long or short sleeves, and other variations, including, by 1960, a sequined long evening version by Kasper for Arnold & Fox. In the 1960s, American sportswear depended on very simple shapes, often made in vivid colours and bold, geometric prints (such as those by Gernreich and Donald Brooks).
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