The numbers of women participating in sports has grown steadily in recent years.
Fitness clothing manufacturers are responding with gear that is both feminine and functional.
Current trends in fitness apparel include bright colors, detailed design, color blocking and clothing that can transition seamlessly from the gym to everyday wear.
Retailers are finding that women want to be athletic without losing their femininity. They want to look good and perform well.
Skirt Sports main mission is to intermix a woman's fierce, competitive side with her womanly side. Their motto: "What You Wear Matters. Look Good. Feel Good. Perform Better."
Skirt Sports founder, Nicole DeBoom, is the 2004 Ironman Wisconsin champion who loved to compete, but loved her girly side, too. She found there wasn't much aside from shorts and T-shirts for women when she was training. She felt she lost a bit of herself while wearing these unflattering clothes.
Knowing she would do well at her Ironman competition and would be seen by many, she designed her own skirt that she felt was flattering and functional. She won and her mission to help other feminine athletes began.
DeBoom wanted to show the world that women don't have to be tomboys to be champions.
Skirt Sports offers women options ranging from Capris to skirts to full-on dresses. Its fitness dresses have been available for four years and are now seeing a rise in popularity, much like the skirt in recent years.
Skirt Sports sponsors high-performing athletes like Ironman triathlete Hillary Biscay and ultramarathon runner Jamie Donaldson. They also recruited female athletes of every level, including Dimity McDowell, one of the authors of "Run Like a Mother" to answer the question, "What is a feminine athlete?"
Moving Comfort, best known for its sports bras, is another company responding to women by emphasizing lifestyle wear. It recognizes that women are busy and want clothes they can wear to the gym and throughout the day.
Its new urban line emphasizes detail with bright, neon colors, metalics, sparkle, and ruching on the tops. The pieces can be mixed within the line to allow women multiple options in outfits.
The fabric is a poly moisture-wicking material so women stay dry and comfortable.
Pearl Izumi is also targeting women using ultra athletes as their inspiration. To appeal to women in endurance sports, it is creating lines that are designed for high achieving women who still want to retain their femininity.
Its new, patent-protected running Capris feature hip pockets which hold 3-ounce water bottles, eliminating the need for hydration belts which many women find uncomfortable.
While most hydration belts sit at the top of the hips on the waist, the position of these pockets is on the fatty part of the hip for minimal movement during a run.
The design detail on the front and back of the Capris matches the design detail on other items in the line including their brightly colored waterproof jackets.
Spi Belt is also answering the call from its predominantly female clientele to provide products that can be used during a run as well as on the run
Its fuel belt's main function is to provide customers a place for their keys, gels, I.D., and other necessities keeping their hands free during a workout.
Spi Belt found that many of its clients were also using their belts during everyday activities, including nights out at the clubs. In response, it is now offering belts in metalics, sparkles, and neon colors, providing clients with a convenient, comfortable alternative to a purse.
For women with a girly-side, the new lines offered by these and many other companies are welcome news. The feminine athlete is on the rise.
Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor and marathoner who proudly wears a running skirt at every race.