Look Back at 116 Years of Olympic Gymnastics Uniforms

Fun fact: The word “gymnastics” comes from the Greek word “gymnazein,” which means “exercise naked.” (The sport was invented in Greece and has been part of the Olympics since the first Games in Athens in 1896.) The ancient Greeks were said to have done their cartwheels and flips in the nude, but by the time the Olympics rolled around, they put on some clothes. Gymnastics uniforms, however, have always been the most body-conscious around. They’re designed to stretch around — and show off — the athlete’s figure.  

As you’ll see in the slideshow above — which shows the progression of the gymnastics uniform from 1896 on — they’ve gotten more form-fitting as the years have gone by. Baggier silhouettes, like the loose pants worn by German Hermann Weingärtner, became sleeker when women started to be allowed to compete in 1928. And in the late ’90s, as countries became bolder about expressing their patriotism, leotards and singlets got shinier, brighter, and — for women — bedazzled, like the hot-pink leotard American Gabby Douglas wore in 2012, which had 1,188 crystals on it. Enjoy the evolution!

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