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Women’s activewear trends and drivers: a systematic review

Grant Anthony O’Sullivan (Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)
Clare Hanlon (Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)
Ramon Spaaij (Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)
Hans Westerbeek (Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia)

Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management

ISSN: 1361-2026

Article publication date: 13 March 2017




The activewear industry would benefit from an evidence-based understanding of how activewear is incorporated into women’s lives and their changing participation in physical activity. Activewear brands may be missing the trend of women moving from organised sport to non-organised and individualised sport and recreation. The purpose of this paper is to explore the degree to which academic and industry research understood patterns and influences on female’s activewear consumption and identified what significant gaps are evident in understanding the drivers and industry trends that pertain to female consumers of activewear.


The systematic literature review sought academic and industry research papers. Articles were selected if they included female participants; and/or addressed consumer related information; and focussed on active wear. Article findings were thematically analysed.


Most literature exploring activewear consumption fails to take gender into consideration or explore unique female consumer profiles. Females are bringing activewear into other parts of their wardrobe and place more value on fashion, even for sports attire. Research identified the need for activewear brands to consider lifestyle, emotional and personality elements of consumer behaviour. However a specific focus on women’s branding was absent. Women’s age and generation influenced their activewear consumption. Although some industry reports discussed the shift in use of activewear, no studies explored the impact of the critical shift in women’s physical activity patterns on the activewear industry.


This review identifies the gap in knowledge regarding women’s activewear consumption patterns and needs, and the importance of reflecting the changes in female physical activity participation. It also links marketing and design of women’s activewear to the needs of female consumers based on their actual patterns and trends in physical activity. The findings are relevant to activewear researchers, brands, marketers and producers.



This project was funded by the Australian Sporting Goods Association (ASGA), an association that is committed to being a leading advocate in the industry on female active wear. The role of ASGA was to establish a sub-committee including the researchers of this project to identify the research questions, discuss the findings and activate a number of the recommendations.


O’Sullivan, G.A., Hanlon, C., Spaaij, R. and Westerbeek, H. (2017), "Women’s activewear trends and drivers: a systematic review", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 2-15.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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