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A timeline of sexism in Olympics fashion

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From floor-skimming skirts to skimpy bikini bottoms:

The sexualisation of women’s bodies has been evident throughout Olympics history

This week, Norway’s women’s beach handball team was fined £1,300 for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms during a European Championship match against Spain. The European Handball Federation (EHF), which handed down the fine, deemed their attire “improper clothing” which is “not according to the Athlete Uniform Regulations defined in the IHF beach handball rules of the game”.

The EHF has received widespread backlash for its decision. The team’s captain, Katinka Haltvik, told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that the rule is “embarrassing” while the country’s Handball Federation commended the women for “raising their voices and announcing enough is enough”.

There is a stark difference between what men and women are allowed to wear under the international handball rules. While men wear vest tops and shorts, women must wear bikini bottoms “with a close fit and cut on an upward angle towards the top of the leg”.

Although beach handball will not be played at the Olympics, women competing in beach volleyball will have to follow similar rules, with men being given the option to wear loose tank tops and shorts, while all four of the options for women are figure-hugging.

While the early days of the Olympics dictated that women must cover as much of their bodies as possible, as not to cause a distraction to men, the scale has since shifted to the opposite end of the spectrum, with outfits in recent years overtly sexualising women’s bodies.

As the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony got underway Friday, we’ve compiled a timeline of occasions when women were confronted with sexism at the global sporting event, and whether, if at all, any improvements have been made.

1900: ‘Distracting’ female bodies

Women were allowed to participate in the Olympics for the first time in 1900, when the tournament took place in Paris, France. The 22 women made up just 2 per cent of all athletes and were only invited to compete in five sports: tennis, sailing, croquet, golf and horseback riding. The 997 men

David Goldblatt, author of The Games: A Global History of the Olympics, told Fast Company that personal correspondence between the organisers of the games showed that they were “revolted by the presence of women, even though they had to give in and allow them to participate”.

The main concern was that women’s bodies when playing sport would serve as a distraction to male athletes. In a bid to overcome this, women were forced to wear ankle-length dresses with long sleeves and high necks.

British tennis player Charlotte Cooper Sterry became the first female Olympics tennis champion that summer, winning both the singles and mixed doubles tennis competitions. 1908: Legs out, still modest

Almost a decade later, at the 1908 Olympics in London, women could now show the bottom half of their legs, but uniforms were still extremely modest.

Pictures of Danish gymnasts show them in bloomers, with full-sleeved, crew-neck blouses. The uniforms were a far cry from current regulations, which state that all athletes, both men and women, must wear form-fitting uniforms.

While women’s gymnastics teams attended the games, they were not actually allowed to compete.

Two men’s competitions took place, while women were invited to attend a women’s competitions took place, while women were invited to attend a non-competitive “display” event where they could display their skills. 1912-1932:

Women can swim

The 1912 Stockholm Olympics marked the first year that women were allowed to compete in swimming races.

At the time, women wore swimming costumes that resembled loose unitards, with thigh-length shorts and a tank top style upper body.

By the 1932 games in Los Angeles, US, costumes had become more streamlined and figure-fitting similar to the ones worn by athletes today.

In 2012, Ralph Lauren debuted its Team USA Olympics uniform for the London Games, which featured military-inspired berets and sailor-style neckties. While all members of the USA team wore similar outfits, ensembles at previous opening ceremonies, such as the 1964 Tokyo games, pointed to the wider struggle for women’s equality.

Men’s outfits were often inspired by the military because historically, many of the athletes were former army members, Goldblatt told Fast Company.

“Soldiers had a real advantage. Who else had time to practice to compete, without getting any compensation? So the men were often in these absurd blazers and hats, marching like they would in the army,” he said.

Women, on the other hand, were seen in a white co-ord and matching hat, resembling uniform worn by female air stewards. This disparity in outfits was telling, given that “women had to prove, over and over, that they were strong enough to compete in each event,” Goldblatt said.

The uniform was updated ahead of the London Olympics in 2012 when the International Volleyball Federation added three more options to reflect players’ religious or cultural beliefs.

It was the same year that Boris Johnson, who was mayor of London at the time, published a column in The Telegraph on “20 reasons to feel cheerful about the Olympics”.

One of his reasons was the “semi-naked women playing beach volleyball”, according to Mail Online. “They are glistening like wet otters and the water is plashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers. The whole thing is magnificent and bonkers,” he wrote.

Under the updated rules, women may now wear either a two-piece bikini, a one-piece swimming costume, or shorts with either a T-shirt or tank top. However, the briefs must still be “on an upward angle towards the top of the leg” and both shorts and tops must be “form-fitting”.

British Paralympian Olivia Breen performing a long jump Charlotte Cooper Sterry became the first female Olympic tennis champion at the 1900 Olympics.



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Fashion’s new order

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From fashion weeks without shows to brands abandoning the traditional schedules, Covid-19 has thrown the industry into a state of flux.

by Zanita Careem

As the pandemic spread and its impacts grew, business world-wide shifted their priorities. The virus has crept almost into every industry including the fashion industry.

It was a hard toll on the industry; fashion weeks got cancelled and major retail departmental stores closed for weeks and months.

The fashion industry is likely to see a shift from consumer spending in large department stores and choosing independent shops. The reason is because social distancing is a necessity. The pandemic slowdown affected the industry, the new normal made consumers to show down their purchases. The designers saw a huge shift in consumer behaviour, affecting the fashion designers and retailers alike.

To evaluate the impact of Covid-19 on the industry we caught up with some of the reputed designers whose names are synonymous with fashion. Senake de Silva said the future is bleak and until things go back to normal, (but how long) it will it take months or perhaps years. Even if we recover it will never be the same again. “We might get back to 70 per cent of what the industry was by next may be,” Senake said.

The Sri Lankan apparel industry was one of the most significant contributors to the country’s economy. “We even had the first ever Sri Lankan apparel fashion show at the then Hotel Oberoi. It was possibly the very first time that a top French Couturier was in Colombo,” recollected Senake.

Sri Lankan apparel categories include sportswear, lingerie bridal wear and swimwear. These were of high quality and were exported to many countries. Recently the industry was affected by regular disturbances of the Covid-19. Fashion shows were cancelled, designers had no work. Fashion industry is one of the primary employers too. With supply chain broken and sales down and unsold stock in retail outlets we had to face major crises. This was all against a backdrop of consumer habits changing and attitudes shifting to consumptions said Lou Ching Wong. We cant compare ourselves to the west said Lou Ching .

Despite the lock-down, major cities in Europe had their fashion shows. The luxury brands like Gucci, Prada, YSL, Armani and Chanel to name a few. But here at home with complete closure, there were no shows or glamour events.

Sri Lankans have now started to reassess and re-prioritize what they spend money on. This resulted in fashion trends slowing down with designers left with nothing. Major fashion brands and retailers have been cancelling orders, including products made and waiting to be sent to stores. The reality is that we are forced to stay at our homes and many of us are financially burdened by lay-offs and the desire to buy new clothes is a distant dream. How long can you think the domestic fashion industry can sustain without sales? “We work in a very high circle and the fact is there are no demands so, I am not sure this will be sustainable. And unfortunately we are not like a Western economy that can afford to payout salaries.”

The industry is going to take a long recovery time. The only positive, if at all is hopefully to be able to use it to recalibrate the lifestyles that suit our people said Lou Ching Wong.

“The virus has left me vulnerable confronting an obliteration of sales, wage loss and employee lay-offs,” Ramani Fernando, a fashion icon and beautician said. “However, we are slowly but steadily working towards providing services to our customers under strict health guidelines. Now things are changing and I find many brides advancing their dates and calendars are filling up. However, I feel this crisis could present an opportunity to rethink of the industry.”

For Dinesh Chandrasena, an internationally recognized designer and a leading creative educator, the future seems bright!

“The fashion design and apparel manufacturing industries like all other businesses have been continuously evolving despite the Covid-19 pandemic. We, like the other industries, have been finding methods and systems to not just survive but actually maintain a positive business movement. I have worked in the fashion industry in Los Angeles since the mid-1990s and I have many colleagues who speak about their plans and strategies. I notice that the long term systematic outcomes that they work towards, are based on utilizing these uncertain times to re-evaluate and re-structure their immediate sphere in order to maximize efficiency while still underlining creative excellence”.

“As a creative practitioner and educator, I look at everything with a ‘glass half full’ mentality and believe it is up to us to find, create, and enhance methodologies that would bring a successful turn to these times” Dinesh said.

The designers expect fashion to come back in a big way, after the pandemic. They believe that people will return to the world in glamorous, trendy outfits once more. ‘Fashion is a pendulum’ goes an adage. It goes from one extreme to another and that will happen again here too.

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Yohani has attracted many Bollywood singers

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Yohani de Silva popularly known as Yohani is as Sri Lankan singer, songwriter and rapper. Her song “Menike Mage Hithe” has completely exploded on the internet and had gone crazy visual. From social media to celebrities, everyone is obsessed with the peppy number. For the universal ‘Menike Mage Hithe’ is a 20-20 Sinhala by Satheeshan Ratnayake. The tract went viral after Sri Lankan singer’s version released in May. This song has created such a buzz, that it can be heard everywhere now.

Popularly known as Yohani,she was born on July 30, 1993 in Colombo.

She is extremely popular on Tick Tok and is also the first Sri Lankan female singer to have 2.46 million subscribers on You Tube Even celebs like Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Tiger Shroff and Maduri Dixit among others, couldn’t stop themselves from grooving to the addictive to the beat of the song. Many reels are also been made on this song of Yohani, and Amitabh Bachchan also shared one of his reels on his song on Instagram.

She did her schooling at Visakha Vidyalaya and graduated from Sir John Kotelawela Defence University. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Logistics Management.

Following the first Drive-in-Concert was produced by Show Town Entertainment and this concert created history as it was the first of its kind in Asia and the tenth worldwide. She shared the stage with great artists such as Bathiya and Santosh, Umariya and some others.

Yohani was now accepted as a Cultural Ambassador to India. Several TV channels in India interviewed her and said she is one of the latest Cultural Ambassador to appear in India’s National TV channel. Her song ‘Menike Mage Hithe” won the hearts of millions of people in India from celebrities to the public.

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NIGHT MARKET, Street Food and Musical Fiesta with a Cause

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The second edition of the Nightmarket, an outdoor fair organized by Dilmah’s MJF Foundation will be held at its Centre in Moratuwa on Saturday, October 30th from 5:30pm onwards, the organizers said in a news release.

“The theme this month revolves around Halloween and provides an opportunity to support small local businesses and first time entrepreneurs impacted by the pandemic. A family oriented fair with something for everyone, this month’s Nightmarket promises to provide fun, family entertainment in a socially distant manner,” it said.

“Held at the MJF Centre in Katubedde, next to the K-Zone, the event promises live musical entertainment, food stalls, educational stalls and a “not so-Spooky” night tour of Sri Lanka’s first urban arboretum. A seasonal movie for children is also part of the line-up. The event will also feature Dilmah Conservation showcasing their publications and their educational series around beekeeping and home gardening.

“In addition to supporting business, the fair also hopes to support veteran and aspiring musicians who have been affected by the lockdown. The stalls feature a range of products from clothing, foodstuff, services, natural products, and jewelry featuring both first time and experienced vendors.”

“Nightmarket is an opportunity for those entrepreneurs that grew out of hardship – it gives them a chance to engage with consumers, listen to them and learn how to sell products that are aligned with the market.” said Dilhan C. Fernando CEO of Dilmah and Trustee of the MJF Foundation. “It supports entrepreneurship a subject that is close to my father’s heart and his philosophy of making business a matter of human service” he said.

All stalls are provided at no cost; the only guidelines for participants is that the product must be an original item produced by them or others with a sustainable background. As a zero waste event, all stalls are required to adhere to the stringent guidelines around sustainable packaging and waste.

Visitors will also receive a glimpse of the services provided at the MJF Centre which offers free IT courses, a culinary school, other vocational training, after school programmes for children, English classes for youth, sewing and cookery classes for adults, programmes for senior citizens and education and therapy for children and youth with disabilities.

For further information or to book a stall please call 070 1888 323 or email info@mjffoundation.org

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