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Long ignored as run-of-the-mill for its focus on function first, athletic sportswear is finally receiving respect from fashion aficionados.

Following the thread of this trend, the Fashion Museum in Bath, England (previously known as the Museum of Costume), is running an exhibition called “Sport and Fashion” showcasing more than 50 ensembles of athletic sportswear — with an emphasis on outfits worn in the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

No longer purely about performance, athletic sportswear has evolved greatly over the years. For example, in the 1950s, a men's tobogganing costume was a none-too-stylish baggy overcoat. But in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, British athlete Amy Williams wore a sleek and aesthetically pleasing catsuit when she won a gold medal in the bob skeleton competition.

The exhibition covers a significant span of history; its oldest piece is a tailored woman's riding jacket from the 1700s that sports a peplum, a short flared ruffle, around its waist.

After progressing through the decades, the display culminates with samples of the fashion that will be worn during the London 2012 Games, such as designer Stella McCartney's blue-hued uniforms for Team Great Britain, which come in hundreds of variations for various sports and circumstances – with different outfits for competition and medal ceremonies.  Also on display is a cream-coloured fencing outfit that will be worn by British pentathletes and features subtle flares around the hems of its main sections to evoke the multi-piece armour worn by medieval knights.

The exhibit also includes sporty fashion that's aimed for casual nightlife use, such as a gown with a hooded-sweatshirt look by Victoria Beckham that pays homage to boxers.

In a nice thematic touch, the museum is displaying a 20-inch-tall model of the Olympic Torch knitted from yarn by a local artist, beside the museum's entrance in the Bath Assembly Rooms.

The museum is located in downtown Bath, which is about a 90-minute train ride from London's Paddington Station. The exhibition, drawn from the museum's collection, runs until 6 January 2013.

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