The FRENCH get fit

The French traditionally excel in skiing and cycling, but all Gaul has suddenly become progressively more sports-oriented, and the influence is reflected in fashion.

All the good seats have long since been booked for the French tennis championships at the Roland Garros Stadium in June, and despite the current French-British political sniping, the Wimbledon matches will be relayed across the channel on French TV.

The sad fact, however, is that in France tennis and golf are strictly rich men's sports, with very few municipal courts and courses anywhere in the country and none at all in Paris. Tennis may have been invented in the 17the century right here in what is now the Jeu de Paume Museum in the Tuileries, but facilities for actual playing are limited in the capital.

If most Parisians have little opportunity to bat the balls around, they make up for it in jogging, skateboards, and even roller-skating, the latest craze for juniors. And these are sports that don't cost a centime, aside from the basic outfits and equipment.

Joggers are jogging all over the center of the city, not to mention the hordes out in the Bois de Boulogne. Everyone, especially this spring, seems suddenly preoccupied with getting in shape. Many office workers, male as well as female, frequently skip lunch for an hour's trot around town through the gardens and parks or even on the hard, uncompromising surface of the city sidewalks.

Warm-up suits, sweat shirts, and jogger's pants made of stretch velvet, toweling, or cotton boucle are a major influence for active wear as well as for armchair joggers, comfortably installed in front of the TV. Another hit, carrying over from last summer, is the long-drawn-out T-shirt cut down to the thighs like a tunic and worn knotted on one hip.

Sportswear has obviously come a long, long way since the turn of the century, when specialized apparel simply did not exist and women played tennis or went ice-skating in their everyday clothes worn over the Gibson-girl wasp-waited corsets and long sweeping petticoats.

Ever Since Teddy Tingling sent Gussy Moran out on the center court at Wimbledon back in the early 1950s wearing lace-frilled panties, champions in various sports have turned to designing. And who could be a better judge for fit and comfort? Lacoste has earned millions over the years with his simple basic sportswear sporting the the little green alligator emblen.

One of the current hits in France is Sergio Tacchini, a former Italian tennis champion, whose collections of men's and women's sportswear are considered among the best in Europe. Martina Navratilova buys a major part of her tennis wardrobe from Tacchini, who frankly claims to have been inspired by American sportswear this year.

If jeans and Western influence are currently all over France, two top Paris Couturiers are doing an about-face after Gloria Vanderbilt's success with jeans. In the near future Americans will be able to buy jeans in the United States with such prestigious names as Yves Saint Laurent and Hubert de Givenchy plastered across the back.

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