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Sportswear Workshop ~ Part 3 ~ Social Sports

Discussion in 'Sportswear 2008 by Fuzzylizzie' started by fuzzylizzie, Jun 25, 2008.

  1. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    Hello again! I'm starting just a bit early today because I decided to break this talk into 2 parts. This morning you'll be reading about some of the active sports that women have played.

    Public, or Social Sports

    In yesterday's workshop I talked about how the advent of all-women colleges led to women wearing "pants" for private sports activities. Today I'll finish up by discussing publicly played sports, and the different track the clothing for those sports took. And I'll finish up with a look at the rise of casual wear in the Western world.

    As stated earlier, people became more interested in sports and physical activity in the mid 1800s. Along with an interest in sea bathing and gymnastics, sports and games began to appear at social occasions. Among these sports were shuttlecock (badminton), croquet, and skating. Later, women took up tennis, golf and bicycling. The big difference between these activities and those of swimming (in the early days, at least), gymnastics and basketball, was that these sports were played in social settings with both men and women present. For young, unmarried women, these were occasions in which to check out and attract the opposite sex. And so fashion took precedence over function. Looking pretty was more important than making the shot.

    So, in the 19th century, women pretty much wore fashionable dress for sports. There were a few concessions, made partly due to safety concerns. Skating dresses were often several inches shorter than regular dress. Skirts were sometimes hiked by the use of buttons or by an "elevator," a mechanical device that lifted the skirt several inches, exposing the petticoats.

    The following illustrations come from 19th century Harper's Bazar magazines. I'll post them in chronological order with a few words about each. One thing to notice is that even though these seem like crazy things to be wearing to play a game, they were often simpler than other dresses of the time. And also note that the non-players or spectators are also wearing simplified dress. Such simplified wear became known as outing dress, and later as sporting costume and then as sportswear, and the name was applied whether or not one was to be physically active.

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/badminton1868.jpg>
    Country toilettes ~ 1868

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/skate1876.jpg>
    Skating Dresses ~ 1876

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/tennis1881.jpg>
    Tennis Dress ~ 1881

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/1891tennis.jpg>
    Tennis Dress ~ 1891

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/outingdresses1893.jpg>
    Outing Dress ~ 1893

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/outingdress1896.jpg>
    Outing Dress ~ 1896

    By the 1920s, the term sportswear had come to mean clothing that was worn for casual occasions, and not necessarily for active players. Now, a few words about some sports and how the clothes worn for each evolved:


    Tennis came to the US in the 1870s. Because it required a special playing area, for many years it was pretty much an upper-class game. Women really just batted the ball back and forth, as it was pretty much impossible to run in the dresses. But by 1885, tennis shoes with rubber soles were being made, and some younger players were developing a more active playing style.

    By the turn of the century, women were playing tennis in a blouse and skirt that was shortened several inches above the fashionable length. It was also around 1900 that white clothing became the color of tennis clothes. There are several theories about why, but most likely it was because at the time white was a very fashionable color. For some reason, the white stuck with tennis. At any rate, if you were to attend a tennis match in 1905, you would notice a marked difference between how the players and how the spectators were dressed. The players would be obviously wearing tennis attire.

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/teenstennis.jpg>
    Early 20th century tennis costume

    Typical tennis dress continued to improve with shorter skirts and short sleeve blouses until 1919. France tennis star Suzanne Lenglon took the court at Wimbleton dressed in a special ensemble designed by Patou. She wore a pleated skirt that came to just below the knee and a sleeveless top cut straight and to the hip. She rolled her white stockings to just above the knee and wore a wide headband wrapped around her cropped hair. But probably most important was what she was NOT wearing: a corset. Other tennis players were quick to adopt Lenglen's costume, and a few years later, so did fashion in general.

    For more about Lenglen and to see photos of her dress, visit this site.

    By the 1930s, the stockings has been replaced by ankle socks, and in 1933 player Alice Marble wore shorts on the court. But shorts for competitive women's tennis did not catch on, though they are often pictured in vintage sewing patterns in the 30s and 40. Even today, skirts are expected at the highest level of play.

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/tennispattern1935.jpg>
    Tennis shorts, circa 1935, but they'd never have been made in blue!

    But even though shorts were never really accepted on the tennis court, the skirt gradually shortened to the mid thigh, with matching panties worn beneath. In 1949 Gussie Moran caused a stir at Wimbleton when she wore panties trimmed with lace. When Chris Evert did the same about 25 years later, it was merely considered to be cute.

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/salesimp1-2999/simp2474.jpg>
    Late 1940s tennis dress sewing pattern


    Golf was developed in Scotland and came to the US and Canada in the 1870s. In the 1890s it gained in popularity and courses were being built all over America. Illustrations from 1890s fashion magazines show a very practical ensemble being worn by women golfers, usually an A-line skirt a couple of inches above the ground, topped with a blouse.

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/golf/golf1894.jpg>
    From Harper's Bazar, 1894

    Similar styles were worn through the 1910s, with the skirt gradually shortening and with an improvement to the back of the blouse: pleats were introduced that allowed for more freedom of movement. Women were also wearing knit sweaters to play in cooler weather.

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/golf/thermoscoatsweater1913.jpg>
    1913, ad for Thermos Sports Sweaters

    By the 1920s, the golf dress was still often two pieces, a jersey knit top worn over a matching pleated skirt. Golf dresses were rather plain, but women, like men, often wore patterned stockings. Beginning arond 1921, you sometimes see photos and drawings of women wearing knickers on the golf course.

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/golf/bonwit25golf.jpg>
    from a 1925 Bonwit Teller Sports Book

    During the 1930s and 40s, golf attire followed fashion somewhat, but dressmakers and designers were coming up with ways to make the dress more suited to the sport. Pleated vents in the back of the bodice, buttons on sleeves and pockets were common features. Unlike the tennis dress, the golf dress pretty much followed fashion as to length. Because the game was not as active as tennis, there was never a need to shorten the skirt.

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/golf/golfad1949royal.jpg>
    1949 golf dress ad

    <img src=http://i41.photobucket.com/albums/e270/fuzzylizzie/DacksGolfShoes.jpg>
    These great golf shoes are men's, but women wore similar ones; these are from Dack's. Thanks to Mary Jane at Poppy's Vintage Clothing for this photo

    By the late 1950s it was becoming acceptable for women to wear knee length shorts on most courses. Over the next decades, women abandoned the golf dress for the more practical shorts, skorts, and slacks. Interestingly, in the past few years, the golf dress has made a comeback. Today's version is more like a tennis dress, and often borders on sexy. Surprised??

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/golf/mcgregorgolfas1964.jpg>
    1964 ad for McGregor golf clothes


    The fad of the 1890s was bicycling. Fueled by feature articles in magazines and newspapers, men and women turned to the bicycle by the thousands. Remember, this was before the car, and so the bicycle was not just a toy - it was personal transportation.

    But there was a major hindrance to women riding bicycles - their skirts. The problem was solved in several ways. First, and probably most common, was the wearing of a shorter skirt, with the hem several inches from the ground. This skirt would have been paired with bicycle boots that laced almost to the knee, or wool gaiters worn over the shoes.

    Here is a wonderful bicycling suit that is at the Atlanta History Center.

    There were also special skirts designed that buttoned to form a true skirt, but unbuttoned when riding to make a sort of divided skirt or culotte.

    But most talked about at the time, were bicycling bloomers. By this time, bloomers were very common on college campuses, but still were not being worn in public. As the bicycle craze progressed, it began to be suggested that the best solution to the skirt problem was bloomers. Fashion magazines began to show them and sewing patterns became available. There was also much discussion in the press about the appropriateness of bloomers, and the conclusion usually was, in women's magazines, at least, that wearers should always take care to have a skirt handy to go over the bloomers when not actually riding.

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/bicycle1894bazar.jpg>
    1894 illustration in Harper's Bazar

    How popular were bicycling bloomers? It's hard to separate the media hype from what was the reality. In preparing for this workshop I found dozens of period drawings of the bloomers, but only one actual photograph of an 1890s woman wearing them. And I found many photos of women wearing the short bicycle skirt.

    There are many historic cartoons lampooning bicycle bloomer wearers. I'd think it would have taken a very strong individual to have the courage to have worn them in most towns. How about those of you who collect and sell 19th century wear; do these come up often in the marketplace?

    After the turn of the century, the popularity of bicycling faded as cars became available. And for the next ten years, the bloomer was forgotten.

    Hiking and Camping

    Hiking and camping really don't qualify as either a public or as a private sport. Outside of organized camps, camping as recreation has from its beginnings in the 1870s, been primarily a family activity. So these activities took place out-of-doors, but in isolated locations with often only a woman's family. And it was also quite common for groups of women friends to camp together. Because of this, dress was very informal, and the rules were relaxed.
    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/hunting1893.jpg>
    From Harper's Bazar, 1893

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/camp/teenscampers.jpg>
    Group of women campers, late 1910s

    Camping increased in popularity through the last three decades of the 19th century, but it was the invention of the car that caused a sharp increase in camping. The car could take a group to the edge of the wilderness, and the party would hike to their camping spot. Or the car itself was often used as a kind of primitive RV, as they made tents that attached to the car. Stores like Abercrombie & Fitch opened to supply the popular sport. From Abercrombie & Fitch, campers could buy everything from the tent to fishing lures, to a compass to special hiking clothing.

    From the 1910 A & F catalog:

    In late years there has been a tremendous increase in the number of women who have elected to share the sportman's pleasures and hardships, and their special needs too, have received at our hands the most careful consideration...

    The range of clothing for women who shared the sportsman's pleasures was quite diverse, but they had one major thing in common, they were completely practical. All the skirts, whether for skating or hiking, were several inches to around a foot above the foot. And they offered a wide range of choice. For each style, a woman could choose her "bottom" piece, either a short skirt, a divided skirt, bloomers or knickerbockers (traditionally a male garment that was similar to bloomers, but were slimmer with less fabric.)

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/catalog/A&F1910b.jpg> <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/catalog/A&F1910f.jpg> <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/catalog/A&F1910c.jpg> <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/catalog/A&F1910d.jpg>
    4 choices from the 1910 A & F catalog

    The popularity of camping continued into the 1920s, and by the early 20s knickerbockers were being offered by more than just sports outfitters. By 1923 knickers suits were offered at department stores and through mail order catalogs. The 1923 Sears catalog featured a knickers suit on a page entitled "Correct togs for outing and sportswear." A popular brand of knickers was "The Fad of the Hour." Knickers clearly were not just for camping any more. Women were wearing them for other casual occasions.

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/fad001.jpg>
    1920s knicker suit

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/wnc/pisgah.jpg>
    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/wnc/pisgah2.jpg> Early 20s hiking party, Mt Pisgah, near Asheville, NC


    Skiing as a recreational sport came late to the US. There were some hardy skiers from before the turn of the century, but it was not until the very late 1920s that Americans began to ski for fun, and the first ski resorts were opened. It didn't take long for Americans to embrace skiing the way they had golf and bicycling. Most interestingly, from the beginning of the ski boom, women skiers wore slacks. By 1929 slacks for women were becoming increasingly accepted for the beach, so why not the snow as well!

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/skiing/skijantzen47.jpg>
    Jantzen ad, 1947

    Okay, your turn! I want to see some great active sportswear. This afternoon I'll be concluding the workshop with sportswear as casual wear, or "Women Wearing Shorts and Slacks!"
  2. JulieW

    JulieW Alumni

    Lizzie, these have been GREAT!

    So was the "playsuit" a growth from the private or public sports...or part of swimwear that became just accepted summer sportswear?

    I mean playsuits like this:
  3. Fascinating!!! You have put so much thought work into this and I am so grateful - learning tons! Thank you!!!

    Here's a picture of 2/3rds of a golf suit. Much different than the 1964 ad for clothes, but I think this one is from the early 60s too. The matching top is sleeveless with buttons up the back. Do you think this would have had shorts to go with it Lizzie or a skirt?



    I'll try and find a ski suit I have - 60s too I think.

    OT - in the skating photo from 1876 everything looks in proportion except the feet, they all look about the same size for the women, teen and children.
  4. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    Deborah, it's possible that there was a choice of "bottoms." The pieces were most likely sold as serarates, and so there could have been the choice of Bermudas, a skirt, a culotte, maybe even slacks.

    Many time golf clothing was made by specialty manufasturers, and so the label might be a clue that it is sports clothing. Otherwise, I'd have not realized your set was intented for golf!

    Julie, great question. I will be talking about playsuits in my very last post, coming up soon!
  5. BagDiva

    BagDiva Guest

    Lizzie, youre fearsome!!! this is first class!! and l have to print it off...to keep it and reread it..

    its so interesting, the diversity and the growth in sportswear,w e use the term so generically not specifically..thanks so much...its been GREAT!!
  6. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    Sportswear as Casual Wear

    So, how did all this come to change the way most Western women dress for casual occasions? The story concludes...

    By the late 1910s, the word "sportswear" was being used not only for active sports clothing, but also for the clothing that would have been worn for "outings" or more casual outdoor activities.
    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/sportfrock1919.jpg>
    1919 New Idea pattern catalog

    In the years prior to WWI, knits became an important part of the sports wardrobe in the form of pullover and cardigan sweaters. But it was the Great War which brought about major change; women needed comfortable clothing in which they could move and drive and work throughout a long day. Chanel recognized this in Paris, resulting in her jersey knit dresses.

    During the 1920s leisure increased, and so did the demand for more casual clothing. More and more people had the time and money to golf, play tennis and take vacations. Many department stores had opened "Sports Shops" by the mid 1920s, in which tennis and golf dresses, riding clothing and even knicker ensembles for women were offered.

    Increasingly, there was also "spectator" sportswear - casual clothing which was not for participating in a particular sport, but rather for watching. These clothes were most appropriate for country wear, but were often dressy enough for town. Some sportswear departments were even called "Town and Country" shops.
    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/lux1923.jpg>

    By the 1930s, the term "sportswear" had come to mean wear for casual outdoor occasions, not just clothing for active sports. Fabrics were tailored and easy care - "tubable" instead of dry cleanable. Cotton, in the form of chambray, shirting, pique, gingham, twill and increasingly as time progressed, denim, were used. Washable linen was also popular, and for winter, tweeds, jersey, flannel, gabardine and Shetland wools were popular.

    Women continued to experiment with wearing pants. By the mid-1920s, daring ladies were wearing "trunks" under their sports frocks. By the early 1930s they were called shorts. A garment called a playsuit, quite similar to the gym suit, was a one piece shirt and shorts, and it came with a matching skirt that was removed for the beach or picnic, put back on for the return to town. I'm afraid I can't say who came up with the idea for the playsuit, but I feel certain that it did not come from the swimsuit. In structure it is much more similar to the gymsuit. But I do know that it first appeared in the very early 30s.

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/bonwit1925trunks.jpg>
    This 1925 Bonwit Teller catalog offered Chanel's new trunks for wearing under the golf dresses.

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/clothes/playsuit40s%20002.jpg><Img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/clothes/playsuit40s%20001.jpg><img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/clothes/playsuit40s%20003.jpg>
    A 1940s romper and skirt set

    Slacks for women appeared in the 1920s, first in the boudoir and on the beach as pyjamas, but by the early 1930s they were worn for skiing, sailing and other leisure activities.

    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/clothes/pyjama1930s.jpg>
    Early 30s beach or sailing pyjama

    Increasingly. pants and even men's style trousers, were seen in magazines on actress like Katherine Hepburn. By the late 30s, women were wearing slacks in movies.
    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/slackshudsonkellogg1932.jpg>
    RKO actress Rochelle Hudson in a 1932 ad for Kellogg's All-Bran

    But it took World War II to really turn American women into pants wearers. During the war, slacks or overalls were a necessity for women working in factories and farms. When the war was over, women continued wearing the practical and comfortable slacks.
    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/slacksverney1946.jpg>
    1946 ad for Verney fabrics

    A very important development during this time was the concept of co-ordinates, or separates. These were garments made from the same or matching fabrics that were bought one piece at a time to mix and match.
    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/magazine/whitestag51.jpg>
    White Stag ad, 1951

    Practical considerations were all important in sportswear. For the first time, women's clothing began to have pockets. Some designers took pockets to a whole new level, as in Vera Maxwell's travel jacket with plastic lined pockets, and Bonnie Cashin's skirts and coats that had snap-purse pockets.

    By the 1940s, sportswear designers were beginning to gain recognition. Claire McCardell was one of the first to make a name for herself, designing simple and easy to wear clothing. Her "Pop-Over" dress, a wrap and tie kimono-style dress was made for years in dozens of different fabrics.

    Many of the sportswear designers of the 1940s became known for their takes on exotic and ethnic wear. Among there were Tina Leser, Louella Ballerino and Carolyn Schnurer. These designers scoured the post-WWII world for design inspiration. Bathing suits, sun dresses and other play clothes had an international appeal, but with American style comfort and ease.
    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/schnurer/schnurerdress.jpg>
    Carolyn Schnurer Dress and wrap, late 1940s

    The growth of the movie industry led to Southern California becoming a vacation resort. Pictures of the stars in Palm Springs and lounging around their own pools combined with a climate that allowed year-round outdoors activities gave rise to a certain casual lifestyle image.

    As a result, California became a center of sportswear manufacturing. Many of these firms, such as Catalina and Cole of California, got their start making swimsuits, and swimsuits remained an important part of the industry. Other California sportswear names to remember are Addie Masters, Pat Premo, Agnes Barrett, Mabs, DeDe Johnson, Louella Ballerino, Alex Colman, Lanz and Koret of California.
    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/magazine/sweaterad.jpg>
    Catalina ad, 1939

    As the biggest clothing making center, New York City had dozens of designers and manufacturers who made primarily sportswear. The best known are probably McCardell and Cashin, along with Leser and Schnurer. Also important were Tom Brigance, Jeanne Campbell for Sportswhirl, Clare Potter, Dorothy Cox for McMullen, Vera Maxwell, BH Wragge, Emily Wilkins, David Crystal and Joset Walker.
    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/leser/leser%20002.jpg>
    An early 60s Tina Leser Swimsuit cover-up

    Sportswear was not confined to the two major centers. There were great sportswear makers all over the country - Bill Atkinson at Glen of Michigan, Lorch of Dallas, White Stag and Pendleton (both in Oregon), and dozens of Hawaiian and Floridian makers.
    <img src=http://fuzzylizzie.com/myPictures/sports/hobbes002.jpg>
    Lorch of Texas Shorts ensemble, 1940s

    By the 1960s sportswear was no longer a novelty. Most Americans were dressing in an increasingly casual manner. Today, the wearer of sportswear from the 1930s - 1950s would seem to be "dressed up" in many communities. These clothes have stood the test of time and the casual wear from the mid 20th century still has a freshness that makes it a delight to collect and wear.
  7. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    And that is all! Please feel free to post photos of your sportswear, and to ask any questions!

  8. cactusandcattails

    cactusandcattails VFG Member


    Thank you so much for an amazing workshop. Teachers rock!!

    Here is one of my favorite outfits. A rayon knit sports set from the 30s.


    and a sweet label too!

  9. joules

    joules VFG Member

    Oh, this presentation has been so wonderfully pulled together. It's outstanding, Lizzie. Thank you, thank you!

    Claire McCardell by Townley 1947 plaid shirtwaist dress. (Apologies for slightly plump mannequin):
  10. :wow22:

    Here's a 60s ski suit. Early? All metal zips, reversible jacket, knitted cuffs, stirrup pants do up at the side. Both sides of the jacket have a pocket zippered arm, do you know what that was used for? And the collar has a zippered compartment with a nylon hood - is that a good clue for dating?




  11. Great workshop, really enjoyable!
  12. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    Deborah, I have no idea about the pocket. Sorry. Maybe someone who actually skis will know.

    As for dating, you have to so by materials used, colors and general silhouette. I agree that this is late 50s or very early 60s.

    Nice! Thanks for showing it.

  13. That 30's rayon knit sports set is AMAZING..
  14. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    Yes, and what a label!

    Julie, you should have posted that picture of you wearing your McCardell! Love it.
  15. The Vintage Merchant

    The Vintage Merchant Administrator Staff Member

    i need to come back when i can read this more fully, but wanted to say BRAVO Lizzie!!!! what a great compilation of information!!

    and LOVE that 30's navy knit, Brenda! wowsah!
  16. joules

    joules VFG Member

    Oh Lizzie, thank you! I should probably tell of my memories of wearing it for that most active sport in Los Angeles, gassing up the automobile. Madness!

    Well, how about this Pat Premo (looks like I am about to back into the pool, but just to create a little drama):
  17. Lizzie, you've outdone yourself! The workshops have been wonderful and I wish I could have participated more.

    I sold this Edwardian tennis dress to Jonathan quite a while ago. I don't have a photo to post anymore but the page is still on my site so I thought I'd share.

    If I have a chance tomorrow I'll photo and post the bicycle bloomers that I have.
  18. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    Candy, that is really nifty!

    I'd love to see the bloomers if you get them photographed.

  19. amandainvermont

    amandainvermont VFG Member

    Lizzie - thank you so much. Fabulous job and so much fun to read and learn.
  20. wyomingvintage

    wyomingvintage VFG Member

    Wow! Lizzie this workshop has been FABULOUS! Thanks for all your work putting this together.

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