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“Changing Women's Fashion”: A Look at Coeds' Clothing on SU's Campus from Pre-1900-1950s - Athletics Slideshow

Women's athletic wear has changed markedly since the turn of the 20th century. While many fashion trends repeat, reemerge, or reinvent themselves women's athletic wear will probably never again return to the time of knickerbockers, sailor ties, and stockings.


Women began wearing knickerbockers in the 1890s due in large part to the popularity of cycling. <em>Knickerbockers</em>  were a loose form of breeches that fastened with a band below the knee and were about 3 inches wider than typical men's breeches.Women's Battle Ball Team, 1895 [ARM Image 11-1403.jpg] Women's knickerbockers tended to be looser than those made for men. The freedom of movement was profoundly different from the restricting fashions of contemporary skirts.  Women's Basketball Association, 1899 [ARM Image 11-1358.jpg] Knickerbockers continued to be part of athletic wear in the early part of the 20th century. Women's Basketball Association, 1902 [ARM Image 11-1357.jpg] Sailor-inspired tops were typical of women's active wear from the 1890s-1920s. Archbold Stadium, c. 1910s [ARM Image 11-0532.jpg] Sometimes, these sailor tops included bows that ranged in size, but could be quite large. Women's Basketball Team, 1912 [ARM Image 10-1923.jpg] These bathing costumes were shorter and simpler than their 19th century predecessors, which often featured a detachable skirt, but still provided ample coverage. c. 1914 [ARM Image 11-1332.jpg] Knickerbockers remained the standard athletic wear for almost 4 decades. c. 1914-1915 [ARM Image 11-1338.jpg] While pants could be worn for outdoor winter sporting, they were not typical of indoor activities in the 1920s. Drumlins Country Club, c. 1920s [ARM Image 11-0548.jpg] The leg coverings seen here were more common on and off the athletic field in the 1920s. The raising of hemlines saw an increase in the sale of stockings. c. 1920s [ARM Image 11-1336.jpg] Though difficult to see, the headbands worn by these field hockey players were typically used during athletic contests in the 1920s to cover the forehead, in accordance with contemporary style ideals, since the popular cloche hat would have impeded sight. c. 1920s [ARM Image 11-1337.jpg] As early as the 1920s, two piece bathing costumes were worn. However, this female lifeguard opted for a more functional one piece. From the Jazon Zurflieh Digital Collection c. 1920 [ARM Image 11-1812.jpg] Though stockings were still worn through the 1930s, the width of these skirts is a clear change from the voluminous knickerbockers of the previous decades. c. 1930s [ARM Image 11-0545.jpg] Berets became popular headwear in the 1930s. c. 1930s [ARM Image 11-1335.jpg] By the 1940s, women's athletic wear included surprisingly short skirts; perhaps because men's and women's gym classes were separate. Women's dance group, 1940 [ARM Image 11-1339.jpg] Sneakers were not yet prevalent in 1940, even for a game of tennis, and one piece gym suits were the norm. 1940 [ARM Image 11-1341.jpg] The pleats of these cheerleading skirts provided more freedom of movement than their straight cut predecessors of the 1930s. Cheerleaders with the Football Queen, 1947 [ARM Image 11-1334.jpg] Aside from shoes, no special attire was necessary for bowling.1958 [ARM Image 11-1374.jpg] Here we see women playing volleyball in both shorts and skirts. The shorts are closely fitted, while the skirts seem to move easier. 1959 [ARM Image 11-1318.jpg]