Pommel horse

Long Skirts and Wool Socks: Early Athletic Uniforms

The requirement of uniforms for physical education courses first appears in the College Calendar of 1899, when it is stated that Tennis teameach student will need "a gymnasium suit of the pattern prescribed by the director." There are no records that define it, but a newspaper article from March 1896 describes the "costume" or "gymnasium dress" as consisting of

a short divided skirt made very full and having the appearance of an ordinary short skirt, a shirt waist of the same material, black stockings and heelless shoes, known as the "Bryn Mawr" pattern. They are slippers made of soft, black kangaroo leather, with buckskin sole and laced in the front. Corsets are not worn while exercising in the gymnasium. Thus the costume allows perfect freedom of movement.
The Times Sunday Special, city unknown
March 29, 1896

Similar gyathletic uniformm suits, based on styles suggested by Dudley Sargent, Dio Lewis and others, were in use at Vassar, Wellesley, and Mount Holyoke. Over time, the very full skirt diminished in volume and became more like a bloomer. The bloomer suit style, with variations on the style of blouses, eventually changed into tunics and blouses. By the early 1930s short socks had replaced the long stockings.

Different styles of clothing were used for outdoor sports. The Athletic Association set the standards for apparel for team activities, including the length of the skirts, the ptennis teamrohibition of corsets, the style of the team blouses and the placement of the college's initials and class year, and the necessity of swimming caps. That the students liked the clothing is suggested by a 1911-1912 ruling that says "only gymnasium suits or jumpers and regulation bloomers may be worn without skirts for track, and only within the enclosure." This was modified soon afterward to restrict the wearing of basketball uniforms in any venue other than the playing field. As late as 1921, stockings still needed to be worn above the knee.

It is unclear what Bryn Mawr students wore in the first swimming pool. The earliest existing photo of students in swimsuits suggests a one or two pieceskating outfit with sleeves and pants that came about knee length. An advertisemregulation swimwearent for swimsuits from 1907 shows a modest outfit with a skirt as well as leggings.

The clothing for individual outdoor activities was not specified by Athletic Association guidelines. Ice skating apparel seems to have been based on what was practical and warm; no particular ensemble was required. Bicycling, which rapidly became popular for women in the 1890s, demanded a shorter skirt and leggings, or a split skirt, plus gaiters, for safety as well as ease of movement. However, the accompanying jackets, hats and gloves were opportunities to display individual style.

cartoon of skating


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