Perhaps the most notable change in apparel is for women athletes. A prime example of this change occurred in 1922 when Suzanne Lenglen appeared on the Wimbledon courts wearing a short skirt and no hat, something commonplace today. But before her appearance on that court, women traditionally wore hats, tight sleeve jackets and heavy, long skirts.
The apparel at that time was hardly practical, but fit perfectly with the accepted fashion sense of the day. Lenglen’s abrupt change was considered revolutionary and by 1930 her style of dress on the courts was accepted by most women tennis players.
In 1932, Alice Marble again shocked the tennis world by appearing on court wearing white shorts, something unheard of at the time. Today, tennis dresses of a one-piece design with short skirts are quite common, thanks to the bravery of players like Lenglen and Marble.
Women’s golf underwent a similar sports apparel style change from the beginning of the 20th century. During that time women golfer traditionally wore long dresses, long sleeves and tight jackets. By 1910, female golfers enjoyed the rare privilege of having expanding pleats down the sides of their jackets to keep them from tearing during a golf swing, although the pleats themselves could not be decorative.
Pants or trousers for women were unheard of until the aftermath of World War One, when many women had worn trousers beneath their overalls in munitions plants. This style became generally more acceptable on the beach and began to branch out into sports for years afterwards.
By the end of the 1930’s the apparel for women began resembling what we see today in sports, this in part due to the development of synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon which were lightweight, durable, and easy to clean and could be easily colored to show off the team colors as well. This advancement in fabrics coincided with the changing fashion norms of the times and acceptance that sports or active wear didn’t’ have to reflect the general fashion sense of the times.
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