This archived article was written by: Daylan Jones
In the early 20th century, women were nothing like they are today. It wasn’t thought important for women to win or even participate in competitive sports. Women have come along way since; it took time and hard work to prove themselves and play in a man’s world.
Through the years, women’s attire changed drastically; women started showing more and more skin. At first it was for freedom of movement to help take their game to the next level, but soon it was to appeal to men.
Women had many restrictions at first when it came to sports. Take golf for example. Golf allegedly is an acronym for “gentlemen only, ladies forbidden.” The name itself restricted women from participating. When women were able to compete in the sport, their attire covered their whole bodies and was very constricting for the sake of being proper.
According to fashion-era.com, “By 1910 only golf allowed women to have expanding pleats down the sides of their tweed jackets to prevent clothes from tearing when they swung. Even those pleats could not be decorative.” It wasn’t until around 1929 when women really got a hold of fashion in golf and were able to wear knee-length skirts and a fashionable blouse. Women in golf today have the freedoms women in the early 20th century didn’t, with only the restrictions of a dress code with the individual golf course or tournament. Today’s fashion in golf also has a larger variety of options and styles to please every woman’s taste and give her that upper hand of confidence while she is playing in a “gentleman’s” game.
One thing that sets tennis apart from any sport today is that tennis doesn’t have a dress code. When tennis first started taking off in the Victorian age in the late 1860s, women settled for what was considered proper. A long skirt, tight-sleeved shirt or jacket, gloves and a hat were worn for matches.
In the 1890s at Wimbledon, white was worn to conceal sweat stains and became the signature color. In 1905, Mary Sutton was the first professional woman to complain about the “heat” and constriction of the tight long sleeved shirt, so she rolled up the cuffs.
It wasn’t until after World War I when women opened up their minds to tennis fashion. This is when the first short skirt and brightly colored cardigan was worn.
Tennis players now often wear skirts so short you could see their spandex well below the hem. When the Williams’ sisters entered the scene, no one was prepared at what they were about to bring to the court. Venus Williams wore a daring outfit during the 2004 U.S. Open. Her outfit consisted of a short skirt that looked like it was made of denim and boots. You can bet these two sisters know how to accessorize with large hoop and dangle earrings to turn it up a bit. The sisters were so good at looking fabulous on and off the court that they both developed and own their own clothing lines.
Today tennis and fashion come hand in hand. Through the women who took a chance on crazy styles no one was prepared for, tennis has not only evolved into one of the most popular sports in Europe, but one of the most fashionable sports around today. Not only do spectators come to see an exciting match, but also to see which bold player will step out on to the runway they call the court and wow the crowd with their fashion too.
Not only in golf and tennis has sports fashion rapidly changed, but in almost every sport today. As the years go on, the hems get shorter, the blouses change to shirts, the shirts change to tank tops and in some cases all the way down to as little as sports bras.
Women have adapted to a male-dominated athletic world and excelled. Women are powerful and shouldn’t be taken lightly. The changes in attire weren’t initially about fashion, about feeling constricted, and not always having to be proper, especially in sports. Dress however you want to show yourself as you play the sport you work hard at, the sport you love. It was about being a woman and showing that you’re excelling in a man’s world, that you will not just sit properly and fade into the background.