A Kit Of Their Own

On 9th June 2019, the England Women’s football team took to the pitch at the Stade de Nice for their first match of the Women’s World Cup. They wore white, with red and blue striped cuffs, andsported the Three Lions (or maybe the Three Lionesses) on their shirt. This was the first time in the 140-year history of women’s football in England that a national team wore a kit that had beenspecifically designed for them.

England Women’s Football Team (‘The Lionesses’), June 2019.

Even on a practical level, the new England Women’s strip is of huge significance. Up until now, female players have worn kits designed for the masculine body. Often baggy and ill-fitting, the strip made the players less aerodynamic and caused discomfort while playing. The new kit is designed for and fitted to the female shape. For the first time, sportswear technology has been channelled into the development of a specifically female, professional-standard football kit, in order to support and enhance the performance of these top-level players.

England Women’s Football Team, UEFA Women’s Euro, June 2005.

Kirsty Pealing of England, ca. 2004.

Beyond this important practical progression, the new strip allows the England Women’s team to construct a unique visual identity, distinct from that of the men’s team. Academic discourse has, inrecent years, focussed on the interrelation of sport and gender. Jayne Caudwell and Jennifer Hargreaves, among others, have highlighted how, since the Victorian period, sport has become central to both the symbolic construction of masculinity and the lived experience of many men. As such, women have historically been excluded from sport on organisational, symbolic and cultural levels. These deeply engrained attitudes towards sport have often resulted in the derision ofwomen’s sport, clearly highlighted in the criticism female footballers have received via social mediain recent years. The implication of such criticism seems to be that women’s football is merely an inferior version of the men’s game, which is held as the pinnacle of what football as a sport can be.Despite the many and varied successes of England Women in the last 30 years, their kits – identical to the male strip – arguably visibly reinforced this perception of female football as merely anextension of the men’s sport, their achievements and identity drowned in the din surrounding men’sfootball.

Twitter Comments on Women’s Football, June 2019.

Twitter Comments on Women’s Football, June 2019.

The new strip, by contrast, creates an aesthetic associated exclusively with the England Women’sfootball team. Worn by players, it links this aesthetic to their performance and the pride and support it generates. Worn by fans, it expresses an allegiance to specifically the England Women’s team. Furthermore, it allows for a differentiation between the men’s and women’s games.

While perhaps, in an ideal world, there would be no distinction between the two, in reality the sports have developed in different ways. Men’s football is highly professionalized and skilful, but has also seen large-scale organisational corruption, while enormous salaries and invasive media attention is arguably damaging to the well-being of players. Women’s football aims to take a more holistic approach. At a talk I recently attended at the British Library, a representative of the F.A. suggested that there are structures in place to support female players, providing financial advice, career support and mental health provision, issues that she believes were historically overlooked in themen’s sport. Fans present at the same talk suggested that the sport itself had its own distinctive andpositive attributes, describing it as ‘football like it used to be’. Other fans praised female players for the efforts they make to interact with fans and the safe, friendly atmosphere of the crowds. The visually distinctive new England strip allows both players and fans to celebrate these unique aspectsof women’s football.

England Women’s Football Team (“the Lionesses”), June 2019.

That is not to pit men and women’s football against one another. Personally, I would love in the future to see them learn from one another in order to create two equally skilful, equally holistic sporting structures. Because, for those of us who love sport, two sets of high-quality football to watch can only be better than one.

 

Bibliography/Further Reading

@lionesses Instagram account

Hargreaves, Jennifer, Heroines of Sport: The Politics of Difference and Identity (London: Routledge, 2000).

Hargreaves, Jennifer, Sporting Females: Critical Issues in the History and Sociology of Women’sSports (London: Routledge, 1994).

Caudwell, Jayne, ‘Gender, Feminism and Football Studies’, Soccer and Society 12, no. 3 (2011), pp. 330-344. Accessed online via British Library.

Caudwell, Jayne, ‘Reviewing UK Football Cultures: Continuing with Gender Analyses’, Soccer and Society 12, no. 3 (2011), pp. 323-329. Accessed online via British Library.

Dissertation Discussion: Daisy

What is the working title of your dissertation?

‘A Class of Football … Well Worth Watching’: Women’s Football Clothing, 1915-1921

What led you to choose this subject?

I’ve always been a huge sports fan, although growing up in Devon I would choose to watch rugby over football every time! But I started playing football with a team in London a year and a half ago and absolutely fell in love with playing the sport. My Dad and I have discussed women’s sport a lot since I started playing as I feel this is a real moment in history for women in sport; many individuals and teams are finally getting recognition for their talents while there is funding coming in at a grassroots level that just wasn’t there previously. My Dad mentioned a documentary he’d watched on women’s football during World War One; how popular it was, gathering crowds of up to 53,000, and how it was subsequently banned in 1921. Unbelievably, the ban wasn’t lifted until 1971. As someone who has benefited so much from playing sport, I found the idea of so many women being banned from playing football really shocking and sad. I also feel that so many people don’t understand this important moment in the history of women’s sport and why, in consequence, women’s football is significantly underdeveloped compared to the men’s game. I was already planning on focusing my dissertation on the period of the 1910s, because I think it is such a sudden period of change from the old Victorian values to the modernity of the 1920s, so to focus on women’s football in this period seemed an absolutely perfect topic!

Favourite book/article you’ve read for your dissertation so far and why?

A match report of a women’s football match in Preston from 1918. The journalist seems so enthused by the sport and so in support of the female players, it’s really heart-warming. My favourite quote is: ‘The attendance at Deepdale on Saturday shows there is distinctly a public for Ladies Football in Preston and … the girls play a class of football that … make[s] the game well worth watching’.

Favourite image/object in your dissertation and why?

An image of the Yorkshire Ladies and Dick Kerr Ladies in front of the large crowds at Deepdale stadium.

Yorkshire Ladies and Dick Kerr’s Ladies, 1921, postcard, Alice Kell Collection, National Football Museum Archives, Preston (Photo: National Football Museum).

Favourite place to work?

I’ve really enjoyed working in the Library Study Room at Vernon Square; it’s got big mullion windows which let in the sun and frame the view of the trees next to the building. I also love working in the Periodicals Room at Senate House Library which has comfy Chesterfield sofas where you can curl up with your laptop. Although sometimes it’s slightly too comfortable to be conducive to work …

Sporting Style: Tennis Outfits in the Early-Twentieth Century

Tennis has always had strong associations with fashion. This link is most clearly demonstrated, argues Phyliss Tortura, in the Jean Paul Gaultier Autumn 2010 show in which the runway was made to look like a tennis court and much of the collection was inspired by sportswear. I recently visited the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Archive, which has a large collection of vintage postcards featuring famous tennis stars of the past. These postcards show the numerous and changing styles of female sporting dress that have adorned the tennis court.

Jean Paul Gaultier Runway Show, Autumn 2010

Jean Paul Gaultier Runway Show, Autumn 2010

The modern game of Lawn Tennis first emerged in the 1870s and female players in these early years usually wore their ordinary clothes, often a smart ‘tea dress’, in order to play. This would have included a corset, a skirt with a bustle and various other trimmings. While the decorations were pared down over the years to the classic Wimbledon white, corsets remained a regular feature in women’s tennis outfits. Right up until the late 1910s female tennis players engaged in this vigorous and strenuous sport whilst wearing this boned and laced garment which would restrict both their breathing and their freedom of movement.

Mrs McNaire, ca. 1910s

Mrs Satterthwaite, ca. 1910s

It took the glamorous and daring Suzanne Lenglen to challenge this norm, and she was met by great shock and outrage when she took her place on court at the 1919 Wimbledon tournament wearing no corset. She also made a radical change to the length of skirts for women in tennis, with the skirt of her 1919 outfit stopping at her calves. This modification soon caught on, with hemlines gradually rising across the following decades, giving female players a greater capacity for movement in the game. Lenglen’s signature headscarf also caught on, adding a sense of glamour and chic to the sport.

Suzanne Lenglen, ca. 1920s

Senorita De Alvarez, ca. 1920s

Many players accessorised their outfits, and spectators at the interwar Wimbledon tournaments would have seen everything from geometric cardigans to fur coats. Other modifications in women’s tennis dress were gradually made over this period, eventually coming to value practicality over the Victorian demands of modesty. Stockings were worn under tennis dresses until 1932, when they were finally discarded.

Miss G. Sterry, ca. 1920s

Mrs Satterthwaite, ca. 1930s

Women’s tennis dress changed dramatically in the early twentieth century, creating a more practical and comfortable costume, suitable for the sporting prowess of the players. However, a touch of glamour and style still didn’t go amiss.

Tennis Photos Courtesy of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Archive

References

Phyliss G. Tortura, Dress Fashion & Technology: From Pre-History to the Present (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).

Ted Tinling, The Story of Women’s Tennis Fashion (Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, 1977)

Valerie Warren, Tennis Fashions: Over 125 Years of Costume Change (Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, 1993).

Athleisure in NY

At the end of February, Documenting Fashion’s MA class took a study trip to New York. Homecoming for some and the first time in America for others, these few days were outstanding, and we are excited to share our highlights with you. 

I have been living in London since September, but I am from Canada. So when our class travelled to New York for our study trip last week, for me, it was sort of like going home. I was excited to once again see familiar stores and restaurant chains, as they are part of my native landscape of home comforts. However, now that I think back on our trip, it turns out, surprisingly, that it wasn’t these North American landmarks that made me feel right at home: it was how people dressed. (Maybe not that surprising, come to think of it, for a student of fashion history.) Seeing the way people in New York dress – head-to-toe black athleisure – meant I was back!

 For those of you who are not familiar with the term, athleisure is a style of dress characterised by body-con, athletic-inspired clothing. It became increasingly popular beginning around 2000 as advancements in athletic-wear fabrics stimulated the creation of new light-weight, flexible, high performance and fashion-forward sports garments. Brands like Lululemon are credited for having sparked the trend that has been considered the most important fashion trend of the twentieth century. According to Forbes, the American athleisure industry is worth $44 billion.[1]

All images taken from the official Instagram account of Michi New York (a women’s athletic wear brand)

The question that begs to be asked is: is athleisure really is just a trend? Did the American appeal for versatility and practicality really spawn from athletic-wear brands that launched in the late 90s?

The visits we made to the Parsons, Fashion Institute of Technology and Brooklyn Museum archives would lead me to argue that, in fact, a preference for practical clothing attests to a distinctive American pragmatic attitude to dress that goes back to the first half of the twentieth century. We got to see sketches from various American designers, and it was interesting to see that underpinning their aesthetic were definite links to this established American taste for understated practical clothing. In fact, during the 1930s, Claire McCardell – one of the most influential American designers of the time – was already designing functional sportswear for women.

When I moved to London, it hit me that my ‘go-to’ North American uniform of Lululemon leggings and hoodies, which at home made me blend in with every other college student on my campus, actually made me look extremely underdressed and out of place on the chic streets of London. I was on an entirely different register from the sophisticated, tailored, colourful London look.

Therefore, interestingly, New York made me realize that while personal style may be specific to each person, it is definitely influenced to a certain extent by the surrounding fashion culture.

References: Wilson, Chip. ‘Why the Word “Athleisure” is Completely Misunderstood.” Forbes. April 18, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/chipwilson/2018/04/18/why-the-word-athleisure-is-completely-misunderstood/#1c5aa6564697.

Wintertime Winds Blow Cold This Season: Winter Wear in Art-Goût-Beauté

The title of my blogpost is derived from a song by The Doors called “Wintertime Love,” released in 1968 on their album Waiting for the Sun. It is a favourite song of mine, as it always gets me in a wintery mood. Born in January, I have always been fond of the winter season – even more so after living in Norway for two years. I enjoy winter wear and I spend time knitting myself warm jumpers throughout the year, mainly using old patterns from the 1940s and 1950s. I love the view of mountaintops covered in snow, and enjoy going snowboarding whenever I can. However, I was born in the wrong place, as the Netherlands is a very flat country. Sadly, the wintery ice skating scenes with warmly-dressed-up people, known from oil paintings such as Hendrick Avercamp’s Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters (c. 1608), have also become a rare sight.

Therefore, this Christmas break I will dream away to the above illustration of a woman set against the backdrop of falling snow. It is winter, 1926. The woman is depicted in profile in a stylised manner. Her head is fashionably covered. She sports a dark blue shawl and white gloves with a light blue trimming; all to protect her from the cold winter weather.

This elegant illustration is from the cover of the February 1926 issue of Art-Goût-Beauté Feuillets de L’Élégance Féminine, a fashion periodical published in Paris between November 1921 and 1933. The successor of a short-lived magazine called Succès d’Art Goût Bon Ton, the magazine derived its initials from Albert Godde Beddin et Cie, a textile manufacturer and publisher established in Lyon in 1867. The decorative endleaves of the magazine originate from textile designs of this company, with the name and number of each pattern noted in a small inset.

Each page of Art-Goût-Beauté is a delight to look at. The magazine’s title, which translates to ‘Art, Good Taste, Beauty, Pages of Feminine Elegance,’ signals the magazine’s coverage of elegant and luxurious creations of Parisian couturiers, such as Drecoll, Patou, Poiret and Worth. Using the highly refined, hand-stencilling and painting technique known as pochoir, Art-Goût-Beauté brought these couturiers’ fashions to the contemporary reader seeking the latest fashion inspiration and advice.

Winter Wear: From Active Sportswear to Festive Evening Wear

For instance, in its January 1924 issue, Art-Goût-Beauté mentions the pleasures of winter sports such as luging, skiing, and bobsleighing for dauntless sportswomen. Moreover, an advertisement for Tunmer in its Christmas 1928 issue depicts ensembles appropriate for ice skating and skiing.

The magazine stresses that the sporty 1920s  women can still find a way to look nice both outside in the wintry landscape and in the cozy indoors. For example, they might change their sportswear for a more formal evening look, such as ‘Gabette’ by Jean Patou, or ‘Grande Passion’ by Gustav Beer pictured below. The latter, a black and beige dress with flounces, is made of fabric from Albert Godde Beddin et Cie.

Illustration of ‘Gabette’, created by Jean Patou, and ‘Grande Passion’, created by Gustav Beer. Art-Goût-Beauté Feuillets de L’Élégance Féminine., January 1924, vol. 4, issue 41, p. 12.

Find more of these beautiful fashion illustrations from Art-Goût-Beauté  via “Rijksstudio”, the online database of the collection of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

By Nelleke Honcoop

Sources:

Retrieved via “Rijksstudio”, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijksstudio.

For further reading on pochoir:

Calahan, April, and Cassidy Zachary. Fashion and the Art of Pochoir: The Golden Age of Illustration in Paris. Thames & Hudson, 2015.

Lycra, Linen, and Liberation

Advertisement for De De Johnson sportswear, 1930s

As a retail worker for a popular sportswear company this past summer, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between American sportswear styles of the 1930s and those today. The often competing factors of fashion and function to fulfill both the needs of the active woman and the demands of performative social femininity are constantly engaged in an evolving dialogue, but both the 1930s and 2010s made strides by prioritizing the former at the price of appeasing the latter. Through the simultaneous exposure to contemporary and 1930s sportswear, I found an undeniable kinship between the activewear movement of the 1930s and the colloquialization of American sportswear on a mass scale in 2017.

American sportswear style has developed significantly since the 1930s — shifting from pleated linen skirts and tanks (not to mention the still taboo women’s trousers!) to lycra based yoga pants and sweat-wicking tops with built-in bras — yet the purpose and function of activewear wear remain constant. The construction of these garments valued functionality over femininity, glorifying the female body for its physical potential rather than its erotic or domestic value, thus rejecting expectations of female domesticity.

The 1930s proved pivotal for women’s sportswear fashion, and set a precedent for prioritizing a woman’s physical comfort and range of movement over restrictive garments based on constructs of femininity. Innovations of the decade introduced shortened hemlines and breathable fabrics. The broader impact of these styles were made apparent in the following decade as similar silhouettes and fabrics seeped into women’s everyday apparel beyond simply exercise clothes. In this respect, activewear can be regarded as a tool of liberation.

This 1930s movement parallels the 21st century popularization of yoga pants and lycra clothing in America. These stretchy fabrics and casual styles were initially only acceptable in the context of exercise and sport. Through sheer popularity among women (by giving them a feeling of physical liberation), these styles began to seep into everyday society and became socially admissible beyond their initial practical purpose. In America today, yoga pants and lycra tops are widely considered to be an acceptable form of every day dress.

Activewear is at the forefront of pressuring fashion to prioritize functionality and women’s comfort over oppressively restrictive apparel. In America, the 1930s opened a door to conventionalizing activewear in every day life— a precedent still utilized and appreciated by contemporary women in 2017.

By Arielle Murphy

En Mode Sport

Tennis display, including garments worn by Lenglen and Lacoste

Tennis display, including garments worn by Lenglen and Lacoste

En Mode Sport, an exhibition currently at the Musée National du Sport, in Nice takes an expansive look at sportswear’s development since the late 19th century. When I visited, I was excited to see the range and diversity of material on display – from rare examples of early cycling ensembles, to recent couture collections inspired by sport.

Chanel Sportswear and Surfboard

Chanel Sportswear and Surfboard

I first became aware of the planned exhibition when I was asked to contribute a short essay on mid-century New York sportswear to its catalogue, and it was wonderful to be able to view En Mode Sport having got a sense of the depth of research that went into its making.

Bloomers, Spencer Jacket, 1895-1900, Palais Galliera

Bloomers, Spencer Jacket, 1895-1900, Palais Galliera

What struck me was the dynamic display techniques deployed to give a sense of movement and endeavour to the items on view. White walls, shiny glass and glossed surfaces added to this effect and enabled glimpses of things to come, as you wove your way through the chronological displays. It was fascinating to see so many early examples – and to see how dressmakers struggled to provide appropriate garments for the range of new activities emerging at the turn of the century. The cycling outfit I mentioned was one such case – the top half of the body would be clad in a beautiful, striped Spencer jacket – its mutton-leg sleeves and fitted bodice a marker of contemporary femininity. But for the bottom half of the body? Well, innovation and improvisation was needed to envision and create a garment that would free women’s legs to cycle successfully. The knitted culottes shown were an interesting admixture of bloomers and trousers – part underwear as outwear, part menswear as womenswear.

Elsewhere, knitted swimsuits showed another not-quite-there form of dress – the body-conscious shape that emerged by the 1920s was perfect for a dip in the sea, but the wool yarn used to create the costumes became heavy and drooped from the figure once wet.

Display on Sportswear in interwar Nice

Display on Sportswear in interwar Nice

Another interesting context that emerged was that of class – not only were more women playing sports professionally and for fun, but working class men were also expanding their activities – with a range of football strips and boots readied for matches. Alongside actual dress, film, posters, sketches and promotional material were also included. As you moved past the displays, it became clear how iconic sportswear is – as a marker of personal and team achievement, as souvenirs for spectators, and as a link between professional and amateur. Stars such as Suzanne Lenglen and René Lacoste forged new styles that entered mainstream fashion, and which still affect how we dress today.

Display on Contemporary Sportswear

Display on Contemporary Sportswear

The latter sections of the exhibition showed how technology has caught up with lifestyle, providing running shoes and kit that not only streamline the wearer, but also enhance the body’s performance, while streetwear and high fashion appropriate and redeploy such innovations for everyday and occasion wear.