Outdoor Clothing for Young Women, 1920s

For a long time I had been puzzled by this photograph of my aunt wearing what seemed to be a military outfit. The photo is dated 1919; the man next to her eventually became her husband, and her mother is wearing a dress that was already old-fashioned.

Young woman with her future husband and her mother, 1919

Young woman with her future husband and her mother, 1919

I knew that English women had entered previously male occupations during World War I (1914-1918); England’s heavy mobilization and casualties meant that women were needed as factory workers, farmers, drivers of trucks and buses, etc.  But the United States did not enter the war until April of 1917, so, although American women were ready to volunteer for previously male occupations, and fashion was heavily influenced by military styles, American women were never called upon to fill traditionally male roles in the same numbers as their British sisters.

So why was my teen-aged aunt dressed in what seems to be an olive drab wool uniform?car and standing

Hiking & Camping Outfits for Young Women, 1925

When I came across these Butterick patterns for hiking and camping outfits, the mystery was solved:

Butterick patterns, Delineator magazine, July 1925

Butterick patterns, Delineator magazine, July 1925

1925 july p 35 right hiking #4552Pattern # 4552 (on the right): Middy Blouse and Knickers.  “The Middy blouse holds its own as a becoming and practical half of the knicker-and-blouse hiking costume. The middy blouse and separate knickers are suitable for general sports wear. Make tham of khaki, cotton poplin, or serge; or make the blouse of white jean or pongee with knickers of khaki, tweed, serge or corduroy…. The middy blouse and knickers are correct for girls and misses 6 to 18 years.”

1925 july p 35 right ctr hiking middy gym #4157Pattern # 4157 (on the left): “For the open roads and hidden trails young hikers wear a white jean middy and plaited or gathered bloomers of navy blue serge or khaki. Or make the entire garment of khaki, serge, or cotton poplin. This is good…for the gymnasium or for general sports wear. The blouse may be made with a yoke and the collar may be detachable…. The middy blouse and bloomers are for juniors and girls 6 to 16 years.”

A favorite part of any hike is cooling your feet in a stream.dot feet in water729

Gender-neutral Clothing for Hiking, Camping, and Picnics: 1921

This set of photos were taken on a group trip to Santa Cruz, a beach resort in northern California; they are dated 1921.

The Women

The Women

The Men

The Men

Boys and Girls Together, 1921

Boys and Girls Together, 1921

What is remarkable about these photos that the men and the women are dressed so much alike.  Such clothing, defying traditional gender roles – in public! – would have been unthinkable just a few years before.


Filed under 1920s, Children's Vintage styles, Sportswear, Vintage patterns, vintage photographs, Women in Trousers

9 responses to “Outdoor Clothing for Young Women, 1920s

  1. Amazing photos! I know that American women were mobilized, voluntarily, during World War I as “farmerettes,” etc. Those jobs had uniforms. Perhaps the thrill of easy, uniform-like dressing lasted past the war.

  2. It is interesting that young women in the 1920s picked this particular “uniform” to be the acceptable outdoors attire. I think part of it must be that this generation grew up wearing bloomered gym attire, and so it was not that big of a leap to knickers and breeches. And there was that whole “garcon” trend, and in a way they are mimicking the dress of young boys.
    Another factor might be the rise of summer camps, where knickers were the mode. A fascinating subject!

    • Good point about the “garcon” look — these outfits certainly don’t look slimming, so it never occurred to me that this was part of the same 1920s mind-set that Chanel took advantage of when she wore borrowed menswear for sports in England.

  3. I LOVE the camping clothing here! The pants almost look as thought they are jodhpurs!! What fun!!!!

  4. Pingback: Trying to Put a Name to Forgotten Faces | witness2fashion

  5. What a fantastic piece of history to have of your family and to be able to see change happening with gender roles thru fashion is even cooler. Great blog post!

  6. Pingback: Vintage Photos for the Holidays | witness2fashion

  7. Pingback: Clothes for Active Sports, July 1926 | witness2fashion

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