Tennis Dress Patterns, 1939-1940

While pouring through my collection of pattern flyers, I couldn’t help thinking of Kate Hepburn when I saw these tennis dresses. Not that she wore them (she preferred shorts) — just that there’s a jaunty quality about them.

Butterick pattern No. 8604, Butterick Fashion News flyer, Oct. 1939.

Butterick pattern No. 8604, Butterick Fashion News flyer, Oct. 1939.

This tennis dress was featured in “A Cross-Section of the College Girl’s Wardrobe,” along with day and evening wear.

 “Butterick 8064:  The short tennis dress has swept college campuses from coast to coast. The blouse and full pleated skirt are both built for strenuous action on the courts and for femininity. Sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 40.” [Sizes 12 to 20 were for young or small women; 30 to 40 are bust measurements for adult sizes.] Although called a dress, this was three pieces: blouse, skirt, and panties.

A few months later, Butterick showed a graceful tennis dress that, except for its length, might have been an ordinary day dress:

Butterick pattern No. 8785, Butterick Fashion News flyer, Feb. 1940.

Butterick pattern No. 8785, Butterick Fashion News flyer, Feb. 1940.

“Butterick 8785:  Feminine, fashionable, and functional describes the play dress seen at the beach, tennis, or badminton courts. This has a sash and buttons from neck to hem in back. It has separate matching shorts. For sizes 12 to 20; 30 to 40.”  Can it possibly have shoulder pads? For tennis?

An outfit that especially reminded me of Katherine Hepburn’s unfussy style was the spectator costume on the right below. (It’s not a tennis dress, but suitable for watching a game:)

Butterick pattern Nos. 8550 and 8575, Butterick Fashion News flyer, September 1939/

Butterick patterns No. 8550 and 8575, Butterick Fashion News flyer, September 1939.

It, too, has a crisply pleated skirt — with flattering, partially stitched pleats, and matching topstitching on its pockets.

Butterick 8575 details, Sept. 1939

Butterick 8575 details, Sept. 1939

“Butterick 8575:  The middy blouse does a comeback smartly worn with an ascot, shoestring ties. The skirt’s the kind girls adore, full with box pleats. Junior Miss Sizes 12 to 20, 30 to 38.”

The Vintage Traveler has photos of a real, vintage late 1930s tennis dress, which zips up the front. Click  here for an article about it. The Vintage Traveler also has an article about an early 1930s tennnis dress — very different! — click here.  If you scroll down, she has posted ads showing 1930s tennis outfits in action. And Vogue has an online article, “The Evolution of Tennis Fashion, from 1901 to 2011” with many photos, mostly post-1939. Read it by clicking here.

“Love: all.”

 

 

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4 Comments

Filed under 1930s, 1930s-1940s, Sportswear, Vintage patterns

4 responses to “Tennis Dress Patterns, 1939-1940

  1. Well, I think the second tennis dress looks a little confining for play. And I’ve never understood the concept of “spectator” clothes. Is it just another name for sportswear, once removed?

    • This is a good question for the vintage traveler! I’ve seen spectator dresses illustrated from the twenties on — easy to recognize, hard for me to define. “Sportswear once removed” is a great description. They look “sporty” except that you couldn’t actually play most sports while wearing them, and they are not overtly feminine and frilly. Women’s two toned shoes (a white shoe with brown or other dark colors for the toe cap and heel) were sometimes called “spectator pumps.” Often the heel was stacked leather — originally a “country weekend” look. I need to keep an eye out for examples of spectator clothing when reading old magazines. Thanks!

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