Home Past Trends Read Perfect Pieces Journal Material Matters Gallery Fashions Finest

History of Women's Golf Attire ~ A Photo Essay

Golf was introduced into the United States and Canada in the 1870s. In the 1880s country clubs spread across the continent.  More than just a sports club, the country club was a place where society's young men and women could meet one another.  It was therefore important for people, especially women to be fashionably dressed.  By the 1890s women had adopted a more practical approach to golf clothing.

 

This illustration from an 1894 Harper's Bazar shows the practical ensemble many women golfers were wearing at that time.  It consisted of a skirt that was several inches off the ground, and a simple blouse.  However there were still problems.  A full swing of the club was hindered by the blouse sleeves that were too fitted.  The skirt often caught the club as it swept by.

In 1904 Thomas Burberry of London introduced some improvements into the women's golf clothing sold in his store.  They included the Free-stroke Coat which had special sleeves that moved freely with the golfer's arms.  He also brought back the raisable skirt which had been popular decades earlier with crochet players.  Through the use of a drawstring, the skirt could be raised up to eight inches or so above the ground.

Illustration is a 1913 Thermo Coat Sweater ad.

In the first decades of the 20th century, the standard golfing costume was a blouse, jacket and skirt.  Starting around 1909, women began wearing a knit cardigan sweater instead of the jacket.

Illustration from Caricature; The Wit & Humor of a Nation in Picture, Song, & Story, 1915. courtesy of lkranieri

Also, knit jersey was introduced as a fabric choice for the golf skirt and blouse.  Other improvements were pleated skirts and pleats in the back of the blouse.

Illustration is an Ansco Camera ad, 1915

Golflex was a major manufacturer of women's sportswear in the first half of the 20th century.   Golflex ad, 1919

 

Bradley was best known for their wool knit swimsuits, but they also made other sportswear, including golf sweaters.  Their slogan was "Slip into a Bradley and Out-of-doors."

Illustration from a 1922 Bradley catalogue.

The sweater and pleated skirt continued to be a popular choice for golf into the 1920s.

Fleisher Yarn ad, 1923

 

Gossard corset ad, 1924

Needlework magazines often had directions for making golf sweaters and vests.

From Modern Priscilla, 1925, courtesy of Shay at The Little Grey Bungalow

By 1920, the standard golf ensemble was a matching two-piece dress.  Golf dresses were rather plain, with a straight or a pleated skirt.  Women often wore patterned stockings, and golf shoes of the time usually had rubber soles.  Starting around 1921, women golfers were sometimes pictured in knickers, but that would not have be allowed at many country clubs.

Illustration from Bonwit Teller Sports catalogue, 1925

In the mid 1920, many stores began selling a one-piece golf dress.  New York's Best & Co. sold a dress they called the "Shirtmaker."  This one-piece frock was perfect for golf and other active sports, and was so popular that it was widely copied and became the most popular golf dress style for the next 30 years.

Bonwit Teller catalogue, 1925

A Chanel inspired jersey knit dress.  You could even order matching trunks.

Bonwit Teller catalogue, 1925

This Golflex ad from 1932 shows the most popular styles worn for golf: the one-piece shirt dress, the dress and sweater combination and the two piece dress.

This 1934 ad for Ivory Snow soap features a pleated shirt dress from sportswear maker B.H. Wragge

Throughout the 1930s and 40s, golf dresses pretty much followed fashionable lines. Unlike tennis, where the skirt became very short, the skirt lenght of golf dresses stayed true to the fashionable street length.

Illustration is a Martha West ad, 1937

This line was called The American Golfer, and is from a Julius Garfinckle ad.

Most golf dresses were made from easy care cotton, but this company, Swing Flex, was making rayon sports frocks, as seen in this 1940 ad.

Note the sleeves that button, the pockets, and the deep vents on the bodice back.

Royal of California ad, 1949

 

Serbin was a sportswear company known for their Shirtwaister.  It was only natural that they should make a version for golfers.

Serbin ad, 1949, courtesy of Jody at Couture Allure

Late 1940s shirtwaist golf dress, made from cotton seersucker.

Ladies golf shoes, circa 1940s. 

The American Golfer, 1951

 

Ladies golf shoes, circa 1950s

DeDe Johnson, 1952

Through the 1950s and into the early 60s, most women golfers wore a blouse and skirt often topped with a cashmere sweater, or a cotton one piece shirt dress.  Increasingly, it was acceptable for a woman to wear a sleeveless blouse and even Bermuda shorts on the golf course.

Illustration from a Max Factor Ad, 1959

Early 1960s golf jacket

 

This great novelty print blouse from the early 1960s would have been worn with a skirt or with Bermuda shorts.  A new option in the 60s was the skort, a skirt that has shorts attached beneath it.  As the hemline got higher and higher in the mid 1960s, the skort allowed golfers to wear a fashionable length and still remain comfortably covered up!

Copyright and Courtesy of Carol at Dandelion Vintage

Illustration from a 1962 Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue

 

Ladies golf shoes, circa 1970s.

 Copyright and courtesy of Yosemite Vintage

 

Early 1970s polyester golf skort -  skirt with built-in shorts.  These are from American Golfer.

 

Label from skirt shown above

In the last few decades, women golfers pretty much gave up the golf dress in favor of slacks, shorts and skorts.  But in recent years, the golf dress has made a bit of a comeback.  The modern version is very much like a tennis dress with color.  Knits with Lycra are popular, as they combine comfort, style and ease of play.

 

Super late 1970s vintage Vested Gentress golf top and skort.

Copyright and Courtesy of Secondlooks



 

This great golf themed sweater from the 1970s is in the personal collection of Penelope Edgar of Mod Chic Vintage.


Back of sweater.  Both photos copyright and courtesy of Penelope Edgar.

 

Ewing, Elizabeth, History of 20th Century Fashion. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1974.

 Kidwell, Claudia Brush, and Steele, ValerieMen and Women: Dressing the Part.  Washington:  Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.

Lee-Potter, Charlie,  Sportswear in Vogue Since 1910.  Abbeville Press:New York,1984.

Fuzzylizzie Home

Back to Perfect Pieces

Copyright 2009 -2010 Lizzie Adams Bramlett. All Rights Reserved.