Saturday, 24 May 2014

Handmade 1930's sportswear for women

I was looking through some of my 1930's 'The Needlewoman' magazines to do some research for my second birthday blog post and my eye kept getting caught by images of sportswear. I kept seeing lovely hand knitted jumpers and then seeing the props in the photos were tennis racquets and golf clubs and could see a theme emerging and feel another post coming on. So here is a little tour of 1930's women's sportswear.

Tennis seemed to be the most popular sport if judged by how many times tennis outfit were featured.

'Tennis days are here again'
From the June 1934 issue. Here is the lovely, evocative description from the magazine:

'Now that the long, light evenings are back again, everybody is on the tennis courts getting ready for the summer tournaments, and smart "woolies" are by no means the least important item of equipment. The jumper shown above has two essentially practical features - the short, capelet sleeves, which leave the arms gloriously free to serve and smash and volley, and the deep, tight fitting basque which prevents the jumper from "riding up" with every movement. The jumper is knitted in a pretty fancy stitch in white, with narrow ribbed edgings of scarlet'.

It makes me wish that I could play tennis just so that I could wear it.

The next few pictures are from the same issue. This coat is stunning.

'Tennis woolies are so smart'
'To be fashionable you must knit odd sleeves and only half belts and collars to your smartest coats this year! The coat is correct for tennis or informal wear at the seaside on summer evenings, while, completed with a little red beret to match, it would look smart for walking. The neck and coat fasten with large triangular buttons, allowing the white tennis frock to show above and bellow the belt fastening'.

I love the idea of adding a red beret to make it a walking set. It puts my walking clothes firmly to shame!

A dress motif for a tennis player
'This motif has been sketched on the cape collar of a tennis frock in white or cream silk. The motif could be worked on any tennis frock, blouse or jumper and would look particularly smart on a beret or scarf'.

'A coat of arms for the tennis player!'
' "Five tennis racquets rampant over afield of tennis net" is how this jolly little "Coat of Arms" might be described in heraldic language - with apologies to the College of Heraldry! Every sportswoman likes to have a touch of embroidery on her sports clothes and this little motif, amusingly arranged in the form of a "Coat of Arms" will give a smart, exclusive air to tennis blazers and frocks'.

'The "Coat of Arms" is shown here on a
regulation sports blazer'.
'Made in white or cream flannel, with the embroidered motif and gilt or steel buttons, such a smart, businesslike blazer would not disgrace the centre court at Wimbledon! This same motif could well be adopted by a tennis club or team as its own particular badge, by working it in club or school colours and adding the necessary initials'.

The magazine suggests the following colours - Greys, Apple Green, Light Rose, Light Madder Pink, Light Electric Blue, Ochre Yellow, Light Periwinkle Blue. I always enjoy it when magazines with black and white illustrations do this as it gives a clearer sense of what the designer was imagining. I also love to read the names of the colours.

The next two jumpers are from the July 1934 issue.

'A waistcoat Pull-over for sport or town wear'.
'A smart Pull-over in white knitted in an attractive pattern of broken diagonal lines. The front opens like a waist-coat down to the ribbed basque, and it is fastened with scarlet wooden buttons. The Pull-over is planned for the slightly-larger-than-average figure and allows ample room for movement without becoming disarranged'.

You might be interested to know that the larger than average size referred to is a 36" bust! I really like the stitch pattern and the buttons and red and white for tennis must have been a trend that year!

'A useful jumper for tennis and holiday wear'.
'Here is something novel and attractive which will appeal to the busy woman - a jumper which can be knitted over a weekend! Thick, 6-ply wool, big needles and a very simple design make this possible. It is a most attractive model, too, and will look smart for tennis or holiday wear since it is in the fashionable cable stitch. This is cable stitch with a difference, though, since only one stitch comes between each cable twist and this is dropped when the top of the work is reached, to give the pretty openwork ladder effect which makes the jumper look so "summery" and unusual. A little tab of scarlet corded ribbon gives a chic finish.

I think this is lovely, the construction sounds very interesting.

Now to March 1939.

A LUX advert
The text says: 'If you have been to Wimbledon, you've seen little coats like this one worn by many of the tennis stars. They play in them when it's cold. Or they throw them round their shoulders as protection after the game. This particular model is the nicest of its kind, with clever groups of cabling, a neat, high neck and a flatter-your-figure fit. Given good care, this coatee should last for several seasons without showing its age. Good care, of course, means LUX. Pure, gentle, best for wool LUX.'

LUX advert close up
Readers of the magazine were able to obtain free instructions for knitting this garment by sending the top of a 6d Lux packet to Lever Brothers Ltd. I wonder who designed the knitwear for them?

Next we are looking golf clothing which seems to be the second most popular after tennis. These next images are from the September 1934 issue.

'For golf or smart country wear'
This jumper is knitted in a brownish red wool. I think it is so smart and I like the way the ribbed yoke extends part way down the sleeves.

'On the golf course, or, in fact, for any sports wear, you will find this the most practical and comfortable garment - there is nothing to get out of place or disarranged. Worn either as a jumper or a cardigan it fits snugly to the figure and may be buttoned right up to the neck or turned back in small revers, if the last two or three buttons are left undone. Knitted in a lighter shade, it would be perfect for Autumn and Winter tennis. The shoulder yoke at the back and front is worked in a pretty twisted rib and the little patch pockets (such a boon to golfers for tees and tennis players for that elusive hankie!) add a smart and businesslike touch.'

'On the banks and braes o' bonnie Scotland'
Aren't the colours in this image just glorious? It is interesting that in the following description it describes the neck line as a new style. I rather fancy this outfit, perhaps without the golf club!

'Long days on the Scottish moors - shooting, fishing, playing golf - and here is just the jumper you will need. It is designed for comfort, with the new loose fitting circular neck which is fastened at the back with three buttons. The stocking stitch and ribbing in which it is knitted are light and yet close enough to keep out the first chill of autumn, while the serviceable pockets add a smart touch to this essentially sporting model'.

Moving on to January 1936.

'A "Lighning" fastened woollen jumper gives
warmth for winter'
This is knitted in rust coloured wool.

'Whether it is for vigorous golf, for walk or for "spectator sporting" a girl would be hard put to find a more trimly attractive jumper than this. The knitting is done in 3-ply knitting wool, fastened with an 18 inch long Lightning fastener which gives a smooth, neat finish, and ensures protection against the cold. Note the youthful little turn down collar and the very attractive stitch used in the knitting'.

In the September 1937 issue there is this jumper:

'A "tweedy" knitted golf sweater'
'This extremely good sports jersey is knitted in a new wool that gives the effect of tweed. Plain wool in rust to match the flecks in the tweed wool is used for the collar and pocket top. The collar is cleverly designed to form both vestee and roll collar, and gives a very becoming neck line'.

Having covered tennis and golf we will take a look at a couple of other sports. Firstly, swimming in July 1938:

'Knit this for your August holiday outfit'
'Bathing suit with detachable skirt'
Isn't this just fabulous? I love all the little details. This one is knitted in brown with yellow accents.

'This neat model features everything that could be desired in a bathing suit - well shaped, beautifully fitting, and equipped with a detachable skirt'.

In December 1937 we get an ice skating outfit which is made using crochet.

LUX advert
'It's the newest style to wear on the ice - this clever adaptation of the popular bolero. Note the loose back which swings out gracefully in motion and the bands of gay colour at the edge. Made with well fitted wide shoulders, and neat small collar, you can wear the bolero loose over your skating frock or, snugly fastened, with a skirt alone. Cunning little Juliet cap to match'.

I like the fact that you are given styling advice. Again, this pattern was available if a Lux box top was sent off.

From July 1938:

In colour on the cover
'For your holidays'
This is such a cute versatile jumper and I like the colourway.

'For tramping, sailing, tennis and more active pursuits'.

From September 1938:

In colour on the cover
'yellow boucle jumper'
'Choose yellow boucle for this youthfully simple jumper - splendid for sports and country wear'. This is so pretty and smart, really well shaped ribbed body and an interestingly patterned yoke.

So, lots to choose from for our sporting activities. Any catch your eye?


  1. 1930s sports wear is so lovely

    retro rover

    1. I had not realised how much I liked it until I started flicking through these magazines. I have to agree with you!

  2. Wonderful. I love your retro patterns posts. x

  3. These are fantastic!!! I especially love that one of the ladies (the one with wavy shoulder length hair who is tilting her head to the side a bit) is wearing what looks like a dress clip on her tennis sweater. Can be say uber chic or what?! :)

    ♥ Jessica

    1. I do like a dress clip. I only have one pair but am on the look out for more. Her clip is made from a piece of ribbon which is simple but looks very effective.

  4. I think the tweedy golf sweater is my favourite - but then I'm not the sporty type!

    1. Tennis and golf are not my favourites but I think we can wear the knitwear and forget about the activities!

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