Read: “Clothing Barrier Lecture”
I have also attached week 3 assigned reading “what shall we wear for tennis”, you can
use this for more information about the topic.
Complete the following discussion board question
In what ways has clothing impacted women's experiences in sport and physical
activity? In what ways were women from different subcultures impacted
differently? How have these restrictions changed over the years?
Discussion Posts Guideline:
Being an on-line course, a large portion of your grade comes through participation. You earn participation points
through the weekly postings for which you are responsible. Your posts should answer the question posed using
information from the readings, lectures, and your own thoughts. Make sure not to copy the structure or content of
other students' posts. Your discussions should be in-depth and insightful. You must include at least one
direct quote (with quotation marks and proper citation) from the assigned readings/lecture to
help anchor you post and to build an in depth discussion from there. You should think of your posts as not only
answering the prompt (which it must due) but also extending the discussion with your group members. The rubric for
participation can be found under Course Documents. Due to the important nature of the discussion boards,
expectations are high. No late posts are accepted.
Part 2: Second post (an insightful reply to one of your group member's original posting)
Reply to back to the following post:
Clothing has impacted women's experiences in sport and physical activity in many
ways. As usual history goes, women were held to standards that prohibited them to
have the same freedom as men. In this case, the clothing standards that women had to
follow discouraged their physical performance in sports they were allowed to participate
in. Women had to were long sleeves, long skirts, neck high garments, corsets, and have
their hair fashioned in a particular style with the occasional hat to top it off. As you can
imagine, this would restrict movement especially when it comes to activities such as
tennis, biking, and even swimming. However, there were moments of rebellion in which
white women ventured from these harsh standards by making their clothing shorter and
breathable. This privilege was not shared with women of color however, as they
continually had to follow dress code to avoid being penalized and criticized by the
public. Nevertheless, as time progressed, so did women's sports clothing. Women
"pushed customary boundaries by purging their wardrobes of restrictive apparel,
appropriating masculine styles, and shortening their skirts" (Schultz). These
accomplishments can even be seen today as no women in today's society is seen
playing sports in a dress. Women's sports has finally become about showcasing
women's physical talent rather than the dress she is wearing.
The clothing barrier for women used to be the “skirt rule”. Women were only allowed to
compete in sports that allowed them to wear a skirt. Women’s outfits were cumbersome when it
came to the courts with long, heavy skirts and corsets that literally took the women’s breath
away. Oftentimes the clothing barriers women faced either restricted their participation in sports
and physical activity or it required them to modify their involvement – such as riding side saddle
The following excerpt comes from On The Issues: The Progressive Women’s Quarterly
3/31/1998 vol 7 (2), pp. 34.
“1887, Wimbledon’s Centre Court, England’s Lottie Dod races from baseline to net. Lunging,
she returns her opponent’s serve and, in the process, marks her place in tennis history as the
youngest ever player to win a Wimbledon title. Dod, 15 years old, overwhelmed her more
senior, more experienced opponents, and stunned spectators when she used the overhead smash
and volley the first time such techniques were employed in women’s tennis.
In between matches, Dod and her co-competitors retired to the dressing room to free themselves
from their floor-length skirts and petticoats, peel off their stockings and unhitch their bloodied
corsets. When they endeavored to twist, turn and lunge on the courts, the women were
repeatedly stabbed by the metal and whalebone stays of these cumbersome garments, which
encased them from tits to hips.
The corsets were so injurious that a special bar was installed above a stove in the locker room
from which the contraptions could be hung to dry. Pity the poor player who forgot to bring a
change of outfit; she was forced to wrap her body in the blood stiffened garment for yet another
match. Not surprisingly, in outfits such as these, the pace of women’s tennis, even at
Wimbledon, was only as fierce as fashion dictates allowed. Regardless of the players’ athletic
efforts or skills, competitive matches more often resembled sedate garden parties.”
Obviously times have changed and we are now seeing more and more women
forced/encouraged to play in fewer and smaller clothing. This in turn becomes a clothing barrier
for women from cultures that restrict how much skin women can bare. The Tucker Center has
conducted research and initiatives around this issue
(http://www.cehd.umn.edu/tuckercenter/research/girls-research/) and there are now a few
different clothing lines that sell sport clothing for Muslim women
Not Just Early Olympic Fashion Statements: Bathing Suits, Uniforms, and Sportswear
The recent decision by the International Volleyball Federation to enforce dress codes upon male and female players highlights
the significance of clothing apparel in the social construction of modern sport. This is not a new phenomenon, however, as fashion
has always played a role in determining how female athletes experience sport. Indeed, Pierre de Coubertin’s Olympic Games of
the early 1900s were an important medium for the expression of social and sexual mores through sport fashion and competitive
Traditional Victorian ideals about how a woman should act and dress were not limited to the Victorian Era alone. Upper class
white men during the late 1800s and early 1900s had a tremendous influence on societal norms and beliefs and by extension on the
general population. Sport of course was a pan of these spheres of influence. Distinct gender identities were constructed through
medical and social ideologies with respect to work, play, and cultural activity. In 19th century Britain, the United States, and Canada, sport was a proving ground for the development of appropriate masculinities. Sport was intended to create men out of boys;
physicality and competition signified some of the most important qualities of manhood and the Olympic Games were an important
international avenue for the expression of these values. At the opposite end of the spectrum it was considered inappropriate for
women to participate in physical activity for fear that they would develop masculine qualities or suffer physiological problems. At
the turn of the century female participation in sports or physical activity was still deemed a social taboo.
Post Victorian Era fashion reinforced social mores about the position that women were to hold in society. Victorian fashion
design for women restricted and controlled movement, ensuring that any sort of physical activity would be impractical and uncomfortable. Women were to give the impression of appropriate femininity with every step and gesture; with the use of the corset, the
hoop skirt and the bustle, an idealistic representation of femininity was preserved.
The newly formed International Olympic Committee1 (IOC) was headed by a traditionally Victorian aristocrat, the Baron
Pierre de Coubertin, who personally chose the members of the committee who were generally also Princes, Barons, or very
wealthy men. Coubertin’s Games were intended for spotting gentlemen, a group of like-minded individuals with common interests
and attitudes toward social progress and competition. Coubertin had no intention of allowing women to participate in ‘his’ Games,
a common male attitude made clear by his statement that women’s participation in sport was contrary to the “Laws of Nature.”2
This paper will show that the message about women’s bodies and female sexuality were challenged by female participants in the
Olympic Games between 1900 and 1932 and that as the Olympic Games grew in popularity and importance, female athletes began
to discard traditional athletic attire for clothing that would not inhibit their athletic performance.
Pierre de Coubertin stated that “the Olympic Games must be reserved for men.”3 When Coubertin began his revival of the
modern Olympic Games, he had no intention of including women’s events on the program, but the Paris organizing committee did
include women’s events and thus began female athletes’ determination to prove their physical prowess despite a lack of public support. Through women’s participation in the Olympic Games and other sporting events, women began to assert a new definition of
femininity, contrary to the traditional Victorian ideals. Increased participation in sport helped women to modify traditional Victorian fashion and the Olympic Games became a venue for women to display more practical garments that were more suitable for
Until 1912, local organizing committees prepared the competitive program of the Olympic Games. As a result, a limited number of women’s events were included at the second Games in Paris. Coubertin, a product of Victorian aristocracy, detested the idea
of women competing in the Games stating that women’s sport was “the most unaesthetic sight human eyes could contemplate.”4
Amanda Schweinbenz is a Graduate Student at The University of Western Ontario, Canada
Bridging Three Centuries
Fifth International Symposium for Olympic Research, pp. 135-142
136 Bridging Three Centuries
Fifth International Symposium for Olympic Research - 2000
He was eventually forced to acknowledge the fact that women’s events were a part of the Olympic program, but his sentiments
were clear about women’s participation:
We feel that the Olympic Games must be reserved for men, As the saying goes: a door must be opened or
closed. Can women be given access to all the Olympic events? No? Then why permit them some and bar them
from others? And especially, on what basis does one establish the line between events permitted and events prohibited? There are not just tennis players and swimmers (both events already in the Olympics for women).
There are also fencers, horsewomen, and in America there have also been rowers. Tomorrow, perhaps, there will
be women runners or even soccer players. Would such sports practiced by women constitute an edifying sight
before crowds assembled for and Olympiad? We do not think that such a claim can be made.... Such is not our
idea of the Olympic Games in which we feel [that] we have tried and that we must continue to try to achieve the
following definition: the solemn and periodic exaltation of male athleticism with internationalism as a base, loyalty as a means, arts for its setting, and female applause as reward.5
Coubertin acknowledged that women were becoming more active in sport, but he did not approve. In spite of his misgivings,
female athletes’ participation in the Olympic Games began to increase.
Alice Milliat, a widowed rowing enthusiast from France, was the woman who ultimately pushed the IOC to include women’s
track and field in the Olympic program. In 1919 Milliat, on behalf of the Fédération des Societé Féminine Sportives de France,
proposed the inclusion of women’s track and field in the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games but was rejected by the IOC. 6 Frustrated
by the lack of organizational interest in women’s track and field, Milliat formed the Fédération Sportive Féminine Internationale
(FSFI) in 1921, to govern women’s track and field at an international level.7 In 1922 the FSFI hosted its First Women’s Olympic
Games in Paris, simulating the men’s Olympic Games, with women from five countries competing in eleven events before 20,000
spectators.8 Milliat demonstrated to the IOC that people were interested in women’s competitive track and field.
Eventually Milliat approached the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF), and with the help of its president,
Johann Sigfreid Edstrom, women’s track and field made its debut at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam on a temporary basis.
At the IOC General Session 25-30 May 1930, women’s track and field was accepted on a permanent basis into the Olympic
Games.8 During this period of tentative acceptance of women’s participation, there were numerous changes in fashion and sport
apparel. With broader social and political changes taking place, some of the restrictive clothing styles fell by the wayside as
women wore revealing swim wear. These were significant shifts from the residual Victorian values about the public display of
The Games and the Athletic Clothing
Women’s leisure and daily wear fashion changed drastically between the late 1800s and the early 1900s. The traditional bustle
of the 1870s was replaced by the corset in the 1880s. The corset was made of steel with heavy cotton or canvas inserts that laced at
the rear, accentuating the bust and the behind.10 The corset was replaced in the mid 1920s by an elongated tube undergarment as
fashion dictated that the long, sleek look of a woman’s body was more attractive.
Women’s leisure wear during the 1880s differed little from everyday wear. Gymnasium dresses were cumbersome and awkward, consisting of “knee britches, short skirts, and blouses - waists with long sleeves” and long stockings.11 Female tennis players
wore trained dresses that tied at the back and cumbersome heeled shoes.12 The speed and playing style of the women’s game was
severely inhibited due to the restrictive clothing that the women wore. Bathing costumes were intended for beach wear, not swim
wear. The knee length flannel dresses buttoned at the front, had long sleeves, a wide, braid collar, were belted at the waist, and
were adorned with long stockings.13 This entire outfit made movement in the water very difficult.
With cycling increasing in popularity in the late 1880s and into the 1890s, women began to realize that their traditional dresses
needed to be altered for riding purposes. The original bicycle had a high mounted seat that required a ladder or another step aid to
reach and Victorian style dresses inhibited reaching the seat, sitting on it, and eventually peddling. With the introduction of
Bloomers, female cyclists easily rode their bicycles with a previously unknown freedom.14 However, the image of women in pants
severely threatened the established binary distinctions between the sexes and therefore it was rather unpopular among members of
the upper class.15 This radical departure from fashionable dress worried some and they “scolded women for their lack of taste and
unfeminine demeanor.”16 Schreier notes that “the bicycle helped to smooth the way for future clothing chang[es] and dramatically
advanced the position of women in sports. 17
Victorian clothing was designed to conceal a woman’s body and middle to upper class women had embraced these fashion
trends and covered themselves from head to foot with heavy, bulky clothing that inhibited natural movement. Kathleen E.
McCrone points out in Sport and the Physical Emancipation of English Women, that “rapid motion, ample waists and the raising of
arms above the head were considered unfeminine, so sleeves were cut to inhibit the latter, corsets became tighter and petticoats got
Not Just a Fashion Statement in the Early Olympic Games
more voluminous.” Women wore long pleated bloomers covered by a long skin, with long sleeves and a collared neck for both
leisure and everyday wear.19 Women were discouraged from exercising, but on the heels of the bicycle movement and shifting
medical attitudes, light physical activity was permitted if intended to improve domestic capabilities.
By the turn of the century, the traditional corset was replace by an “S-shaped silhouette” corset that produced an over-hanging
bust, flat waist, and a projecting behind.20 Gymnasium wear consisted of “a bloomer outfit that was loose, cut low at the neck, with
sleeves to the elbows... long black stockings and thin flat shoes without heels.”21 Tight corsets and uncomfortable clothes were
being abandoned for more practical clothing. Swim wear was a “below-knee serge dress worn over matching bloomers and often
accompanied by stocking and bathing shoes.” 22 It is important to note that at this time women began to increase their involvement
in physical activity, but leisure time was limited to middle and upper class women who could afford to participate in clubs that
offered women’s activities.
At the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, women’s golf, lawn-tennis, and yachting were included on the program, a decision of the
Paris organizing committee, with eleven women competing in these three events. The first Olympic medal awarded to a woman
was awarded in lawn-tennis to Charlotte Cooper of Great Britian.23 Cooper, along with the other female lawn-tennis participants,
wore an ankle length, high collared tennis dress with long sleeves, belted at the waist. Her shoes had a slight heal and were pointed
at the toe.24 Hélêne Prévost of France, wore a similar outfit to Cooper’s but added a hat and a bow around her neck.25 As tennis
was considered an elite sport, only for the rich, fashion varied little from country to country. Women and men who played tennis
were of high society and, therefore, they dressed in clothing acceptable to the upper class. Little regard was given to athletic excellence, whereas maintaining femininity was essential. The expectation that a woman’s beauty in appearance and form was more
important that an efficient performance was commonly held among the upper class. Women’s clothing for tennis changed little
between 1900 and 1908. The women still wore long skirts, a high collared long sleeved blouse, with or without a tie, but did
change to flat soled shoes.26
Six women from the United States competed in the first Olympic archery competition at the 1904 Games in St. Louis. Female
archers did not discard their full, bulky everyday dresses, but rather, added their archery equipment to extant fashionable clothing.
In David Wallenchinsky’s The Complete Book of the Olympics, a picture of Sybil “Queenie” Newall, the winner of the 1908
women‘s archery competition at the Games in London displays the excessive amount of clothing that female archers wore during
competition.27 Newall wore an ankle length dress, belted at the waist, with a long sleeved blouse, and a hat. To this she added a
pouch that hung around her waist to hold her arrows.
Figure skating made its debut at the 1908 Games in London. Female competitors had the option of competing in the women’s
event, or the pairs event. Anna Hübler of Germany, champion in the pairs event, dressed in a traditional Victorian outfit for the
competition. Hübler wore a long, ankle length wool skirt, a white collared blouse, and a hat.28 Hübler’s opponent, Madge Syers of
Great Britian, winner of the women’s event and bronze medalist in the pairs event, wore an outfit similar to Hübler. 29
By 1920, the “New Woman” of fashion emerged.30 Women were wearing tailored suits that increased mobility and freedom.
Many women were seeking job opportunities outside of the home, attaining higher levels of education, and becoming more physically tit. The impractical S-shaped corset was abandone ...
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