I got this gym suit from my favorite vintage clothing store some time ago. It’s very similar to the kind my mother wore in the late 1940s. Actually, it’s a dress, with little matching bloomer pants beneath. There is a photo in When the Girls Came Out to Play taken in 1950, and the girls are wearing a similar dress and bloomer get-up.
What’s really interesting is that the girls are demonstrating some gymnastic moves, and the ones who are doing headstands have the skirt of the dress tucked into the legs of the bloomers. According to Patricia Warner, the girls considered the bloomers to be underwear, and did not like them to show! I remember my mother telling me a similar story, about how tucking the skirt into the bloomers was just a part of getting ready for gym class.
Notice the embroidered initials. Many schools required the owner to embroider her name or initials on the gym suit. Ms. Warner points out that this helped the teacher with identification and remembering names. But I can think of another reason the initials were required – to keep the girls from borrowing the suits from each other.
When I was in school in the 1960s and 1970s, there were strict rules about taking the suit home to be washed. The problem was that who wanted to take the nasty old thing and carry it to one’s locker, and then to carry it home? So whenever word got around that gym suits were to be inspected, there was a rash of suit borrowing from more fastidious classmates. Thanks goodness our teachers hadn’t thought of that embroidery idea!