Moore Gymwear Catalog, 1962

You young readers who never had the privilege of wearing a gymsuit at school really missed out on one of life’s great humbling experiences.   Not only that, but the horrors of the wearing of the gymsuit are a unifying factor among women of my generation and older.  Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit, but unless you had to wear one, you just can’t understand how dreadful a garment the gymsuit could be.

I recently found this catalog from  E. R. Moore, a major maker of gym clothes.  The company , which was founded in 1907, was based in Chicago.  In the early years they made gymsuits and girl’s school dresses, which were middy dress uniforms.   By the early 60s, it seems they were solely in the gymsuit business.

The catalog was pretty enlightening; even though it was published five years before I entered junior high I can’t imagine that things changed much in those years.  First, I’ve decided that the P.E. teachers in my school had to have been sadists to have chosen the white horror that was thrust upon us in the seventh grade.  It’s especially distressing after I got a good look at the color chart.

I can’t believe that they had all these choices and went with stark white.  Really, that was just mean.  Even the industrial-looking “Seafoam” would have been better, don’t you think?

The closest thing to our suit is Style #4.  It features a snap front, and a lovely “Waist Hugger” back.  What that means is it is fitted by using elastic shirring.  How clever!

I do have to admit that it could have been worse.  I really can’t imagine having to deal with bloomers.

But if they had to go with white, they could have chosen a more attractive shirt and shorts, though we would have found those side buttons to be very old-fashioned.

And talk about a company trying too hard to convince themselves that their product was appealing, this is just silly:

But what is really interesting is this group of girls’ gymsuit experts.

All right, I was just being sarcastic, as these were the sales representatives.  This was the early 1960s, and it was just expected for a sales rep to be a salesMAN.   I just wish I knew which one of those guys was responsible for me having to wear the white horror for six years.

45 Comments

Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear

45 responses to “Moore Gymwear Catalog, 1962

  1. So sorry that your gym nightmare included a white gym suit. Some of those colors are downright attractive, too! I would have preferred one of these older type gym suits. Some girls in my class had them as hand-me-downs. I had to acquire a new one and it being the mid-70s gym suits were made in a cotton/lycra knit. The form-fitting top was baby blue and white horizontal stripes and the clingy shorts bottom part (it was still all one piece) was baby blue. Talk about humiliation, I felt like I was walking around naked in it. And by that time we had co-ed gym class. 😦

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  2. My junior high had the bloomer style. In white. I can still remember how scratchy the fabric felt at the waist and legs, and the collar chafed. Truly the most horrible piece of clothing I have ever worn.

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    • It’s amazing how many here have mentioned the poor fabric. I have a 1930s or 40s pullover gym shirt that is made from the softest heavy cotton, and it is a nice yellow. But I can bet you that the original wearer hated it!

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  3. Martha McCain

    White? What’s so bad about white? That’s the color of tennis togs. MY gym suit was “Catholic uniform blue,” had elastic bloomer legs and was cinched on the side of the waist with tabs and nickle D rings. To make matters worse, we had to embroider our names on the pocket in Home Ec class.

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    • I have a few in my collection with the names or initials embroidered on them. I’m surprised my teachers didn’t think of it because we were really bad to borrow a suit when ours was accidentally left at home.

      White was not so bad in the fall, when we all had tans, but in the winter and spring they looked dreadful!

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  4. Ooh, I shudder at the thought of my blue bloomer gym suit. We had to take it home and wash it every week. I hated gym, and now I know why. Never has an article of clothing made me feel less capable and less attractive.

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  5. I wish we’d got to wear those great playsuits for PE at school! We wore nylon shorts and polo shirts and sneakers. This was only like three years ago, haha. I am actually always looking for a good blue gymsuit for wearing around in the summer, but my 37 inch bust means most 50s teenswear is a little small.

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    • If you sew, there are lots of 1940s playsuit patterns that are basically the same thing. I can remember my mother telling me about the gymsuit she had in the late 1940s. It was light blue, and the shorts had pleats. I was so jealous!

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  6. 1962: our Junior High had us wear a white snap front blouse with embroidered pocket and shorts, but don’t get envious because these were grass green with side zipper and bloomers set inside so our panties wouldn’t show with those wide cuffed short legs. Naturally by the time we graduated those bloomers had been cut out, the short legs tightened and hem shortened, oh, and we cut off the sleeves so our tans would be even.

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  7. Norah

    Ours were in the sea foam color. The top part resembled the top on the bloomer suit above, but the legs were like loose-fitting shorts. The color was faded out, so i think they’d been around a few years. This was when I was in high school, starting in 1971.

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    • You are probably right. We had to buy our gymsuits – a waste of $5 – and I wore the same suit in 1973 that I bought in 1967. For girls who had to buy a new one, the 1970s were identical to mine.

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  8. I’m just that much older and we wore a pleated tunic – navy blue, with bloomers underneath. At least that’s what I remember for field hockey.

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  9. I’m sure that someone thought a white gymsuit was best because it could be bleached. Bleach = clean in most people’s minds. But yuck, that must have been awful!

    I may have missed the gymsuit days by being a bit younger, but our gym uniforms were terrible anyway. (I think it’s mandatory for gym class to be torture on every level.) The scratchiest 100% poly shorts possible complete with scratchy elastic waistband and an oversized t-shirt with the school name, mascot, and convict er.. I mean, uniform number printed on the front. (As if we would trade uniforms or something.) All in school colors. Luckily, my school’s colors were red, white and blue.

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    • Ha! We traded uniforms all the time, which mainly consisted of begging the few girls who were actually taking home their suits to be laundered every week for a loan on the days when it was rumored the teacher would be doing a clean check.

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  10. And still the clothes women athletes have to wear…I was just thinking about that while watching Wimbeldon…wouldn’t just be more comfortable for the women to wear shorts like the men? and women’s vollyball outfits…ack.

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  11. Lizzie, you are amazing! I am so glad that you rescued this evidence of our youth. I seem to remember some kind of Girl Scout green outfit. By high school, though, I was already in shorts and a shirt.

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  12. In junior high and high school we had the bloomer type in bright red. I think they had been chosen to cause the boys to lose all interest in us because they were truly hideous and did nothing for anyone.

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  13. Christina

    Wyck White or his brother Jim White I expect 🙂 British gym wear did not fare better I can tell you. Bottle green cotton knit knickers which were replaced by black satiny elasticated shorts (think 1930’s tap dancers) with a white Aertex blouse – not much of an improvement – were regulated at my school in the 1960’s. Probably something to do with building character. Those gym lessons were 45 minutes too long.

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  14. Yes, those White brothers are evil!

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  15. June Lapidow

    My guess is that a school requiring white gym suits did not expect their girls to get dirty! Perhaps it was regional : I attended three schools in Monmouth Counry, NJ, and all of the suits had the horrid elastic legs! I was chubby, and the legs of the suits that fit my torso hung to my knees! I wonder what I did with them? Incinerator?

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  16. Haha! Wow! I have to admit I’ve never had to experience anything like that but I’ve always wondered about the gym/locker room thing in the US and as for white… that’s just mean!

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  17. You are so right – those gym suits were awful, simply awful. I remember ones that had snaps on the side of the pants, which popped open at the slightest extra movement. All the girls were always having to stop and re-snap them. Awful!!

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  18. Ruth

    How on earth did I miss out on gym? I know I didn’t take it in jr high (they wore god awful dingy gray bloomers), and in high school we got away with not having to do it if we were in marching band. I took one semester of tennis and we just wore shorts and tops (I was awful at it), but I think just the regular PE girls had to wear a uniform of some kind.

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  19. Fashion Witness

    Wow, talk about a topic that rings every woman’s bell! At least, there’s a lot of shared misery from us women who attended High School in the 50s or 60s. (It sounds like the 70s were almost as humiliating and even more uncomfortable.) I always assumed the the purpose of our gym suits (at a U.S. Catholic school for girls, early 60s) was to make us as physically unattractive as possible. We wore voluminous elastic-bottomed bloomers in heavy cotton, with a mid-thigh length, equally stiff, pleated dress over them — remember those dancing hippos in Fantasia? Picture them in yellow…. One look in the mirror was a sure cure for the sin of Vanity. (Actually, a couple of very tall blondes on the volleyball team looked OK — I wonder, now, if they secretly had their bloomers taken in and their skirts shortened a bit?)

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  20. Liz W

    So interesting – in Hungary in the 80s we had to wear leotards (available in three colors: red, light and dark blue), but that was the trend before and after as well. My daughter is lucky, they can wear whatever they feel confortable in, but I was always embarrassed, especially because we had co-ed PE lessons most of the time (except a couple of years in high school).
    I could never understand why we were forced to look like gymnasts – I always felt sorry for the chubby girls, and later for myself as well when I turned out to be a rather curvy (though slim) teenager. My worst nighmares… they really made me hate my body, and the boys were always making fun of us. No fond memories there.

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    • As if preteens and teens don’t have enough issues with their bodies. What a shame that you were subjected to the leotard, but it is promising that girls today have the option of wearing what they feel comfortable in.

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  21. Oh my gosh that’s hilarious. but you know what it’s brought up a long suppressed memory for me of wearing bloomers! Yellow broadcloth under a tunic, blue I think. Must have been for sport. Great post and great catalogue.

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    • Ruth

      Seems like the cheerleaders at my high school wore bloomers under their skirts, or built in shorts, I’m not sure which now!

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  22. I would like to offer a different perspective on these gym suits. I went to Jr. high and high school in the 70s and phys ed was required 5 days a week. As a crossdressing male I would have loved to wear one but that was not really an option. It wasn’t until around 2000 that I got my first outfit courtesy of ebay. Now I have over 40 in my collection. Ours were powder blue and a 65% poly, 35% cotton fabric. Cuffed sleeves and leg openings with an elastic waistline in back and metal snaps. I have them in white, off white, seafoam green, maroon, orange, dark blue, and red.

    Later they changed the uniforms to a cotton knit stretchy fabric, dark blue shorts and a blue and white striped top. I have some of these in my collection in various colors but did not like them as much. I believe they went out of fashion some time in the 80’s.

    To this day they remain my favorite attire to wear. You can see a picture of the gym suits from my high school here: (yes that’s me…and don’t worry, the link is safe)
    blue jumper October 03
    or here:
    Blue Jumper July 2003
    and here is a green one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/annette2226/629632775/
    Here’s a later shot (2010) before I went out clubbing. As I said before, rompers, jumpers, hot pants jumpsuits (whatever you call them) remain my favorite clothing to wear.
    Favorite outfit

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  23. Kim

    We attended in the mid 70’s and our gym suit, which you bought at JCPenney, was one piece white thin see through cotton mix no stretch and elastic at the waist and the legs and snaps. I have been trying to find a picture for our 40th class reunion. We all hatted it so bad it was trashed as soon we were out of there.. If anyone recalls or has a picture – help.

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  24. Julie

    I’ll never forget my sense of disbelief when issued that puffy institution-green gym uniform in a new middle school in a new town. Oh, the pride-sapping indignity of it! On top of knowing absolutely no one.

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  25. Ohhhh you guys! I remember my (swing blue gym suit color) from Clayton Valley High School in Concord, California in the 60’s…fondly! So much so that i have been looking for one on e-bay (I only found white, but exactly like what I had in blue) and I JUST bought it! They were so easy to wear and mine had the straight shorts, I too would not have wanted the gathered legs! I have no bad memories and now that I am in my 60’s I am reminiscing for those real living-life days. Remember homemaking classes? Oh man, I wouldn’t trade those days for these days no how-no way! I remember getting goose bumps when a boy I liked took my hand to hold! Those were the days! I miss them very very much!!!

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  26. eirc

    I’m a crossing male also, & have three girls snap front gym suits, what’s the problem, they are fun to wear & sleep in. I’ll wear one to a Halloween party, that, I’ve been invited to, and I’m sure, the women attending, will not remember these outfits etc. I wear one, to clean my apt, but wished I “had” enough courage, to wear it the gym, oh well someday.

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