Early 1930s Tennis Dress

In the early 1930s as hemlines dropped on women’s dresses, they also dropped on sports dresses.  In 1927 a tennis dress would have its hem right at the knee, and it would have had a dropped waist as was the fashion.  In 1932 the typical tennis dress still mirrored the fashionable silhouette of the day.  There was a waist at the natural waistline, but there might also be a dropped waist as you see above. (I’ve read that before 1935, the waist pointed downward, and after 1935 it pointed upward.  This rule often holds true.)  The skirt was the length of a fashionable dress, quite a few inches below the knee.

In 1927 women tennis players were still wearing silk stockings, though some used roll garters and rolled the hose to the knee.  In the early 1930s the ankle sock appeared on the tennis court, having made the jump from school gym classes.

My dress dates from the early 1930s.  The waist had moved back to its natural spot, but there is still a dropped waist feature.  The sleeveless bodice and the V neckline are also holdovers from the 1920s.  There are no openings to help get the dress on; it fit over the head like a late Twenties dress.   It must have been a struggle, as I could not even get this dress on my tiny half-mannequin.

Even though the skirt is long, the three front pleats allow for plenty of movement.

The back also has the pointed dropped waist, but without the pleats.

There are no signs of labels, and this appears to be the work of a home sewer, most likely a fairly skilled one.  This would not have been an easy dress to make.  Note how the sewer had the ribbed fabric cut on the length for some pieces, but on the cross for others.

This 1935 Saks Fifth Avenue ad is a bit later than my dress, but you can see how the skirt was a fashionable long length.  By the end of the decade, tennis dresses diverged from the fashionable length, rising to above the knee.  Matching bloomers were worn beneath.  On more casual courts, some girls and women were even wearing shorts, something that still is frowned upon at some tennis clubs.


Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Summer Sports, Vintage Clothing

9 responses to “Early 1930s Tennis Dress

  1. Fabulous, informative post Lizzie. Thank you! I really love that button-back tennis dress. 🙂


  2. WOW ! after the long linen (pretty as it was) number from yesterday – this is a lot more like it!?….pretty little number,,,i am sure the “Old Biddies got the vapors when the lovely young society girls showed up in this-and semi sheer as well!!!!…the guys were all eyes too!…Good looking dress..


  3. Love the reiteration of the V of the neckline throughout the length of it.


  4. Beautiful seam details in first dress- the Vs all in white fabric with the quietly alternating rib are stunning


  5. thank you for the tip on the waistlines – yet another detail to take with me when vintage hunting!


  6. this dress makes me a little weak in the knees. so precious.


  7. What beautiful construction! Lovely details in the all white design.


  8. Lizzie, that dress is beyond adorable. Loving how the pockets and V seaming on the bodice are repeated on the skirt. Great details! And such a versatile classic look that I could certainly envision wearing today to a summer garden party or a luncheon.


  9. Pingback: Tennis Dress Patterns, 1939-1940 | witness2fashion

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