1929 Perfetex Athletic Clothing Style Book

I’m beginning to think that Chicago was the gym attire capital of the US,  as I’ve found another company that was located in that city. I knew about Perfetex because I have a pair of wool exercise bloomers with that label. It made me happy when earlier this week I located a catalog from the company. I bought it because I hoped to find my bloomers included (more about that later) but I found the catalog to be really interesting beyond my own collection.

The actual name of the firm that made Perfetex Athletic Clothing was Chancellor & Vaughan of Chicago. A note inside from the company president was signed C U Chancellor. Even with all that information, I was not able to find out anything about the company. That happens so often when a proper name is also a word with a meaning, such as “chancellor.”

In 1929, big changes where coming to women’s clothing. It wasn’t as sudden as history books sometimes make it seem, as there were hints that skirts were going to get longer, and clothing was going to be cut closer to the body. As for gym wear, for decades the bloomer had been the pants that girls and women wore for athletics. Above you can see the classic combination of middy blouse and baggy bloomers. The middy has short sleeves, and the bloomers are above the knee, but otherwise this is pretty much the same gym attire girls had been wearing for fifteen years.

But in 1929 the bloomer was slowly being replaced by shorts. In the outfit above, the blouse is still made of middy twill fabric, it has the pocket, and the V-neck. But gone is the flapping collar.

Taking it a stop further, here we see the shorts paired with a tee shirt made from jersey knit, which was available in either cotton or wool. Before long girls and women were wearing shorts for more than just basketball.

Click to enlarge

The middy was still pretty much the top of choice for gym. But it is interesting how in just a few years it would be pretty much gone, replaced by a gymsuit that was a blouse and shorts combination.

Prefetex was even selling a similar blouse in 1929. Just add the shorts and you have the new standard that replaced the middy and bloomers.

A while back I posted about a 1920s romper in my collection that is very similar to this one. It’s always good to find items documented with firm dating.

I’m doing a groan about the Barefoot Dancing Sandals though. I saw a pair of these somewhere online (probably eBay) described as bathing sandals, which I knew they were not. So I didn’t bid, and didn’t even bookmark the auction. Not good. Now I need them. Badly.

But getting back to my knickers, I am pretty sure that these are the ones I have. They are described as modern because so much of the fullness has been eliminated and they are shorter than the other knickers offered.

I am truly sorry about my sorry photos of these. I promise to take more time and do a better job. I hope you can tell that these are the same style.

Here’s the side opening with a placket covering the buttons.

The ad copy mentions a “diamond crotch piece.” I’d call it a gusset, and the purpose was to make the fabric “give” more in the area to reduce stress to the fabric. Note the mends on both sides of the diamond. it didn’t work.

To me, a lot of the fun of collecting comes from being able to identify garments like this pair of lowly bloomers. Simple pleasures!



Filed under Collecting, Proper Clothing, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

14 responses to “1929 Perfetex Athletic Clothing Style Book

  1. Your photo isn’t so awful. It’s easy to see those are the exact shorts in the old advertisement. For the record, I prefer the middy blouse and baggy bloomers to the sleeker, more-modern styles. It was just so cute!

    p.s. I’ve added the “barefoot dancing sandals” (which resemble a heeled variety of ballet shoe worn today by many teachers) to my “keep an eye out, for Lizzie” list. It’s getting rather long.


  2. Ruth

    I love the work showing on that placket, very nice. In fact, much nicer than most you’d see today. That gusset looks horribly uncomfortable, as chafing in places you don’t want chafed. Wonder if some man came up with it? I can’t see a woman designing something like that, but could be wrong.


  3. I’m fascinated by the multiple fabric choices offered for each style blouse/shirt. Amazing! How fun to find the catalog with the exact piece you own listed in it! You’re like me when I find the exact vintage fabric I have in an old Sear catalog. Jackpot!


  4. Congrats on finding your gym knickers in that catalog! The “Perfetex” name for their fabric makes me wonder if they made a special textile for sports wear. And I am astounded by the “Flapper” basketball uniform — it’s so similar to modern knit T-shirts! So why were we still wearing heavy woven gym dresses over bloomers in 1962? (At a Catholic girls’ school — having our clothing chosen by nuns may have been one reason.) But your previous posts about gym suits always get plenty of comments about how hot and heavy they were in the fifties and sixties. Does anyone remember a gym suit with a comfortable T-shirt top back then?


    • When I first starting investigating gymsuits, I was really surprised to learn that some schools were still using the bloomer type as late as the 1960s. I guess it was a case of my knowing what *I* wore, and accepting that as the norm.
      My younger sister who was 7 year younger and who graduated high school in 1980, wore the shorts and tee shirt combination. I can’t imagine that any school was so liberal as to allow it in 1929!
      The catalog talks about “our PERFETEX materials”, and there is a large selection of fabric, everything from alpaca to satin.


      • Thanks! I was hoping that Perfetex contained rayon or some other synthetic, or had more give, but I guess it’s just “branding.” P.S. I watched a clip from the movie “Bare Knees,” and the girls’ team was playing baseball in those tank tops and shorts! Probably only in the movies….


  5. Someone probably still makes those dancing sandals, although they may be deep in Central Europe, I’ve seen them on recent folk dancing feet. I’ll ask around. Dance gear has deep traditions.


  6. Pingback: 1920s or 1930s Barefoot Dancing Sandals | The Vintage Traveler

  7. Sandy Lawson

    My great grandparents owned Chancellor & Vaughn factory that produced the gym clothes. My mom recalls they sold it to another company.


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