Gym Suit Uniformity

This is a brochure sent out to gym teachers with the aim of convincing them that having all students in matching gym suits was the way to go. It seems a bit odd, because from what I’ve seen, heard, and read, by the time this brochure was mailed in the early 1950s, most schools already had the girls in matching gym suits. Maybe there were some rogue gym suit holdouts in various corners of the USA.

My favorite part of this ad is how the gym suit is being compared to a Rockette costume. Uniformity was very important to the Rockettes, so much so that there was not a Black Rockette until 1988. Even then the director, Russell Markert, was reluctant, claiming it messed up the uniformity.

I also like this chart that pointed out the practical features of the Moore gym suit.

One thing this brochure does not have is the date it was published.  The photos, especially that of the girl on the front (with her gym class lipstick on point) look to be late 40s or early 50s. I set about looking at what might be clues in the text.

It mentioned that Russell Markert was the director, and Gene Synder was the co-director of the Rockettes. I looked for information of both men, but that turned out to be a dead end as both men’s tenures with the Rockettes spanned many years.

One gym suit was labeled as being style A12-66.  I have a 1949 Moore catalog, but this model was not mentioned. There was a style A10-66, so maybe the suit in the picture is an updated version. I also have a 1962 catalog, but by that time the method of numbering the suits had changed. There was a model 12, which was very similar to the model in the picture. Anyway looking at the style numbers proved to be inconclusive.

Finally I looked at the addresses given for the branch offices of ER Moore.  The address of the Los Angeles office was changed from what was given in 1949, but was the same at what was listed in 1962. That pretty much proved the brochure is after 1949, but before 1962, as noted by the change in model numbers.

So I’m going with early 1950s, due mainly to the styling of the suits, and to the girl’s hair and makeup.

One additional note is this also shows how slow to change gym suit styles were. Just the fact that Moore was offering pretty much the same suit over at least ten years goes to show just how hard it is to put a firm ate on these garments.



Filed under Collecting, Sportswear

5 responses to “Gym Suit Uniformity

  1. jacq staubs

    In the early 60’s our basketball teams ( men and women)all had uniforms. The guys wore a pair of pull on shorts -mid upper leg length/ matching tank top u neck sleeveless , usually in a satin like fabric. Women had same shorts -much shorter- and camp like short sleeved tops. I personally thought the uniforms looked like our parents 1940’s. I hated the silly fabric! So did my classmates! They eventually had them changed to what I don’t remember. I graduated HS in 65. Our regular gym uniforms were no regulation.


  2. Ruth Lutz Whitten tten

    How we all hated those “monkey suits”! Ours were blue in the mid 60’s and had cuffed shorts with a belt that pinched!!! Heaven forbid if we forgot to wash and iron them over the weekend… we had a new girl in the 7th grade and somehow her mother let it be known that she was not buying a new gym suit because she had one from her old school that was green and perfectly good. Fortunately the girl was very athletic so the teachers did not shame her for looking different!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ruth Lutz Whitten

      We were all excited when we reached 10th grade as the gym suits for high school were a white blouse and black very short shorts!


  3. My (Cathollc) high school was still using a 40’s styled gym dress over bloomers (!) in 1958, when I was a freshman, and we were still wearing them in 1962, when I graduated.


  4. I was in junior high school in southern California in the late 50s and we had to wear a white blouse and black shorts, which were purchased from a local supplier and had to be certain ones, not just any black shorts. They had a white stripe down the side, and both the shorts and the shirt had to have our last name embroidered on them. No permanent markers then. They had to be taken home and washed over the weekend. Then when I got to high school we could take modern dance and the uniform was a leotard! Great! Anything to keep from going outdoors and messing up our hair.
    bonnie in provence


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