Aldrich and Aldrich Exercise Suit

I’ve been collecting gym attire for a long time, and I’m glad because several years ago the prices went crazy. The first ones I acquired in the 1990s were actually given to me because they were pretty much unsalable. But in spite of generations of girls despising the gymsuits they were forced to wear, the gymsuit-less generations have decided they are cool. I’m okay with that, because I can already see the prices falling. Seems like a garment that almost every girl who went to high school and college between 1920 and 1975 had would mean there are still millions of the things out there. The supply is starting to catch up with the demand.

I already have eighteen sets, dating from the 1860s to the mid 1970s. Ironically (or maybe not), the one era I don’t have is a late 60s model like I was forced to wear. Maybe it’s time to start looking for a cheap suit. Maybe not.

I spotted this dress and bloomers set on Instagram last week and decided to add it to my collection. I was intrigued by the fact it is knit. I had seen the style before. Someone had the same dress in yellow a few years ago, but there were no bloomers. And recently someone had a similar style in blue. Seems like it had long sleeves.

Aldrich and Aldrich was a large maker of gymsuits. I have one of their catalogs, dating from 1940 where they were celebrating twenty years in the business.

Of course I was hoping to find my new set in the catalog, but the closest I found was the leotard and skirt set above. Notice the similarity in the neckline.

Best of all, the catalog gives an explanation of the use of this knit set. It was used for dance class. But when? I am quite sure it was around the time of the illustrated set in the catalog.

One reason I am so sure is that in a very good stroke of luck, the seller, @fleabitevintage was able to provide me with details about the life of the original owner, Eleanor, who was born in 1923. The set is small, but not tiny, so my guess is that she wore it between the ages of fifteen and twenty-two. So, this one gets a general date of late 1930s or early 40s.

The matching bloomers or panties are not attached to the dress. The waistline is quite high so no skin would show if the skirt flipped up.

I love that neckline.

And if anyone runs across an ugly white dacron snap-front gymsuit from 1967, give me a shout.


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11 responses to “Aldrich and Aldrich Exercise Suit

  1. In California from 1965 to 1968, the gym suit that I wore was black cotton shorts [not quite hot pants….shorter than Bermuda] and a white cotton shirt with snaps instead of buttons. I believe that the shorts had a black ribbon stripe on one side.


    • Me too! In junior high in California, mid-50s, we had the same outfit and had to embroider our names on them. In high school I opted for modern dance (warmer inside) and we all had black leotards, mostly with long sleeves. If it rained and the boys and girls all had to be in the gym playing volleyball, we had to wear a sweatshirt over our leotards, which only covered the top. We were, of course, terribly cool.
      bonnie in provence



    Any possible relation to Larry Aldrich?



    He “designed” everything else?!


  4. ceci

    We had really short blue shorts with a bloomer leg inside for modesty and a white shirt (pull over with a placket front and collar) in junior high and a one piece longer leg sleeveless thing in bright blue in high school. I would have sworn the junior high one was the ugliest thing in the world until I got the high school one, which was so much worse. This was about ’62 to ’68. If any of it turns up at my mom’s (why not – nothing else has been discarded!) I’ll let you know.


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Carol Wilson

    My gym outfit was one piece dark blue with snaps, a cap sleeve, and a slight bloomer leg. When I graduated from high school my mom somehow found a greeting card with graduation congratulations from a gym suit, and signed it, “from the gal who kept it laundered”!


  6. Laura

    My grandma made me matching shorts for my school dresses, so i could play on the playground without fear. I was a kid who needed to play . By the time i went to Jr High, girls could wear pants.

    This is a vintage piece that could be re- patterned and sold in stores today- lots of us still wear shorts under our dresses!


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