I rarely buy incomplete garments, but this one was rare enough to make an exception. I didn’t feel too bad about the bloomers being missing, as I do have several pairs from the same era.
I wasn’t able to locate much about the Columbia Gymnasium Suit Company. Most of the sources were ads in women’s colleges’ newsletters and in sports magazines. The earliest reference I have found is from 1909, but I’m quite sure my blouse is a bit older than that.
The company also made bathing suits, and I found one suit labeled “Columbia Bathing Suit Co.” It was pretty much identical to the Columbia gymsuits I found online.
The addition of this second label helps to narrow the date a bit. The National Consumers League was chartered in 1899, which you can read on the label, in the circle. I’ve seen several Columbia gymsuits with this label in online collections, several being dated to before 1899. Even museums make mistakes!
I’m quite sure that my blouse is from around 1905, or possibly a bit earlier. You see the styling of the typical blouse of that era, with the blousy front and slightly gathered sleeves.
The waist buttoned to the bloomers, the waistband of which would have covered the brown cotton facing that holds the buttons. The buttons are made of glass.
The opening in in the front, with hook and eye closures on the shoulder, and a line of buttons running diagonally to the waist. These are concealed by the deep tucks.
Like many gymsuits and bathing suits made before 1920, this one is made from wool. It’s a very light, open weave wool, but terribly scratchy. Girls must have loved it when cotton became the favored fabric of gymsuit makers.
There is a modern Columbia Sportswear Company. I could find no connection between the maker of my blouse and the current company.