Tag Archives: middy

The Answer

I hope everyone enjoyed puzzling through yesterday’s vintage item what-is-it.  There were some really good educated guesses.  As I pointed out, this item has more than one use,  and all of them were actually brought up in your comments.

from the March, 1898 Glass of Fashion

This is indeed a dickey, or as it was sometimes called, a shield,  to go under a child’s sailor dress.  I love what Christina wrote in the comments, so I’m just going to copy her explanation:

I think this is a dickie or shield to be worn as part of a sailor suit for boys and girls. The sailor suits were worn by boys from c1840′s but became very popular later in the era after Prince Edward dressed his sons in sailor suits. I don’t know exactly when this style of dickie or shield was first seen but this example might be from the early 1900′s. So, for girls they are often seen being worn under a middy blouse with a skirt and the boys outfit originally copied the seaman’s uniform of the Royal Navy and they wore trousers.

This is a shield, and it was not only worn by children, but  by women as well.  Becca found this excellent page from an early 20th century catalog in Google books. These sailor suits for women relaxed into the middy, so I’m going to count Hollis’s answer as correct as well.


Many of the bathing suits before 1920 were sailing inspired, and often the top was very much like a middy.  Yes, these were used as modesty panels on bathing suits, so Mod Betty gets a nice pat on the back as well!

Here again, you see the same anchor with a rope motif embroidered onto a shield.  Sailing motifs in general were quite popular.  Most middies have one either embroidered to the fabric, or attached as an applique or a patch.  I’ve seen the appliques advertised for sale for women who sewed their own middies or bathing suits.

I really thought all the medical guesses were interesting, so I went looking for some vintage photos of nurses.  Nurses before 1920 or so did often wear a collar of this type, but it was attached to their apron.  Funny, I had not thought of a nurse’s dress at all until so many of you mentioned it, and then I began to wonder if there wasn’t something to it!



Filed under Collecting, Vintage Clothing

Remembering the Middy

You don’t read much about middies these days.  After all, they haven’t been a real fashion item since they made a brief comeback sometime in the mid 1980s.  But I got curious about the middy after Maggie at denisebrain and Ang of dorotheascloset both had the same 1920s middy, but in different colors.  And all the time I thought middies were white!

Anyway, I’ve been reading up, collecting photos, doing my homework, and now I have a new photo essay devoted to the middy.   I really find it interesting how a garment that was so much a part of girls’ lives could just disappear.  The middy was comfortable and it looked cute, but ultimately, the big flapping collar and the loose hem that tended to expose the torso, was just not as practical as it first seemed.  Gymsuits became the practical affairs of the 30s through the 70s, and the middy was left to make occasional appearances in fashion.

1 Comment

Filed under Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

Gym Class ~ Mars Hill College ~ Early 1920s

And to think that I thought my 1960s gym suit was tacky!

This photo was taken at Mars Hill College, which is just north of Asheville, NC, around 1922. The bloomers don’t do much for these young ladies, but I think the middy tops are quite cute! Notice that some of them are wearing stockings and I love the shoes.

I can imagine that they hated this outfit. Maybe some of them saw the bloomers as easy to wear and comfortable, but there’s just something about the idea of a gymsuit that doesn’t quite sit well with the forced-to-wear-it wearer.

When I started junior high in the late 1960s, our gymsuits were white and one piece. Looking back, I can see that they were really quite flattering, or would have been if they had been a nice color. But they were the bane of our existance, and a subject of constant concern. Probably the biggest complaint was that the boys were not required to wear a uniform, and so we were always playing the fairness card. But the truth of the matter was that we thought they were ugly and that they made us look ugly. The teacher always pointed out that PE classes were separate from the boys anyway so what did it matter?

By the time I was a senior in high school in 1973, our dress code had faced a court challenge and had been abolished, but the gymsuits were still required for girls. I can remember how we all just decided to stop wearing them. I guess the school system decided it was not a battle worth fighting, because nothing was ever said. That left us shaking our heads and kicking ourselves, wishing we had tried this earlier!

During this period of gymsuitedness, I complained to my mother who replied with something to the effect that I should have seen the gymsuit SHE was forced to wear in the 1940s. Now that was ugly! So I was surprised to see pictures of her 1949 class in their cute little green gym dresses with bloomer panties beneath. Now THAT was a gymsuit I could wear!

Leave a comment

Filed under North Carolina, Sportswear, Vintage Photographs