HEALTH AND FITNESS

1930s FITNESS AND STREAMLINED FORMS

Rustington Lido (September 1937)
Title: Rustington Lido
Date: (1937)
Film-maker: A McCallum production

The 1930s was a Golden Age for the building of lidos in Britain, including one at Hastings & St Leonards in 1933 and the Saltdean Lido at Brighton of 1938. The architecture’s streamlined form and simplicity was mirrored in the ideal svelte female body of the period.


EXERCISE CLASSES

Title: Rustington Lido
Date: (1937)
Film-maker: A McCallum production

This film shows men and women participating in a calisthenics class. Exercise lent itself to a relaxation of dress codes especially for women who reveal their legs in their skirts and shorts. Most of the men shown wear trousers and a shirt, often with the sleeves rolled up informally.

In the 1920s and 1930s calisthenics became more mainstream. The Women’s League of Health and Beauty epitomised this, which was reflected in their motto, ‘movement is life’. The V&A’s fashion collection includes a Women’s League of Health and Beauty uniform of black satin shorts and cream blouse. This outfit was progressive for the time (T-240-a.1984). In addition, the
Museum of London has surviving dress and ephemera relating to the League including a black velvet skirt from the 1930s. The label reads ‘Women’s League of Health and Beauty’ (Item No. 2006.79/29b). The skirt was part of the League’s outdoor uniform and would have been worn with a white cape. It was used for events, such as demonstrations, rather than exercise. A documentary film of the early years of The Women’s League of Health and Beauty, includes footage of both such outfits (This is the League that Jane Joined, Dr Adele Carroll, 2000).


SCHOOL GYMNASTICS

Title: [Burne Family Pictures]
Date: (1930-1932)
Film-maker: Dr. Catherine Violet Burne & Dr. Thomas Burne

This film shows school girls in gymnasium wear. This consisted of a pinafore worn over a shirt and a belt at the natural waist level, dark stockings and light-coloured plimsolls. The girls are uniformly dressed and there is a trend for bobbed hair. For those who had not opted for the daring hairstyle, longer hair was plaited while undertaking exercise. The Costume Gallery at Platt Hall has woollen gym tunics from the late 1920s (Item Nos.1965.34 & 1968.233). They have square necklines and accompanying belts like those seen in the film.

The film goes on to show young girls skipping and dancing with scarves. The girls wear loose, light cotton dresses embroidered at the hem and their bare feet reflect a more spiritual attitude that stemmed from dancers such as Isadora Duncan earlier in the century. Duncan advocated free movement in dance and classical-inspired costumes. She became a patron for the Spanish designer Mariano Fortuny who created the ‘Delphos’ dress, a silk and finely pleated dress inspired by Ancient Greece. The Costume Gallery at Snibston, Leicester has an example of a Fortuny ‘Delphos’ dress dated 1915.