Title: With the Bentley in France and Switzerland
Date: (1939)
Film-maker: Joseph Emberton

For her game of golf, Mrs Emberton wears a knee-length skirt, blouse and cardigan. Separates were a category of clothing that grew in importance during the decade, as smart but casual sportswear garments were integrated into women’s everyday wardrobes. Mrs Emberton’s skirt has a small inverted pleat at the front.

In the mid-1920s, golf was a fashionable sport and Vogue devoted a column to it. In 1926, Vogue recommended that, “the skirt should not be too full or too pleated; there should be nothing about it that swings out, yet nothing constricting. Best of all, for this purpose, in the opinion of many who ought to know, is the simple inverted pleat favoured by Chanel.” (‘A Guide to the Chic Golfer’, Vogue, early July 1926, p.46-7.) By the 1930s, the skirt pleat was smaller than in the previous decade but was an enduring trend that enabled movement.


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

Tennis was a popular sport for the middle-classes and held social cachet for both men and women. The above film shows women wearing a variety of clothes to play tennis, including a white tennis dress, skirts, short-sleeved sweaters and shorts.

In 1932 Californian tennis star Alice Marble wore shorts on court that were six inches above the knee. Marble’s influence is evident on one female tennis player in the film who wears short shorts. British Pathé have footage of Alice Marble playing tennis in 1937 wearing her trademark shorts (film ID: 1240.30).

With the exception of one man who wears trousers, the men in the film wear knee-length shorts with a short-sleeved polo shirt. Bunny Austin first wore shorts on the Centre Court of Wimbledon in 1933, but some men including the tennis star Fred Perry continued to wear the more conventional attire of trousers. Perry was the World No.1 tennis player between 1934-1938 and later developed his own line of sports clothing. In 1952, he launched his polo shirt and the brand continues to this day.

The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum has further information on tennis attire.

Title: Frensham August 1933
Date: (1933)
Film-maker: Ralph Staley

This film shows an impromptu game of tennis in a garden. One woman wears a linen summer dress that falls below the knee.  Her opponent, rather daringly, wears a one-piece bathing suit with a scooped back. This was not conventional tennis wear but gives an insight into how the rules of everyday wear could be adjusted to fit circumstances. It is likely that the woman could feel free to wear her bathing suit to play tennis in the privacy of a garden.

[Garden Fete at Broughton House] (1926)

Title: [Garden Fete at Broughton House]
Date: (1926)
Film-maker: Not known

In the above still image a woman is seen dressed as a tennis player at a carnival. Her costume comprises a loose, unstructured, knee length silk-satin dress emblazoned with a tennis racket and tennis ball design on the front. Her outfit is complete with a bandeau tied around her head. This was emulating the trend set by tennis star Suzanne Lenglen after she bobbed her hair and wore a bandeau on centre court at Wimbledon in 1920. Lenglen became a fashion icon and her style was emulated on and off the tennis court.

In 1919 Lenglen had famously disregarded Edwardian convention and wore a calf length cotton dress without a petticoat or corset. She accessorised her outfit with a soft linen hat.

A British Pathé film entitled, ‘How I Play Tennis by Mlle. Suzanne Lenglen’ from 1925 opens with a shot of Lenglen in a white tennis dress, which is pleated from the waist, a cardigan, and her trademark bandeau tied around her head (Film ID: 1645.01.) Throughout her career Lenglen was dressed in silk dresses by the Parisian couturier Jean Patou who was renowned for his modern sportswear designs.

Mabs, a fashion periodical for working class women priced at 6d (6 pence), offered designs that could be brought for home-dressmaking. It shows Lenglen’s influence on fashion. Its edition of May 1926 depicts a white tennis dress, pleated from the waist down which was accessorised with a violet coloured bandeau tied at the left ear. Selected copies of Mabs magazines are held at the British Library.