The FIDM Museum is thrilled to announce our partnership with American Federation of Arts on the upcoming exhibition Outdoor Girls: Sporting Fashion, 1800 to 1960. The exhibition will begin its tour in Los Angeles in 2020 before traveling to domestic and international venues. See the AFA announcement here, and read the full press release below. We look forward to sharing more in the coming months about this very exciting venture!
Outdoor Girls: Sporting Fashion, 1800 to 1960 will be the first exhibition to explore the evolution of women’s sporting attire in Western fashion over this 160-year period. Beginning with the turn of the nineteenth century, when women ventured outside the domestic sphere to partake in outdoor activities, and concluding with the mid-twentieth century, when the basic forms of women’s sportswear we know today were codified, this exhibition will trace the accessories and garments that defined women’s participation in the sporting world as athletes and spectators. Examining the competing priorities of fashion, function, and propriety, Outdoor Girls will feature approximately 75 fully accessorized ensembles and a selection of sport-related accessories and ephemera, all drawn from the exceptional collections of the FIDM Museum. This exhibition represents an unprecedented opportunity for a significant portion of the FIDM Museum’s extensive holdings, which are marked by their outstanding design merit, to be seen outside of Los Angeles.
The title Outdoor Girls is inspired by the printed script on a circa 1946 wool scarf, which depicts women engaged in thirteen different sports, including golf, horseback riding, ice skating, and tennis. This exhibition will include ensembles worn for these and over forty other outdoor activities over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, each carefully assembled based upon extensive primary source research. The exhibition’s broad definition of sport will include any activity that required physical exertion—from traveling to calisthenics, and motorcycling to promenading. The exhibition will feature accessories from long-established sportswear brands, such as Keds, Pendleton, and Spalding, and garments by key designers, such as Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Claire McCardell, and Jean Patou.
Organized into eight themes defined by sport location, Outdoor Girls will explore how clothing met the needs of new pursuits for women, while at the same time it could preserve their socially approved, restricted mobility. Garments for swimming, surfing, and tanning will illustrate how innovative designers and manufacturers responded to the increasing acceptance of exposed skin at beaches and pools; winter sports ensembles will show how apparel for pastimes such as skiing and ice-skating protected female participants from the elements; and ensembles for cycling, motoring, and flying—often adapted from men’s athletic gear—will reveal how women navigated open roads and skies. To complement the artifacts on view, period films, a timeline of key events, and short biographies of important sportswomen will further situate sporting fashion in the broader context of women’s social history.