According to fashion historians, women’s participation in sports was perhaps the biggest engine driving the change to ever more casual clothing in the twentieth century. Serious sportswomen wanted more range of movement than conventional clothing allowed. Skirts got shorter, fabric got stretchy, and garments designed only for sports moved out onto the street. “Golf was the originator of the first ‘casual’ to filter into mainstream fashion: the sweater, first appearing [in Vogue] in 1919,” writes Charlie Lee-Potter in his entertaining book Sportswear in Vogue since 1910.
These two women golfers from San Diego are both dressed to play. Their skirt lengths are pretty standard for the time, but the generous a-cut design gives them lots of room to move. Although their outfits have the popular 1920s style dropped waistline, they might be wearing separates, not dresses, which would make it easier to swing their clubs. The fabric in the outfit on the right might be plain cotton, but the woman on the left appears to be wearing knits. That would give her even more mobility. Her cozy sweater looks like it might be done up with a zipper, but that closure wasn’t commonly used for clothing until the early 1930s. She also has on saddle shoes, originally worn by men but taken over by women in the 1920s according to one source. Hers have colored toes, spectator style.
Soon women would be appearing on the golf course in another item borrowed from men’s wardrobes–pants.