Historical Item Analysis: Performance Gear, circa 1920s

Uniform_06042014_0396In the 1920s, the Maryland women’s intramural basketball team wore a uniform consisting of a woven white cotton shirt and knee-length woven linen pants that would be unthinkable for today’s athletes. The bloomer-style pants appeared to offer some freedom of movement, but the straight sleeves of the shirts must have interfered with dribbling, passes, and shooting hoops. Woven cotton and linen are highly regarded today for classic, upscale apparel, but definitely not for fitness activities and team sports. By comparison, the men’s basketball uniform was a sleeveless top and shorts very similar in style to what basketball players wear today.


A photograph of the women’s team in 1927 teams shows them looking fit, mostly smiling, and ready to play. However, silk stockings rolled tightly around their knees look constricting and uncomfortable, and the thin-soled shoes did not seem like they offered very much of an assist in running, jumping, and generally moving around the court. The best part of the uniform must have been the bloomer pants—loose, comfortable, and not restrictive.

Lacking the high-tech gear with which sports teams are outfitted today, the intra-collegiate teams of the 1920s performed admirably and contributed to the growth of women’s basketball at the University of Maryland, which became a varsity sport in 1971. Within a few years, the Lady Terrapins won their first state championship in 1973, and they reached the Women’s Final Four in 1978, 1982, 1989, 2006, 2014, and 2015, winning the national championship in 2006.

Hats off to white cotton shirts, black linen bloomers, silk stockings and the women’s teams of the 1920s!!

This is the eighth in a series of blog posts prepared by students in the current HIST 429F: History of the University of Maryland class taught by University Archivist Anne Turkos and Assistant University Archivist Jason Speck. Each of the students was assigned an historical item to analyze by responding to a series of six questions . They were also required to submit a brief blog post as the concluding portion of their assignment. We will be featuring some of these blog posts and the items the students reviewed for the remainder of the semester, so check back frequently for more of the HIST 429F student projects.


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