1-2 | When the Girls Came Out to Play: The Birth of American Sportswear

Book Review

When the Girls Came Out to Play: The Birth of American Sportswear

Patricia Campbell Warner
Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006. Preface, illustrations, bibliography and notes, index. 292 pp. $24.95 paper. isbn: 1558495495

by Wanda Wakefield

First Paragraph:

Twenty years after she began her work on the development of women's sportswear in the United States, Patricia Campbell Warner has completed a compelling and insightful book that poses the question, "Which came first, the sportswear or the female athlete?" As she explains in her introduction, Warner's first interest has always been in the struggles of those women who wished to wear clothing that made sense. Since American sportswear has become the world's default clothing style in the past fifty years, she uses this book to explain how and why comfortable clothing for women came to be accepted as both appropriate dress for working out in private but also acceptable for exercising publicly in the presence of men. According to Warner, the establishment and growth of women's colleges in the United States during the nineteenth century is directly linked to the development of styles of dress more suited to the increased physicality of educated women. This, along with the discovery of new materials and the introduction of the sewing machine, allowed designers and individual sewers the opportunity to craft costumes both useful, and eventually, beautiful.