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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Gym suits

They were what girls wore to gym class until the mid-seventies in the US. This stopped after coed gym classes became the norm in public schools (before then, before Title XI that tried (and failed) to ensure equal funding/status to women's sports, boys and girls did not play kickball together after elementary school.)

I went to two junior high schools (NOT middle schools, not intermediate schools. Junior high schools.) The first, Cunningham Junior High, is in Brooklyn. It went from 7th to 9th grade (high school went from 10th to 12th.) And it was my first (and last) year with official single-sex gym class. In elementary school, when we started gym in second grade with my beloved Mr. Biegel, who was kind and patient and never seemed to mind I had no athletic ability at all, we went as a class. Also, we didn't change - we just wore sneakers. This being 1970 or so, we had bring them because no one wore sneakers to school, and most little girls wore dresses. This changed in only two or three years.

Cunningham did not have lockers of any sort. We went to homeroom (as a class - we went to all our classes *as a class*, other than shop and an elective, but we all had shop and elective at the same time) four times a day because our coats and books would be locked in a classroom wardrobe. We put them away in the morning, retrieved them for lunch - I went home for lunch - put them away afterwards and got them at the close of the day. As for gym class - we changed *in the gym*. In the girls' gym, I mean. We had gym twice a week, and we were required to wear gymsuits.

I don't mean gym clothes. I don't mean an official t-shirt and shorts - the *boys* got those. I mean a gymsuit. This was a navy blue one piece garment that snapped down the front, made of some woven material - probably at that point cotton-poly, but possibly cotton. The top looked like a short-sleeved blouse with a breast pocket and a regular collar. The bottom, which was separated by an attached "belt", looked like a pair of short bloomers, full and gathered at the bottom.

Yep, as ugly and uncomfortable as you can imagine, and I suspect those of you who are my age and older are having flashbacks now. (Although I do know some girls liked them.)

We were instructed as to how to change with minimal exposure (take off pants - we were mostly wearing pants/jeans at that point), put bottoms on. Take off top, put the top on. Snap.) We hung our clothes, book bags and the purses we were all starting to carry on hooks over our assigned bench - gym class was four classes at a time, and we each had our assigned bench against a wall.

We did have one advantage over the boys - when weather permitted, we could have gym outside. Since no one expected us to wear those ugly things in public, we could have gym outside in our regular clothes. Boys had to wear their gym clothes, so they had to wait for warmer weather.

I moved to Wayne, New Jersey in the summer of 1976, where I started 8th grade in Schuyler-Colfax Jr. High (for the presidential scholars among you, this was named after two men - hence the hyphen - not the vice president under Grant.) This was 6-8 school, so at a time when one went to junior high for three years, I went for two. I had to get used to lockers and combination locks,and having my own schedule that was the same EVERY DAY and having lunch in school and not having Spanish, and, of course, being the new girl. This is where I learned that having a book to read during lunch made everything better.

And this was also the first year of co-ed gym. Since it was a transitional year, they still required the girls to wear, you guessed it. Gymsuits. These were a different - still ugly - but far more functional model. It zipped up the front instead of snapped, and it was knit, not woven. The top part had thin maroon and white horizontal stripes; the bottoms were close-fitting maroon shorts. I thought that co-ed gym was normal for New Jersey until a classmate of mine, who was having health - classroom work - that first marking period, asked me how it was having boys in gym. And then I saw a news article - the gym teachers were still trying to figure it all out.

By the next year, everyone was wearing shorts and t-shirts and the era of gymsuits, at least in Wayne, came to an end.

ETA Pictures. The one on the bottom is the closest to what I wore.

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We never had gym suits like you describe. Our gym clothes were ugly snug-fitting polyester bermuda-length shorts and a white blouse that snapped down the front.

The snap-fronted shirt stopped being required when classes went coed (which was the year I turned 13)and some of the nastier boys discovered they could pull a girl's blouse open with one sharp tug.

Within a year after that, the clothing standards were relaxed to the point where most girls wore cut-offs and a t-shirt in gym.

Edited at 2009-02-15 02:33 pm (UTC)

We would never be allowed cut-offs. It sounds like you wore middies and bloomers. How very WW1.

We had a different kind of gymsuit which had a reversible top with one school color on one side and one school color on the other side. you had to look at a posted card which said who was supposed to wear one color and who the other.

For team play? We had pinnys - sort of tie-on vests - for that.

Our were exactly as you described except in pale pink.

Schuyler-Colfax colors were maroon and black - right? I have friends who went to Wayne Hills.

I think they were, yes. Schulyer-Colfax fed directly into the Hills.

Were your friends class of 81?

We never had gym suits until Middle School (7th grade). We had co-ed gym until then too.

Then we officially got black shorts and gold T-shirts, both emblazoned with "Raymore Peculiar Panthers."

If we forgot our gymsuits, we had to wear the snap-up navy blue model you described. Most people didn't forget their gym suits more than once.

I'm class of 86, from rural Missouri.

Holy cow! I went to high school in Independence!

I went to elementary/middle (junior) school a few years after you, but even if we didn't have to wear 'suits' the uniform was still awful. Polyester shorts (navy) and a grey cotton t-shirt - though I uhhh unfondly (?) recall it being stiff and very uncomfortable. Not sure how things are now, but I hope they're better!

We thought they were an improvement! In my second high school, we could wear what we wanted - even sweats.

Everyone, therefore, wore sweats.

My year of intermediate school (1986-87), I had single-sex gym class and a uniform to change into and out of in a locker room, but it was the official shorts and t-shirt. We were an odd kind of retro and progressive out in Queens.

Private or public school?

We had co-ed gym until junior high, but no gym suits until then. Ours were a polyester one-piece number that zipped up, divided into a royal blue section where the shorts would be and a bright yellow top; and this lasted until after my sophomore year in high school when students were no longer required to take gym.

Not required to take gym? It was state requirement for all grades in NJ.

*flashback of HORROR* Ours were dark red.

But the worst gym uniform EVER was worn by boys at my husband's high school. They had gym shorts, see, but they were color-coded by how good at gym you were. So only two boys in the history of the school got the Gold Shorts, and there were silver, blue, green, red, and if the gym teacher thought you were really bad at sports you got the dread Yellow Shorts.

By comparison I figure we got off lucky.

That's cruel, that is.

I am too young for gym suits. This explanation makes the book "The Cat Ate My Gymsuit" make sense to me, now.

I was wondering what younger people would make of that book.

We wore the Merrygarden 812 in green in high school. Ironing those things was a stone b***h, and I still have a burn mark on one of my knuckles.

Oh, yeah, unless you were skinny, they looked hideous.

Do you remember the tanksuits we had to wear for swimming?

You ironed it? Really?

I never went swimming in school. It wasn't offered in any school I attended.

Edited at 2009-02-15 06:41 pm (UTC)

I went to school in the UK until I was 11. We had girls only gym class and we wore a black long-sleeved leotard (bodyshit like girls wear for ballet class) for inside and our school unforms (skirt, blouse, tie, etc) for outside. Gym was the only time we were permitted to wear anything on our feet that wasn't black patent mary jane style shoes. When I moved to Canada (Grade 5/6?? can't remember) we wore shorts and t-shirts and had co-ed gym class. This was late seventies.

The one I wore as a freshman in my first high school (all-girls, private) was dark red with thin white stripes, I think. It was a hideous sort of one-piece short coverall, if that makes sense. Gym wasn't required after freshman year in either of my high schools and I never took it again. I graduated in '79.

I think in my first elementary school (co-ed, private) we had T-shirts with the school logo and blue shorts for gym class. I don't think we changed at all in my second elementary school (co-ed, public). That's weird--I honestly can't remember what gym class was like there. I know we had gymsuits in one of the junior highs I went to (both were co-ed and public, but gym class by segregated by sex); they were light blue, I think, but that's all I remember. Um. I went to a lot of schools.

Edited at 2009-02-15 07:11 pm (UTC)

Oh, dear, yes! Gymsuits. For Southern Regional down south Jersey, we had white one piece. More like the fifth one down on that page, the yellow one. No bloomers, just shorts on the bottom and they snap shut. Ugly things.

I graduated in 1973, so it was before co-ed gym classes. But I would have loved it if we could have worn t-shirts and shorts.

Ugh. I never had to wear one of these monstrosities, luckily.
In 1980, we had to dress out in a t-shirt with the school name on the front, and a pair of red shorts with piping. As a fat girl and with a Baptist mom, we couldn't find red shorts that fit properly and were long enough to be modest by my mother's standards, so she made me a pair. They were knee length and could have fit two other kids in there with me. She basically made a split skirt for me. It was traumatizing.

You know, I seriously envied the grade below me in HS who had gymsuits of a sort. *We* had to wear gym tunics and bloomers, which meant putting on a *dress* for gym. I couldn't believe it when I moved to NY and found out I had to do that. Annoyingly, it was the same for college, but different colors. Shudder.

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