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More in this section College fashions uncovered

Clothes for sports

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Sports were a popular pastime at both colleges, and these anecdotes and photographs show how sports clothes reflected the clothing conventions of the time.

Hockey was played from the early days of Royal Holloway. A booklet published by the college in the 1930s gave this account of the nineteenth century styles:

“The costumes would be incredible to modern eyes A few comparatively short skirts could be seen, but most of the players trailed about in long flowing garments which they shamelessly used as stops, even ducking for the purpose when their skirts just cleared the ground”. (RHC/AS/903/1)


RHC/PH/211/3; c.1890s


RHC/PH/211/10; c. 1890s

A Royal Holloway student in the early twentieth century recollected that:

“We had to wear skirts over our tunics – the latter reaching well to the knees when going to and from the gymnasium, though we never encountered a man on the way”. (RHC/RF/132/3)

In the 1920s some Royal Holloway students embarked on a rowing trip to Oxford and back to Egham. This is what one student wore:

“On the College sewing machine I made a very beautiful dress, it was grey crepe, cotton crepe with a little magenta flower over it and I bound the arms and neck with magenta bias binding and I fancied myself no end in that dress! When I got home my mother fished it out, held it up and put it in the kitchen fire – she said it smelt of honest sweat and sardine sandwiches!” (RHC/RF/132/6).

A letter dated 1937 from Miss Bacon to the RHC Senior Student told the students that:

“There have been many criticisms of the brevity of the shorts being worn for tennis and cricket. Shorts should hang to the length of a tunic, i.e. not more than three inches from the ground when the wearer is kneeling, and they should be properly cut with pleats so that they hang like a skirt” (RHC/AS/161/5; Apr 1937).



RHC/PH/211/2; c. 1890s


RHC/PH/212/1; c. 1900


BC/PH/6/1/2; 1908


BC/PH/6/1/4; 1912


BC/PH/6/1/4; 1921


BC/PH/6/1/1; 1923


BC/PH/6/1/5; 1930s


BC/PH/6/1/3; 1937/38


RHC/PH/213/9; 1950s


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