With the household and children being taken care of by the staff and the world of work off-limits, middle and upper class women were left to fill their time with hobbies and activities. These usually consisted of household pastimes for example reading, needlework, music, flower arranging and other handicrafts such as potpourri making.

Physical activities were considered dangerous and unsuitable for women at the beginning of the 1800’s. The general opinion was women were not fit for physical activities such as sports and there delicate bodies should be reserved for the bearing of healthy children, another undermining of women in the masculine authoritative world of the 1800’s. However towards the end of the nineteenth century medical advances resulted in an understanding of the advantages of physical activity and exercise. Publishers promoted this new way of thinking and the benefit exercise had on a healthy lifestyle. It now became socially acceptable for both sexes to take part in leisure sports. This still had its limitations however, appropriate dress was required for each activity all of which needed to conform to social acceptance. This resulted in a whole new array of styles and outfits for the well off woman. Dress was less formal however still adhered to the fashion ideals of the period. The cost of proper dress and sporting equipment were high meaning participation in sporting activities was restrained to the middle and upper classes.

Golf and tennis were sports particularly exclusive to the wealthy as they were played in exclusive clubs which required acceptance into the elite social circles to join and each in turn required there own outfit.

George Goodwin Kilburne (English painter, 1839-1924) A Game of Tennis Source - http://b-womeninamericanhistory19.blogspot.co.uk/

George Goodwin Kilburne (English painter, 1839-1924) A Game of Tennis
Source – http://b-womeninamericanhistory19.blogspot.co.uk/

 John Lavery (Irish painter, 1856-1941) Source - http://b-womeninamericanhistory19.blogspot.co.uk/

John Lavery (Irish painter, 1856-1941)
Source – http://b-womeninamericanhistory19.blogspot.co.uk/

Arthur Hacker (English Pre-Raphaelite painter, 1858-1919) The Artist's Sister 1882 Source - http://b-womeninamericanhistory19.blogspot.co.uk/

Arthur Hacker (English Pre-Raphaelite painter, 1858-1919) The Artist’s Sister 1882
Source – http://b-womeninamericanhistory19.blogspot.co.uk/

John Lavery (Irish painter, 1856-1941) Source - http://b-womeninamericanhistory19.blogspot.co.uk/

John Lavery (Irish painter, 1856-1941)
Source – http://b-womeninamericanhistory19.blogspot.co.uk/

T. de Thulstrup  July 11, 1885 from Harper's Weekly Source - http://www.philaprintshop.com/nycsport.html

T. de Thulstrup July 11, 1885 from Harper’s Weekly
Source – http://www.philaprintshop.com/nycsport.html

1881 Harper's Bazar Source - Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper's bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

1881 Harper’s Bazar
Source – Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper’s bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

1894 Harper's Bazar Source - Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper's bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

1894 Harper’s Bazar
Source – Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper’s bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

The 'Westward Ho! Ladies' Golf Club At Biddeford, Devon. From The Graphic. London June 7, 1873 Source - http://www.philaprintshop.com/sporting.html

The ‘Westward Ho! Ladies’ Golf Club At Biddeford, Devon. From The Graphic. London June 7, 1873
Source – http://www.philaprintshop.com/sporting.html

The Ladies’ Club 1870's Source - http://dearborn-mi.aauw.net/2012/02/07/the-ladies-club/

The Ladies’ Club 1870’s
Source – http://dearborn-mi.aauw.net/2012/02/07/the-ladies-club/

Riding was also a luxury for the wealthy alone due to the high costs of a horses upkeep and equestrian equipment. A habit was worn while on horseback, this would have included breeches worn underneath a full skirts. Fashion ideals of the period demanded these standards of dress be met to protect a woman’s modesty and reputation. Women were also expected to sit side saddle, a much more elegant and lady like approach to riding at the time, however much more dangerous and strenuous for the rider and required a very well trained, docile horse. Riding habits went through as many taste and styles changes as the day and evening wear of the 1800’s. Nannie Power O’Donoghue, a horsewoman of the 1880’s wrote…

“For dusty roads a black gauze veil will be found useful, but avoid as you would poison, every temptation to wear even the faintest scrap of colour on horseback. All such atrocities as blue and green veils have happily long since vanished, but, even still, a red bow, a gaudy flower stuck in the buttonhole, and oh, horror of horrors! a pocket handkerchief appearing like a miniature fomentation – these still occasionally shock the eyes of sensitive persons and cause us to marvel at the wearer’s bad taste.”

1888 Harper's Bazar Source - Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper's bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

1888 Harper’s Bazar
Source – Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper’s bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Riding Habit 1880's Source - Hennessy, K. 2012. Fashion. London: Dorling Kindersley

Riding Habit 1880’s
Source – Hennessy, K. 2012. Fashion. London: Dorling Kindersley

Riding habit 1885-1886 Source - http://collections.vam.ac.uk/

Riding habit 1885-1886
Source – http://collections.vam.ac.uk/

'The Princess' riding habit, London 1877 Levitt, S. 1986. Victorians unbuttoned. London: Allen & Unwin.

‘The Princess’ riding habit, London 1877
Levitt, S. 1986. Victorians unbuttoned. London: Allen & Unwin.

Croquet, badminton and ping pong were popular with women, a factor being that didn’t have to modify there dress to play these physically undemanding sports, everyday outdoor or walking gowns could be worn.

Irish Croquet Championships 1874 Source - http://theirishaesthete.com/2013/03/30/croquet-at-the-casino/

Irish Croquet Championships 1874
Source – http://theirishaesthete.com/2013/03/30/croquet-at-the-casino/

Cycling boomed in the late 1800’s however the very restricting fashions of the day allowed little movement especially not enough to ride a bicycle! Controversial fashions were introduced these included the bifurcated (split) skirt with breeches worn underneath as with the riding habit or the more daring bloomers. This was met with a mixed opinion of delight and disgust from the masses but in the end women won the fight and the bicycle became a staple sport and past time for men and women alike.

1894 Harper's Bazar Source - Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper's bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

1894 Harper’s Bazar
Source – Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper’s bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc

Cycling suit 1896-98 Source - Hennessy, K. 2012. Fashion. London: Dorling Kindersley

Cycling suit 1896-98
Source – Hennessy, K. 2012. Fashion. London: Dorling Kindersley

Tricycling dress, London 1884 Source - Levitt, S. 1986. Victorians unbuttoned. London: Allen & Unwin.

Tricycling dress, London 1884
Source – Levitt, S. 1986. Victorians unbuttoned. London: Allen & Unwin.

Trips to the seaside became a fashionable activity for the middle and upper classes. Made possible by recent expansive of railways. This came with an outfit to match. Women’s bathing costumes were introduced and dresses, often with a nautical theme, suitably styled for boating yachting and seaside promenading became the expected seaside attire.

1892 Harper's Bazar Source - Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper's bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

1892 Harper’s Bazar
Source – Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper’s bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

1885 Harper's Bazar Source - Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper's bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

1885 Harper’s Bazar
Source – Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper’s bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

1887 Harper's Bazar Source - Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper's bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

1887 Harper’s Bazar
Source – Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper’s bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

1891 Harper's Bazar Source - Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper's bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

1891 Harper’s Bazar
Source – Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper’s bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

The Annual Regatta of the New York Yacht Club, June 10, 1869 from Harper's Weekly Source - http://www.philaprintshop.com/nycsport.html

The Annual Regatta of the New York Yacht Club, June 10, 1869 from Harper’s Weekly
Source – http://www.philaprintshop.com/nycsport.html

Boating dress 1885-88 Source - Hennessy, K. 2012. Fashion. London: Dorling Kindersley

Boating dress 1885-88
Source – Hennessy, K. 2012. Fashion. London: Dorling Kindersley

Roller and ice skating in winter were among other common  sports for men and women alike. Outdoor winter gowns could be worn for ice skating. These would shortened to the ankle to avoid tripping over the hems.

Harpers Bazar 1876 Source – Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper’s bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Harpers Bazar 1876
Source – Blum, S. 1974. Victorian fashions and costumes from Harper’s bazar, 1867-1898. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

In the 1870 archery became a popular and socially accepted sport for upper class women. It was one of the first sports to introduce organised competition for women and club members could compete in regular tournaments.

C.S. Reinhart. Archery Practice on Staten Island August 3, 1878 from Harper's Weekly Source - http://www.philaprintshop.com/nycsport.html

C.S. Reinhart. Archery Practice on Staten Island August 3, 1878 from Harper’s Weekly
Source – http://www.philaprintshop.com/nycsport.html

1885 Archery Source - Costa, D. M. and Guthrie, S. R. 1994. Women and sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

1885 Archery
Source – Costa, D. M. and Guthrie, S. R. 1994. Women and sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

References –http://pinsndls.com/2011/08/14/exhibition-dressed-to-play-sporting-clothes-1870-1900/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_the_Victorian_era

Ebook – Sports and Games of the 18th and 19th Centuries By Robert Crego

http://www.victoriaspast.com/Ladyrider/ladyrider.htm

Ebook – The Sociology of Sports:An Introduction by Tim Delaney, Tim Madigan

Book – Levitt, S. 1986. Victorians unbuttoned. London: Allen & Unwin

Book – Costa, D. M. and Guthrie, S. R. 1994. Women and sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.V

Advertisements