Current Exhibition

Sporting Fashion: Outdoor Girls 1800 to 1960

The first exhibition to explore the evolution of women’s sporting attire in Western fashion over this 160-year period, drawn from the exceptional collections of the FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles.

Sporting Fashion: Outdoor Girls 1800 to 1960 will be the first exhibition to explore the evolution of women’s sporting attire in Western fashion over this 160-year period. Beginning with the turn of the nineteenth century, when women ventured outside the domestic sphere to partake in outdoor activities, and concluding with the mid-twentieth century, when the basic forms of women’s sportswear we know today were codified, this exhibition will trace the accessories and garments that defined women’s participation in the sporting world as athletes and spectators. Examining the competing priorities of fashion, function, and propriety, Sporting Fashion will feature approximately 65 fully accessorized ensembles and a selection of sport-related accessories and ephemera, all drawn from the exceptional collections of the FIDM Museum. This exhibition represents an unprecedented opportunity for a significant portion of the FIDM Museum’s extensive holdings, which are marked by their outstanding design merit, to be seen outside of Los Angeles.

The subtitle Outdoor Girls is inspired by the printed script on a circa 1946 wool scarf, which depicts women engaged in thirteen different sports, including golf, horseback riding, ice skating, and tennis. This exhibition will include ensembles worn for these and over forty other outdoor activities over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, each carefully assembled based upon extensive primary source research. The exhibition’s broad definition of sport will include any activity that required physical exertion—from traveling to calisthenics, and motorcycling to promenading. The exhibition will feature accessories from long-established sportswear brands, such as Keds, Pendleton, and Spalding, and garments by key designers, such as Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, Claire McCardell, and Jean Patou.

Organized into eight themes defined by sport location, Sporting Fashion will explore how clothing met the needs of new pursuits for women, while at the same time it could preserve their socially approved, restricted mobility. Garments for swimming, surfing, and tanning will illustrate how innovative designers and manufacturers responded to the increasing acceptance of exposed skin at beaches and pools; winter sports ensembles will show how apparel for pastimes such as skiing and ice-skating protected female participants from the elements; and ensembles for cycling, motoring, and flying—often adapted from men’s athletic gear—will reveal how women navigated open roads and skies. To complement the artifacts on view, period films, a timeline of key events, and short biographies of important sportswomen will further situate sporting fashion in the broader context of women’s social history.



The Frick Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
July 3 – September 26, 2021
Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN
July 28 – October 16, 2022
Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IA
February 11–May 7, 2023
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, NY
June 23 – September 17, 2023
Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, OH
October 14, 2023 – January 14, 2024
Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville, FL
February 24 – May 19, 2024


For booking information, contact Russell Lord at


The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, which provides both a stunning visual record of the garments on display and an important point of reference for further research into women’s sporting attire. The catalogue opens with a preface by Serena Williams, offering a contemporary, personal perspective on the role of fashion in sport, and features an introductory essay and a catalogue entry on each ensemble in the exhibition, co-written by curators Kevin L. Jones and Christina M. Johnson.

Publication available for purchase here.

Guest Curators

Kevin L. Jones began his career at the FIDM Museum in 1999 and has served as Curator since 2002. Christina M. Johnson began her career at the FIDM Museum in 2003 and has served as Associate Curator since 2010. Together, Jones and Johnson have curated such exhibitions as High Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture (2009), FABULOUS! Ten Years of FIDM Museum Acquisitions, 2000–2010 (2011), and in 2013, they organized Modern Love: Fashion Visionaries from the FIDM Museum, LA for Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia.


Sporting Fashion: Outdoor Girls 1800 to 1960 is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles.

Support for the national tour is provided by the AFA’s Gold Medal Circle: Elizabeth Belfer, Stephanie Borynack Clark, Ashleigh Fernandez, Lee White Galvis, Stephanie R. LaNasa, Merrill Mahan, Clare E. McKeon, Jennifer New, Angela Timasheva, and Victoria E. Triplett.