'Save the long skirt': women, sports, and fashion in Third Republic and Vichy France

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Following the First World War, opportunities for female French athletes expanded as women organized sporting associations, competed in new sports including soccer and rugby, and founded their own athletic federation. The French feminist movement also enjoyed considerable success during the interwar period, winning greater educational, legal, and political freedoms. The concurrent rise of French women’s sport and the feminist movement encouraged scholars to create teleological links between these two liberatory trends, but scholarly wisdom that links French feminism and sports relies upon a narrative of linearity that was not apparent in the lived experience of female athletes. Sartorial discourses and practices from the 1920s through the Vichy period show that despite the increasing popularity of women’s sports, and the supposedly transgressive fashions that accompanied them, women’s athletics in France was rarely revolutionary. Sportswomen, moderate French feminists, and social conservatives all promoted women’s sports in normative ways, stressing sport’s role in helping women to succeed in their natural duties as mothers and wives. The most visually transgressive hemlines for sportswomen finally took hold during the Vichy regime when conservatives promoted shorter shorts and form fitting shirts to bolster natalist policies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-319
Number of pages26
JournalThe International Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • France
  • gender
  • dress
  • feminism
  • women


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