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Munson summer exhibition explores evolution of women’s sporting attire

“Sporting Fashion: Outdoor Girls 1800 to 1960” is on view June 23 through Sept. 17 at Munson Museum of Art

UTICA: Munson announces the opening of its summer exhibition, “Sporting Fashion: Outdoor Girls 1800 to 1960,” which highlights ensembles that defined women’s participation in the sporting world. The exhibition, one of the largest the Museum of Art has offered, is on view June 23 through Sept. 17. 

Organized by the American Federation of Arts and the FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles, “Sporting Fashion” is the first exhibition to explore the evolution of women’s sporting attire in Western fashion over this 160-year period. 

“Sporting Fashion” includes 65 fully accessorized ensembles by long-established brands such as Champion, Balenciaga, Chanel, and others. Motorcycle ensembles, ski attire and bowling outfits will be on display, using authentic apparel to illustrate changing interests, freedoms and social norms. The exhibition also highlights the lives and accomplishments of several pioneering women in sports. 

“’Sporting Fashion’ brings together more than 150 years of incredibly innovative designs that allowed women to take an active role in sports and leisure activities. These fashions reflect the advances made by women seeking an equal role in society,” said Stephen Harrison, Munson Museum of Art director and chief curator. 

“Sporting Fashion” explores how clothing met the needs of new pursuits for women, while at the same time preserving their socially approved, restricted mobility. For example, garments for swimming and tanning illustrate the increasing acceptance of exposed skin at beaches and pools; winter sports ensembles show how apparel for activities 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—reveal how women navigated open roads and skies. 


The exhibition is organized into six themed categories:

Stepping Outdoors illustrates how women dressed for leisurely outdoor pursuits in the early 1800s. 

Taking the Reins represents traditions of riding and wrangling horses.

Making Waves explores how designers reacted to and encouraged the growing acceptance of bare skin at public beaches and pools.

Sub Zero Style: Surveys numerous activities on snowy slopes and frozen rinks.

Wheels and Wings: Traces women’s ventures into the previously male-dominated realm of travel via road and sky.

A Team Effort celebrates female athleticism and competition, and considers the development of regulation uniforms on courts, fields and gyms.

Exhibition admission is free for Munson members, children younger than 12, active duty military, and members of The Center. General admission is $12. For more information, visit Munson Museum of Art is at 310 Genesee St. in Utica. 

Support for Sporting Fashion has been generously provided by Richard and Constance Griffith; Elizabeth R. Lemieux, Ph.D.; the Family of F.X. Matt II; Joseph A. Abraham; Cheryl and Fred Haritatos; the Hon. Joan E. Shkane (ret.); and the David E. and Jane B. Sayre Bryant Endowment Fund.

Utica Phoenix Staff
Utica Phoenix Staff
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