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Lois Jett Historic Costume Collection releases new exhibition

short-sleeved dresses used for tennis in the 1970s on mannequins

Sport dresses from the Lois Jett Costume Collection

Bowling shoes from the 1930s with outfits on mannequins in the background

Men’s bowling shoes are part of the newest exhibit of the Lois Jett Historic Costume Collection.

The Lois Jett Historic Costume Collection (LJHCC) in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Illinois State University invites the public to the collection’s newest exhibition, Not Just Jerseys: Sportswear Through History, running through February 2, 2018.

The exhibition features a range of garments for men and women, from those worn for active sports in the early 20th century to garments worn for leisure in the later 20th century. The exhibition was planned and installed by students in the fashion design and merchandising program at Illinois State.

wool one piece swimsuit that stretches down past the knees and loops over the arms

Swimming tights from the early 1910s in the Lois Jett Historic Costume Collection.

Garments worn for active sports include wool swimming tights for women from the 1910s and a man’s baseball jersey from the 1930s. The swimming tights were designed and marketed by Annette Kellerman, a world-famous swimmer from the early 20th century. She advocated swimwear for women in which it was easier to swim, but her skin-baring design was a scandalous departure from typical bathing costumes for women at the time. The baseball jersey was worn as part of a Peoria, IL team called “Farmers Livestock.” The wool striped garment contrasts today with lighter, easy-to-wash fabrics that are a part of most baseball players’ uniforms.

“Sportswear has meant many things over the last century,” notes Jennifer Banning, director of the LJHCC. “In the early 20th century, sportswear referred to items of dress worn to participate in active sports, like golf, tennis, swimming, and baseball. As these sports became spectator events, a new category of dress to be worn while watching sports evolved: sportswear.”

sweater and shell on a mannequin

A 1970s sweater set in the Lois Jett Costume Historic Collection.

Banning notes that after World War II the rise in leisure time influenced Americans to increase sportswear in their closets as they relaxed in their backyards on weekends. “By the 1970s, easy-care fabrics such as double knit polyester resulted in larger portions of wardrobes dedicated to the comfort of sportswear for more than just weekend lounging,” said Banning. “Today, sportswear is the backbone of most American wardrobes.”

Garments representing these different time periods of sportswear can be seen in the current exhibition.

The LJHCC was created in 1962 by Lois Jett, a professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. Over the years, the collection has expanded to more than 2,000 items of men’s, women’s, and children’s dress and related artifacts dating from the 1840s to today.

This free exhibition is located in 126 Turner Hall on Illinois State’s campus and is open to the campus and surrounding community. Gallery hours are Tuesday and Thursdays from 10 a.m.-noon through December 8. Other times may be scheduled Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., by calling (309) 438-5960.

For more information on the exhibition, contact Jennifer Banning.

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