Convertible, multiple and hidden: The inventive lives of women’s sport and activewear 1890–1940

Jungnickel, Kat. 2024. Convertible, multiple and hidden: The inventive lives of women’s sport and activewear 1890–1940. Sociological Review, 72(3), pp. 588-610. ISSN 0038-0261 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Who gets to be ‘sporty’ and active in public is an enduring topic of socio-political debate. Disparities in participation continue from limited access, support and funding to ill-fitting equipment and clothing. This article focuses on the latter. Women have long been disproportionally restricted and harassed in public space not only in relation to how, where and when they move but also what they wear. I approach this issue via a unique data source - global clothing inventions from 1890 to 1940. Analysing convertible, multiple, and hidden clothing patents, by and for women, reveal how inventors tackled these problems from the ground up and, often secretly, from the inside out. I suggest these data might be read as acts of resistance, enabling wearers to move and inhabit spaces in new ways, engage in a wider range of activities and make claims to equal public participation and mobility rights otherwise denied them. Overall, I argue that historic clothing inventions invite us below the surface of conventional sporting histories, expand ideas around the potential of sporty and active women, and, in turn, imagine what kinds of inclusive and imaginative sporting and active citizens might be possible.

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Funding statement: This article is part of the project ‘Politics of Patents: Re-imagining Citizenship via Clothing Inventions 1820-2020’ which has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant agreement No. 819584)


citizenship, clothing, gender, invention, secret, sport

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5 January 2023Accepted
1 March 2023Published Online
May 2024Published

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Date Deposited:

11 Jan 2023 09:44

Last Modified:

17 May 2024 02:04

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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