Hot! Phys Ed, c.1918

image from A few months ago I received a bag from my mother-in-law containing some articles of clothing formerly belonging to her mother (my husband’s grandmother), Elrose. Amazingly, Elrose had my mother-in-law when she was a month shy of turning 47 years-old! Born in 1903, Elrose lived on the same land that her parents,  children and grandchildren all lived on in Petaluma. In fact, only until a few years ago, the house that all these generations lived was still in the family and rooms were fairly untouched since the last of my mother-in-law’s generation moved out. 

A long preamble to explain two facts about the garment I’m writing about today: one, Elrose was quite older than most grandmothers tend to be and therefore was a teenager in the mid-to-late 1910s. Two, the fact that the house was in the family’s possession for so long explains why there are still fabulous historical just sort of “around.” 

The garment I’d like to share was Elrose’s uniform from Physical Education class at St. Vincent dePaul High school in Petaluma (the same HS that my husband and I attended). Most likely from between 1916-1920, the outfit is in remarkable condition, without a tear or rip to it! It does actually fit me (tight in the waist and thighs, however), but I’m not quite brave enough to post a picture of me wearing it. It’s a very lightweight garment that I imagine was a delight to wear after the constricting nature of normal street clothes.

image from

While I didn’t make this piece, I know the readers of The Sew Weekly will be as fascinated with the details as I am. I absolutely adore the rick-rack work and believe it should serve as an inspiration of something I decide to make. 



Mena Trott

Mena Trott started The Sew Weekly to document her attempt to sew all of her own clothes in 2010. Since then, she's made over 125 outfits and has way more clothes than she needs.


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  1. How wonderful!

  2. Fantastic! What a marvellous piece of history. :)

  3. You should definitely make something with rick rack trim

  4. I grew up in the same house as my father, so I can relate to having lots of historical stuff around. The collar on the uniform is amazing. I’d love a blouse like that.

  5. This is so incredible. What a fantastic find!

  6. This is amazing! I remember my old PE uniform of T-shirt and windshorts – this is by far an upgrade and probably a lot more flattering!

  7. Ok- that’s awesome. I totally want one to wear in the Summer- it would be cute as a romper!

  8. I love the trimmings! It’s absolutely adorable! That would have actually made me want to take PE in high school. :D

  9. You know how people talk with longing about the old days of beautiful buildings? Look at that PE uniform! People really cared about what they put on, didn’t they? Gorgeous.

  10. Amazing!! After seeing some of the tragic outfits at my local gym, I kind of wish this was still in vogue!

  11. I *hated* my PE shorts & tshirt circa 1983-86. I probably would have liked PE more if I had such a fabulous outfit to wear.

  12. I agree with Ms. Jen. I had to wear all white in the 1970’s when I was taking gym. This is much cuter than any gym suit I have seen.
    Preservation wise it would be great if your MIL had a picture of your GMIL in the suit. How cute that would be.

  13. My grandmothers were just 4 and 5 years younger than Elrose, and I bet one of them wore something very similar to this!
    Maybe in 100 years, someone will want to write about the gym shorts I wore in 7th grade that I still have in a box somewhere. Some of my classmates even signed them at the end of the school year. We were so cool. :)

  14. I dream of having a place with historical stuff just laying around! This is beautiful.

  15. That outfit is just amazing, in both its condition and design! Definitely that intricate collar design and the recrac should serve as inspiration to us all!
    Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

  16. Wow, it is amazing!

  17. Firstly: how neat that you were able to get a piece of family history! I have to admit I have a soft spot for clothes from this era in general, and it’s always nice to see the “utilitarian” clothes that weren’t what the fashion magazines tended to show. But even though it’s a phys-ed outfit, it’s so pretty!
    ♥ Casey | blog

  18. What an incredible find and marvellous thing to have! And it is just so charming, too, for workout clothes!