Fashion and Golf, 1901

The conflicting demands of sports and fashion have vexed Nebraska women at least since the days of the bicycle craze in the 1890s. The Omaha Daily News of February 3, 1901, reported an unpleasant choice confronting Omaha women that season.

“Which shall it be, angel sleeves or golf?” asked the News with an accompanying sketch depicting a garment with long wide sleeves worn loose from the shoulder. “This is the question which will very soon trouble the mind of Omaha’s athletic and yet style-loving girl. . . .

“Now what is the girl who played golf all last summer with her shirtwaist sleeves rolled way above the elbow going to do to look respectable in this new style? She cannot wear them with her arms in such a condition. That would be out of the question and still she does hate to play golf with long sleeves. In fact, it is not good for the appearance of the forearm to play the game at all. It makes the muscles so prominent and makes the knuckles and wrists big.

“Heretofore, the summer gowns have had sleeves of lace and the defects in the arm were nearly hidden; and even if they were not, it was simple enough to insert a lining of white chiffon to make them look white and pretty. Now the owners of red, knotty or coarse skinned arms will have to be out of style, . . .

“But no [cosmetic] artist will undertake to beautify the arms if her subject persists in playing golf. It is quite impossible. Neither can she row or play tennis or bowl or drive. In fact many of the women who are determined to wear the angel sleeves and wear them artistically, have stopped carrying their pocketbooks and holding up their skirts even. And to lean on their elbows is a crime.

“The society girls of Omaha played all last summer at their favorite game, in the hottest sun, and had their sleeves rolled way up, so that the skin has become just like leather. At first it burned and blistered. Then it hardened and browned, so that even now, after several months of civilized treatment, the skin of Omaha’s society girls’ arms is not what would look well with angel sleeves. . . . It is to be seen whether or not the Omaha girl will follow style or golf this summer; she cannot do both and look pretty.”

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