Few sports have historically been associated with fashion more than golf. When the modern game made its way from Scotland to the United States in the late 1800s, it led to the creation of the first country clubs, giving young men and women the opportunity to meet and talk together. From its inception, golf has been as much about socializing as it has about athletic excellence, and so golf attire has had to find a balance between form and function.
In the early days of golf, women's fashion lagged far behind the men's in terms of utility. Male golfers were able to wear tailor-made trousers and tee shirts, which provided plenty of freedom of movement, and many selected wide-brimmed hats to keep the sun off their faces. In contrast, women were expected to dress rather impractically in long dresses. Around the turn of the century, some improvements were made with the introduction of shorter skirts and tailored blouses, but the attire was still less than ideal for the twisting and turning required of a serious golfer. It was the 1960s that marked a big change in women's golf fashion. Shifting social norms made it acceptable for women to wear sleeveless tops or blouses on the golf course, which provided maximum freedom of movement for their arms while swinging golf clubs. Some women even opted to wear Bermuda shorts, though these knee-length pants were still far more modest than the short shorts of today. As golf is typically a summer sport, these changes in attire made it much easier for women to cope with hot and sunny conditions and stay out on the course all day long. Note that not every female golfer took part in this change in attire. Indeed, the majority of women still wore skirts and blouses on the course, which were somewhat less functional but substantially more fashionable. Other women opted for cotton shirt dresses, often sleeveless, which were simple, stylish and comfortable at a broad range of temperatures. Cashmere sweaters were popular options for cooler weather.
Perhaps the biggest fashion trend that got its start in the 1960s was the skort. A hybrid garment that consisted of a pair of shorts under a skirt, the skort allowed female golfers to stay fashionable on the course without risking overexposure. Skorts could easily be paired with printed blouses, which were also highly fashionable for women at the time. Indeed, these clothes represented the fusion of form and function that had been so important to golfers throughout the history of the game. As the decade progressed, more and more female golfers opted for skorts in lieu of the more traditional skirts and golf dresses. Skirts became shorter during the 1960s, and having a pair of shorts underneath allowed women to keep wearing these fashionable clothes while swinging golf clubs and still remain completely covered.
For both men and women, golf attire in the 1960s tended to be fairly muted, with few flashy colors. Patterns were likewise simple: Most women opted for solid colors, stripes or plaid, although some golfers chose novelty prints. Because of golf's outdoor setting, hats were also in style during the period. Indeed, a matching hat was often viewed as the finishing touch on a functional and stylish golf ensemble.
As the 1960s drew to a close, women's golf fashion had seen several notable changes that would carry on through the coming years. The skort remained popular, and more and more women started to wear sleeveless tops and Bermuda shorts on golf courses. Cotton golf dresses fell somewhat out of style in favor of more functional clothes, although they have seen something of a renaissance in recent years. Indeed, the 1960s represented a turning point in women's golf fashion, as older, more conservative clothes started to give way to more functional choices of attire. This emphasis on freedom of movement has only grown stronger in the decades since.