D.A.M. week two: Exercise and Social Connections!


Exercise is a great mood-booster even if you’re not depressed/anxious.  In addition to last week’s tips, getting someone out of the house for a brisk walk can be SO helpful.  Yes, even if they’re trudging along behind you muttering, “I said I wanted to stay home.  I want to go home.  I can’t do this.”


Continuing in the vein of vintage patterns, this week’s is a mid-century gym suit.  Doing a quick google search, it seems something similar to these one-piece uniforms were the norm for quite a while, from maybe the late 1940s through at least the mid-1960s, when my mom was in high school. This blue color seems to have been regulation in most of the country, with obligatory embroidery of your name on it.  Anyone live during the era of these gym suits and want to share “fond memories” (I say that in the most sarcastic tone possible) or info about color/style?

In plain solid colors, it will make a great historical gym uniform for Molly/Emily, Mary Ellen or Melody.   

This was kind of a time-consuming pattern to figure out and sew, and normally I put such things on etsy rather than free on the blog.  In lieu of payment, if you download this pattern please get SOMEONE outside with you a few times this week to exercise!  You’ll be boosting mood AND creating/reinforcing a social connection – both of which are essential to good mental health.

A podcast you might like that explores our attitudes toward exercise and motivates you can be accessed here:  http://www.wbur.org/magicpill.  You can even sign up for a 21-day motivational email-a-day to get you exercising!  I haven’t heard them all yet, but episode 2 did have a sentence or two not suitable for children, so it might be best to read or listen with headphones if you have kids in the room.

Disclaimer: I’m a doll blogger, not a mental health professional. Please seek professional help if you think you need it! There are lots of links here and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

43 responses »

  1. She looks very cute. We, in Britain, had equally annoying gym kits and why was it that Phys ed teachers always needed us labelled? All my other teachers could learn our names, but not the PE staff!
    I can look back with sentiment on my Greek dance tunic and bloomers, box pleat games shorts and the navy knickers and yellow tee get up for gym, but I HATED them at the time!

    Could I translate this pattern for a slimmer doll? Mine are now all toned and fit – vinyl bodied Zwergnase and Gotz girls but one would look cute in this…..

    …Nuala, you came from the US…..it should be for you……Now, where has that doll child got to?? What does she mean by saying she hates PE??

    • I would think it could be made to fit by making the waistband more snug. Those suits never fit correctly anyway!

  2. Thank you soooo much. This is just adorable. I grew up in the 50’s/60’s era, and this was well before my time (my mother grew up in the 20’s/30’s and I remember her talking about having to wear bloomers for gym class). We used to wear navy blue (maybe poplin?) cuffed short shorts and white broadcloth gym shirts–really thrilling. You had to tuck the shirt it–no tails showing or anything. I was really skinny then and it wasn’t even flattering on my non-shape. This outfit is so cute, though, Melody is already clamoring for one. Maybe her school goes in for the retro retro look?

  3. Thank you for sharing this design. I will admit that it’s so dead on to the hated gym suit of my youth that I almost broke out in hives when I opening this email! Our school colors were red and white, so our suits were red. I started out wearing a “hand me down from a cousin” exposed bloomer version and then moved on to the attached shorts over bloomer style. These fit no one! I had my full height (5′ 8″) by grade five and these were still too long for me with the waistline hanging somewhere around mid-hip. I always suspected that the measurements for these was based on a gorilla instead of humans. I don’t remember anyone embroidering their name on these. I guess we all hoped they would go missing.

  4. OMG I wore these in 1964 and 65, in 7th and 8th grade!! I hated them. Ours were white , sleeveless ( being in Miami ) and had elastic at the legs. I have to make one of these!

  5. 1969, Santa Fe, seventh grade. There were snaps up the front and on the cuffs to tighten them. Also elastic under the belt. These things fit none of us and sure didn’t make us feel lovely, especially this stick of a girl. It looks adorable on the doll. Thanks for the pattern.

    And that is so true about exercise being a mood lifter. My husband already gets plenty on the farm so I’ll try to get myself out a couple of times this week.

  6. I do remember these gym suits. Ours was navy blue and our school colors were navy blue and gold. I hated them and so did the other girls.

  7. I wore this gym suit in the 60s, up until grade 8. I can’t remember if I continued to after that point as I changed schools and things might have been different. We had elastic in the legs I’m pretty sure. I remember them being too short in the crotch by year’s end and therefore not very comfortable to wear. Ours were also blue, but I believe, darker. I have often thought of making the doll one of these so thanks for saving me the trouble by designing a pattern for me. I will honour your request and get outside for a walk in these beautiful fall colours here in Muskoka, Ontario.

  8. Well, that was a step back in time…middle school 1967. Big difference was ours did not have the cut duff on the bottom, nor belt and were Facebook blue. Just the flattering clothing all insecure young teen girls craved :-(.

  9. I had to laugh when I saw this, as it brought back memories of wearing a similar gym suit back in middle school in Alabama. We had a very rare occurrence of snow start just when dressing for gym class, and some of us who had quickly changed into our gym suite ran outside to briefly experience it. Our teacher was NOT pleased. We each had to write out 500 times, “I will not go out in the snow in my gym suit!”

  10. They were still worn in elementary school into the early 1970’s – we had these at my school, in a yuck khaki green.

  11. Green and shorts legs straight. Clean and pressed for Monday physical education class. Wore from 1965 to 1971. Name could be marker. Embroidery not required.

  12. We wore these in the late 60s, however the bloomer legs were created by ripping out the stitching in the cuff. They looked more like very short cuffed shorts with the gathered leg inside for “modesty”. They were hideous, but somehow you have made them cute! Great job!

  13. Thank you for today’s gym suit and all of your free patterns. FREE always helps with my depression!

    By time I graduated from high school in 1967, we were wearing a much different uniform of a pair of knee length blue pants (shorts optional) with a white top that had a matching blue collar. Our names were embroidered over the pocket. That was great for learning names of the girls in your class and for lost and found items that didn’t make it to your locker. It seemed as if freshmen and sophomores were always outside while the juniors and seniors got to play volleyball inside the gym. The field was still wet with dew at the time I had gym. Our feet would get cold and wet through the canvas shoes we were wearing. To combat that, we put plastic bags over our socks.

    I think it was in the 70’s when jump suits became popular. If you cut the leg straight down and lenghten it to the ankle you could easily adapt this pattern. The only drawback to wearing a jumpsuit was when you needed the bathroom. All those buttons! A zipper down the back was impossible and it usually had a belt to unbuckle or untie. My favorite zipped up the front.

    • Oh my, you’re right. I had forgotten about those jumpsuits and how hard they were to get in and out of. This pattern could easily be converted into one of those. Thanks for the idea.

  14. I recall my gym uniform being a very ugly green; just slightly darker than the shade of green I associate with walls in hospital rooms. I was always the last kid picked to be on a team, so perhaps my memories are skewed by my genuine dislike of PE class, and total lack of coordination!

  15. Really had to laugh. How well I remember those gym suits. Pretty awful. Ours were a bit darker in blue color and the legs had elastic not bands. 7th grade in 1961. I was so happy to move on to high school and take dance. Leotards and ballet shoes were much nicer.
    Great pattern. Love it.

  16. Thanks so much for the note (and pattern) of encouragement with enough motivation to get me moving and take someone along for the ride! You are so thoughtful and generous – what a blessing.

  17. Oh my eyes, my eyes! I wore one of these (think thin blue crumpled material, no name embroidered) they are the most unflattering thing on every body type. To be period perfect they need to be so thin that the bloomer parts ride up you legs or hang down to your knees with tired elastic. Think about trudging out to the gym in middle school in front of the boys (who are wearing normal gym shorts and t-shirts.) Looks cute on your doll though! You are the best Jen.

  18. Oh my, what memories that gym suit brings back. I did indeed wear that for my gym classes in grade school and hated it every time I had to put it on. It was made out of 100% polyester so it didn’t hold any creases meaning it had scratchy rough seam allowances. My mother was very frugal and saved all the clothes from the older child for the younger one. My sister wore it first then I got the honour of wearing it once it ‘fit’ me. To put that into perspective what my sister wore in grade school didn’t really fit me until I was in high school, so my mother sewed tucks and darts into the body of the suit so I didn’t look too much like an unstuffed pillow. I remember the belt wrapped around with quite a lot of overlap which couldn’t be cut off in case I had a ‘growth spurt’ and would need the extra length. I was over the moon when high school started with a gym strip consisting of tee shirt and shorts (again made of polyester with painful scratchy seam allowances). To this day I stay away from that colour blue and now I think I understand why.
    Thank you for the memories and the pattern!

  19. HI,

    I can’t seem to download the gym suit pattern. I get a paragraph or two and then it stops downloading. Don’t know if it is just me and my internet connection or something else.

    I wore one of these blue gym suits in 7th grade. By the beginning of 8th grade we had new uniforms consisting of a nice boatneck tee with short sleeves and shorts. So much more comfortable and a lot easier to get in and out of quickly for gym class.

  20. Thank you so much for the pattern Jen.
    In late August I was having some lower back pain. First on my left side, but I kept up my exercise routine. (I basically did a variety of exercises from yoga to spinning, with both of those being taught by my most favorite instructors) My yoga instructor was going on a two week retreat, and since I’m generally not crazy about his subs AND I just thought I would just mix it up, I decided to do a weight class for a change – BIG MISTAKE!!!!
    Long story short, I had been regularly exercising on average 8 hours per week, but then I did that weight class, and a week later, helped move my daughter into her apartment at the end of Aug – BIGGER MISTAKE!!!! I’ve been suffering with back pains pretty much ever since. And that 8 hours/wk had been going on steady since about 2000! You’re right about exercise and depression. It’s SO frustrating to not be able to exercise, and when I DO, I see myself headed back to not being able to move at all again!!!
    Hoping to get back to it, and convince the hubby to join me, when I can.

  21. these suits were not comfortable for long torso girls, I guess this is where my unhappy relationship with jump-suit style started…but this will be really cute for my daughter’s Molly.

  22. I wish my mom was alive, she’d have loved this doll and this outfit as she grew up during this era. I will be sure to label all of mine Katie in hr honor though.

  23. Thankfully I have no personal memories of these — somehow we escaped in my tiny town – YAY! No fond memories of gym class in high school either — hated it! Do enjoy walking w/dear hubby when we can though and I’m off to do just that now. Thanks again, Jen, for this fun pattern!

  24. Being a tad younger, and being Canadian, I didn’t experience those gym suits, just shorts and t-shirts. But it was fun to read your memories and how you pretty much all agree with not liking them in the past (but loving it on Melody!). Thank you for this pattern! I love how the top is made!

  25. I do love the look of this jumpsuit. I hated the darn things in school,fortunately only had to wear it in grade eight and nine. We got shorts and t-shirts after that. I too have a longer torso and the nasty thing was always creeping up my butt. It will be fun to make this, thanks Jen.

  26. Thank you for this pattern . I completed my fitbit daily goal challenge of having 10000 steps per day for last week and continuing. Love your posts.

  27. Oh horrors, I wore one of those in kelly green! The boys got to wear green shorts with yellow trim, and that was kind of hilarious because in the late fifties Canadian teenage boys just DID NOT wear shorts, so what you saw on the playing fields were skinny, white, hairy legs….

    At least we didn’t have to have our name embroidered on our gym uniforms!

  28. Thanks Jen. Cute pattern! Just wanted to leave a comment that the real gift was THE MAGIC PILL. I enjoyed 21 twenty-minute podcasts while I walked. Entertaining and motivating. Now I’m listening to the TED podcasts. I think of you every morning on my walks; it’s like we’re walking together.

  29. Thank you for your kindness in helping me to remember to take care of others and myself as well. Exercise, especially outdoors is so refreshing.

  30. In the mid 80’s our new middle school was completed and they had these suits in bright orange & blue in the gym. They also added them to our junior high so I had about 5 years of wearing them. As a protest (I hate tight elastic) my bf and I would find the largest size and we wore them. Coaches always complained we should wear “our” size but we never did.

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