History of Bathing Suits

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There were varieties of style and color in Victorian and turn-of-the-century bathing suits. During the early s, people flocked to oceanside beaches for popular seaside activities as swimming, surf bathing.
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18th Century:

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These beach shoes were made of soles of twisted straw or felt with embroidered serge or crash tops and laces. They were often available at seaside places. To make a fashion statement, the wearer would add some embellishment such as a piece of scarlet braid turned into rosettes or bows.

Ribbon was also added to felt shoes and crossed over the foot and ankle, then tied above it in a bow with short ends. The bathing shoes shown to the left are tied up with pink laces. Below are s bathing slippers shown right made of white canvas trimmed with red braiding and bathing shoes shown left made of Turkish toweling bound with blue braid. By the end of the 19th century people were flocking to the oceanside beaches for popular seaside activities such as swimming, surf bathing, and diving.

The clumsy Victorian-style bathing costumes were becoming burdensome. A need for a new style bathing suits that retained modesty but was free enough to allow the young lady to engage in swimming was obvious. By bathing suits no longer camouflaged the contours of the female body. The yards of fabric used in Victorian bathing skirts and bloomers were reduced to show a little more of the figure and to allow for exposure to the sun.

Up until the first decades of the 20th century, the only activity for women in the ocean involved jumping through the waves while holding on to a rope attached to an off-shore bouy. By , women athletes started to share the actual sport of swimming with men and thus began to reduce the amount of heavy fabric used in their billowing swimsuits. Though matching stockings were still worn, vintage swimwear began to shrink and more and more flesh was exposed from the bottom of the trunks to the tops of the stockings.

In the early 20th century, vintage bathing suits came in various color combinations. Styles included two-piece swimsuits consisting of jersey shirts and flannel trousers. Vintage Collecting Software allows collectors of antique and vintage clothing, hats, jewelry and more keep a visual record of the appearance and condition of each of their treasured vintage items. Users can create as many collections as needed with a single copy of the software.

The Bathing Machine The etiquette of Victorian beaches and swimming. Vintage Beach Photos Collection featuring a vintage look at vacationers and beachgoers from the early s to the s. History of Bathing Suits. Bathing is a sport Enjoyed by great and small In suits of any sort Though better none at all. An fashion magazine describes the proper attire: Fashionable Sea-Side Walking Dress - La Belle Assemblee Fashions , Sept "A gown of white French cambric, or pale pink muslin, with long sleeves, and antique cuffs of thin white muslin worn over trowsers of white French cambric, which are trimmed the same as the bottom of the dress.

While the main lines in a bathing suit changed little from year to year, the style of trimming and material of the suit varied with succeeding summers. The same basic model was used as a foundation for various styles of ornamentation. Most bathing suit patterns included a blouse, knickerbockers, and skirt.

The most used material was mohair although silk taffetas were also popular. A good quality mohair would be chosen and shrunk before it was cut. Typically about 9 yards of fabric was required to complete the outfit. The trimming, if it was wool or mohair, was shrunk also to avoid puckering. Bias folds of a contrasting mohair or serge, or hercules braid were commonly used for the trimming. A bias striped trimming was particularly effective.

This black mohair bathing suit features short puff sleeves and an ivory white collar bordered with polka-dotted white mohair. A broad band of the polka dot material encircles the lower edge of the skirt. The rolling collar, belt and bands on the short puffed sleeves were of plain black taffetas.

The handkerchief was tied above the forehead in a smart knot with ends of the same silk. Black silk stockings and black leather sandals laced with white silk cord completed this attractive costume. Another costume in the same style featured lilac taffetas, with black taffetas trimmings and was worn with a lilac silk bandanna polka-dotted with small black dots. The stockings were of plain lilac silk, and the sandals were black leather laced with lilac cord.

The magazine also featured a white mohair bathing suit made with a Russian blouse effect that had a light blue silk trimming down the front, the belt, buttons and bandanna. White silk stockings and white leather sandals completed this dainty costume, which was especially designed for a young wearer.

Among the many other costumes was one of sea green silk. The sailor collar, stockings, sandals and belt were of green, one shade darker in color. The bandanna was of the same color of green, with a border of medium-sized polka dots in white. The effect was a delightfully cool one, for the suit looked like a bit of the sea tipped with foam.

Shown is a stylish bathing suit of red flannel serge with a white sailor collar, girdle and sleevebands edged in blue silk tape. Another suit features a wide stitched girdle to which the blouse and skirt parts are attached. The girdle holds the suit well in place while it gives perfect freedom to the body in swimming.

It is lined with a firm muslin and stitched through and through. A quality mohair is used and shrunk before it is cut. Long bathing coats were also popular at the seashore resorts. These coats were generally worn from the bathhouse to the water's edge, and were put on again when leaving the water.

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