Wednesday, May 26, 2010
To the Seashore
In developing summer wear for the Girls, I have been on a delightful excursion to Swimsuit seasons of long ago. While ladies of yesteryear did not have to worry about pesky cellulite, they were probably all-too conscious of their “bathing costumes” while wearing them. Made of heavy flannel and later wool through the 1920’s, it is unlikely they were very comfortable –particularly when wet. As these garments were not made for swimming, lounging in the sand or wading at the shoreline whilst holding on to safety ropes was the extent of the activity.
Going to the Seaside first became a popular destination in the 1800’s. The railroads made travel possible for many families. At first, women wore walking dresses to take in the air while protecting their modesty and complexions, while keeping a doting watch as their loved ones cavorted. These outfits were almost indistinguishable from regular attire. Men and boys had much more freedom, as well as young girls to some extent.
By the latter 1860’s’s, bathing dresses began to appear. Full, shorter dresses worn with ankle-length bloomers and bonnets. As fashions grew less restrictive at the start of the 20th century, the bloomers soared to about knee-high, but still assured skin was covered with dark stockings.
By the 1910’s, sleeves were short and the bathing skirt was optional, but lingered for at least another 20 years. The 1920’s ushered in one-piece form-fitting suits, and women were at last able to enjoy unrestricted movement in the water. It was around this same time period that sunbathing, allowing the skin to tan first became fashionable.
Of course, decorum had to be maintained, and as in this 1934 photo, ladies might be subject to officials measuring for the required length above the knee –not a bad job for many a fellow. Hems no higher than 6" above the knee, or risk indecent exposure & fines.
Still, the beach is the beach! After all, this was the age of the corset, which hung on until the Flappers said, "no more". What might look restrictive to us, probably felt quite carefree. I didn’t see any frowns in my photographic research.