Victorians at the Seashore

Victorians at the Seashore

 APPEALING IN A BATHING SUIT? OR NOT?

unattractive in bathing suits. Detroit Free Press. Detroit MI. 22 Jul 1875

Detroit Free Press of Detroit, Michigan, on July 22, 1875.

…Why is it that a woman whose male escort has urged her to sport in the festive surf will go into the water ankle deep, give a little scream and refuse to go a foot further? Here is one invading delicate ground. There never has been an instance of a woman of fine physical proportions refusing to show them in a wet, clinging bathing suit, but there are numerous instances of women made up by the dressmaker who do not wish a beau to know how much he is to marry of what he externally sees.

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~ The Topeka State Journal of Topeka, Kansas on November 25, 1881

Reading Times of Reading, Pennsylvania on June 29, 1876.

Reading Times of Reading, Pennsylvania on June 29, 1876.

BEAT THE HEAT

It’s hot. Late July in northern Utah sees temperatures hovering near 100º (my New England friends would argue “but it’s a dry heat”…and yes, it is). Several commercial water parks in my area see hundreds (thousands?) of paid patrons a day. Kids run through the sprinklers. Moms fill kiddie pools, even adding a block of ice when the water sits in the sun too long and is no longer refreshing. I’ve seen pregnant women sitting in their complex’s swimming pool, up to their necks (buoyancy and cool water are a welcome relief).

Our Victorian ancestors were no different–in some ways, and very different in others. When railways made travel to the seashores (or lakes) significantly easier, it became quite the Victorian pastime to spend time on the coast (or neat bodies of water) where the breezes were cooler and the wading pleasant.

live in the sunshine, swim in the sea

VICTORIAN BATHING SUITS

Bathing Suits offered in the Bloomingdale's Catalog, 1886.

Bathing Suits offered in the Bloomingdale’s Catalog, 1886.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch of St. Louis, Missouri on August 24, 1882.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch of St. Louis, Missouri on August 24, 1882.

Bathing Suits offered in the Montgomery Ward & Co. 1895 Spring and Summer Catalog.

Bathing Suits offered in the Montgomery Ward & Co. 1895 Spring and Summer Catalog.

Men's flannel bathing suit circa 1860-1870, image, courtesy of The McCord Museum, via Pinterest.

Men’s flannel bathing suit circa 1860-1870, image, courtesy of The McCord Museum, via Pinterest.

Interestingly enough, no American catalogue of the late 19th century (other than Bloomingdale’s) offered (or showed) Women’s bathing suits. Only men’s, including just trunks (the primary purpose of which was athletics). The men’s trunks could be worn with an athletic shirt for swimming attire.

"Knee tights" (for exercise" make good swim trunks, or so says the Montgomery Ward & Co. catalog of 1895.

“Knee tights” (for exercise” make good swim trunks, or so says the Montgomery Ward & Co. catalog of 1895.

Lifeguards at Atlantic City, New Jersey. Image from Pinterest.

Lifeguards at Atlantic City, New Jersey. Image from Pinterest.

VICTORIAN ATTITUDES TOWARD BATHING SUITS

The “Jersey bathing suit,” worn at the fashionable bathing resorts this season, fits the body like a glove and is armless and descends only to the knees, where a knot of ribbon adds a little ornamentation. The material is of any color, and of closely woven fabric. People who find fault with the shapely outlines revealed by this style of bathing dress are regarded as prudes and run out of polite society.

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~ Atchison Daily Patriot of Atchison, Kansas, on August 15, 1883

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The Parsons Weekly Sun of Parsons, Kansas on July 29, 1880.

The Parsons Weekly Sun of Parsons, Kansas on July 29, 1880.

VICTORIAN LADIES IN THE SEA

Mysteries of the surf 1. The Fort Wayne Sentinel. Fort Wayne, Indiana. 23 Aug 1882

Part 1. The Fort Wayne Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Indiana on August 23, 1882.

Mysteries of the surf 2. The Fort Wayne Sentinel. Fort Wayne, Indiana. 23 Aug 1882

Part 2. The Fort Wayne Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Indiana on August 23, 1882.

Mysteries of the surf 3. The Fort Wayne Sentinel. Fort Wayne, Indiana. 23 Aug 1882

Part 3. The Fort Wayne Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Indiana, on August 23, 1882.

VICTORIAN BATHING MACHINES

Victorian Bathing Machines. Saved from mentalfloss to Pinterest.

Victorian Bathing Machines. Saved from mentalfloss to Pinterest.

Queen Victoria, whom nearly everyone wished to emulate (at least as far as fashion goes) had her own Bathing Machine.

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine, via Pinterest.

Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine, via Pinterest.

BUT IS IT SAFE TO BATHE IN THE SEA?

Bathinig Tragedy 1. Boston Post. 12 Jul 1875

Part 1. Boston Post of Boston, Massachusetts on July 12, 1875.

Bathinig Tragedy 2. Boston Post. 12 Jul 1875

Part 2. Boston Post of Boston, Massachusetts on July 12, 1875.

What do you like most about time spent at the shore_

Please share this post with those you know who might find it of interest.

You’re welcome to scroll down and leave a comment, or perhaps answer my question: What do you enjoy most about time spent at the shore?

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19th Century Bathing Costumes from Harper’s Bazaar Victorian Summer Resorts Stereoscopes: Victorian Photograph Viewing How Did Victorian Stockings Stay Up? Lady Victoria(n)’s Secret Victorian Ladies Underwear Mail-Order Catalogs: Timeline & Truth Mail-Order Catalogs in the Old West Great Hurricane, Galveston, TX (September 8, 1900)

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Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt, LC

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