Bring back some good or bad memories


October 2, 2017

Seven Female Swimmers at the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C., 1920

In the 19th century, women took to the water in long dresses made from fabric that wouldn’t become transparent when submerged. To prevent the garments from floating up to expose any precious calf (or beyond, heaven forbid), some women are thought to have sewn lead weights into the hem to keep the gowns down.

29 May 1920. Bare legs and scanty one piece bathing suits were very much in evidence at the opening of Washingtons municipal bathing beach today. Officials have agreed to disregard as precedents the prohibitory orders issued at Coney Island and Atlantic City. (National Photo Company Collection)

In the mid-19th century and into the early 20th century, bathing dresses continued to cover most of the female figure. Bloomers, popularized by one Amelia Bloomer, were adapted for the water and worn with tunics, all of which were made from heavy, flannel or wool fabric that would weigh down the wearer, not quite convenient for negotiation the surf.


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