Here’s a “hot” number for beach attire - a woman’s lovely two piece bathing suit, 1890s. All made of deep blue wool, the shirt and pants are one piece with a gathered overskirt for modesty. The white trim is cotton twill tape, giving it a nautical flair. To complete the look, our bather would have worn a gathered cap, stockings, bathing shoes and perhaps a corset! Be sure to see the archival photographs from our collection in this posting to see how the ensemble would have looked.

In the 19th century, men had more freedom to actually swim, while women generally went “bathing”, by taking a dip in the water, fully clothed. As late as the 1870s, public beaches had separate times for men and women to “bathe.” By the 1890s, attitudes towards female swimming were changing and the skirt could be removed for more active swimming. Women’s swimming events were added to the 1912 Olympic games in Stockholm. Real swimsuit changes occurred in the 1920s and 1930s when suntans became fashionable and new knitted fabrics were introduced.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our new Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday