With the introduction of railways in the early 1800s, the seaside emerged as a popular destination for vacationers from all classes. Still, modesty ruled the Victorian era, and ladies would wade onto the beach in bathing costumes made of serge or flannel, some with weights sewn into the hem to keep the garment from floating up and revealing too much leg!
By the 1860s, those cumbersome costumes were replaced by belted two-pieces (see images above). These swimsuits were still made of heavy flannel or wool, with three-quarter length trousers as bottoms and tops resembling overcoats. At ocean resorts, people undressed in miniature wheeled cabins, which were drawn out into the water by horse, allowing the modest Victorian woman to spend her day on the beach in complete privacy and remain unseen when she emerged from the water in her soaking flannel.
Three decades later, knee-length wool dresses featuring puffed sleeves and sailor collars were all the rage. These were worn with bloomers trimmed with ribbons and bows, and worn over black stockings, lace-up slippers, and caps.
By the turn of the century, women were participating in more seaside activities like swimming and diving, and figure-obscuring bathing costumes were traded for slightly more form-fitting, limb-freeing cuts. In the 1920s, necklines on bathing attire were lowered while the bottoms shortened. “The newest thing for the sea is a jersey bathing suit as near a maillot as the unwritten law will permit,” reads a 1920s issue of Vogue. As for where the bathing suit went from there… well, look no further than your own closet!
What think you, ModReaders? Do you ever have the urge to wear a pair of beribboned bloomers to the beach? Is there such a thing as “covering up” too much? Cast your vote, and/or leave a comment below!
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