Early 20th Century Pre-SI Swimsuit Edition
Where would we be without swimsuits?
Without question, one of fashion’s most important modern inventions has grown from a trendy full body suit to a force of fashionable attire.
And as men’s swimwear has been typically simple and minimal in its design and changes, women’s swim wear has evolved at a breathtaking pace, often giving birth to multiple water-based fashions in a single season.
And yet, it was not until the late 19th century, with the advent of commonly available binoculars and telescopes, that swimsuits started to become a necessity.
Prior to the 17th century, swimming was rare, if not non-existent, in civilized society, and so there was no need for swimsuits.
As the railroads started to reach further and bring more people there faster, people began going to new destinations, and many of those were by the seashore.
The new arrivals to the beach quickly began enjoying a refreshing dip in the water. However, most people, and especially traditionally home-bound women, still did not swim. They mostly just walked into the water and splashed about for a short time, to cool off, and come out soaked, which was convenient and fun for a short while on a hot Summer’s day. Of course, after a while, wearing wet clothes becomes uncomfortable, which for women meant wearing an outfit complete with a hat a bloomers, which would weigh up to 15 pounds when wet. So there was a problem that gave rise to the need for a solution.
As the early bathing costumes hit the market, women would often buy them by mail order from catalogs such as the classic Sears & Roebuck catalog.
For a great in-depth documentary about the history of swimwear, be sure to watch the video at the top of this page.