It’s mid-July. To escape the steamy, humid, sticky heat thousands of Americans make a pilgrimage to beaches and pools each weekend.
Today, you could slip into your suit of choice, slather on the sunscreen and enjoy the waves. If you were a woman living a hundred years ago, it wouldn’t have been quite that simple.
First, bathing suits weren’t widely manufactured like they are today. Most women typically sewed their own swimsuits. Popular magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar reported on the latest swimwear fashions and published fashionable patterns.
Bathing suits at the time resembled all-encompassing body suits more than bikinis. At the turn of the century, seven to ten yards were required to make one woman’s bathing suit, depending on the type of fabric chosen and the style. Wool and flannel were recommended as the best choices as they were thought to insulate the body against cold.
The photo of the Knox sisters shows a highly popular swimsuit style which included dark wool tights, pantaloons, swimming shoes or boots, a sailor-style blouse with balloon sleeves, sash, and full over-skirt. Since the suits were made from such heavy, water-absorbing fabrics, the long voluminous skirts often became tangled around women’s legs in the water. Each week, newspaper headlines described a series of deaths from drowning.