July 20, 2021
In 1929, the fashion police really did exist, patrolling the beaches to ensure that bathing suits were not immodest. The woman in this image is being led away because her bathing suit was a little too short.
In Margate, in the U.K., people used a “bathing machine” in 1776. This “machine” was a booth carried by horses into the water to allow them to wade in the water from behind a canvas while maintaining their privacy. Swimming became less restrictive in the 1800s, however, they were still expected to dress modestly, and their beach wear was quite cumbersome. Women’s swimsuits had high necks, long sleeves, skirts, and pants and were often made of wool. Sometimes lead was sewn in to keep them from floating upwards. With the weight of their attire, women weren’t really swimming per se, but instead jumping in the waves while tethered to a rope. In 1915, they started to swim, which necessitated a reduction in fabric.
Bathing Suits And The Law
As people’s concern about the dangers of the bathing suit increased, some municipalities started to regulate the bathing suit, and even employed swimsuit police to make sure that bathing suits weren’t breaking the rules. One of the worst offenses: a bathing suit that was higher than six inches above the knees. The swimsuit police would measure the distance between the bottom of the kneecap, and women could be sent home, forced to cover up, or arrested. In Chicago, they had “beach tailors” who could attach fabric to the suit to hide the offending neck or extra bit of leg exposed by a too-short swimsuit or close up oversize armholes. In the 1915 Santa Monica Bay Outlook, an article argued that people should not be allowed Some argued as well that bathing suits of any sort worn more than 20 feet away from the high tide line were offensive.