History of swimsuits: which ones could get you arrested? (4 photos)

Category: Nostalgia, PEGI 0+
22 May 2024

The 20th century became a turning point in many areas of life. Now it’s hard to imagine how fundamentally different the mentality, way of life, and customs were just 100 years or 3 generations ago.

70s swimsuits

So, in the 1920s, wearing a one-piece swimsuit with shorts could land you in the police station.

How has beach fashion changed a hundred years ago?

Why did modest closed overalls cause so much condemnation and protests?

How were beachwear monitored and those dressed incorrectly punished?

Swimming dresses

In the Middle Ages and even later, it was not customary to swim in ponds.

In the lower classes they could go to the river to bathe and wash clothes, but in a closed place and without swimming.

The French court under Louis XIV allowed itself to swim in covered underwear only occasionally, but this was regarded as the height of debauchery among the flamboyant king’s entourage.

But by the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, seaside resorts in Europe became fashionable among the wealthy part of society.

There's a problem. How can a lady swim in the sea, but at the same time maintain decency?

Swimming dresses became the solution. These were real dresses with long sleeves and a wide skirt just below the knees. Long trousers were worn underneath. To prevent the skirt from floating or being lifted by the wind, weights were sewn into the hem. A lady could appear on the shore in such clothes, but they still swam in closed ladies' baths.

Swimming dresses

The bathing suit became a little simpler towards the end of the century - instead of long sleeves, they began to make lanterns, and the pantaloons were no longer up to the shoes, but simply below the knees. To try on morality and a more revealing costume, they began to use bathing machines. A special wagon transported the horses to shallow water and left them there. The women changed clothes in the trailer and went down the stairs straight into the water, invisible from the shore.

Beach coup

But after the end of the First World War, everything changed dramatically. During the war years, women had to become more active on their own, which affected the simplification of fashion. The movement for women's emancipation also had an impact. And class differences began to disappear; representatives of any class could be on the beach.

And fashion has changed dramatically. As a swimsuit, they began to wear a one-piece design with knee-length shorts and often a slightly shorter skirt. The shoulders became open.

1920s swimsuits

Gradually the ladies began to loosen up. And shorten shorts, remove skirts from swimsuits.

Society was shocked by such openness.

Beach Police

In the 1920s, even a full-length swimsuit without a skirt and short shorts was illegal in many countries.

On the beaches in resort towns, special security was introduced to ensure that ladies did not appear in swimsuits. If the law established a maximum distance between the bottom of a swimsuit and the knee, then the guards walked around with a centimeter and measured this indicator for the ladies.

In Hawaii, swimsuits were legally required to be no longer than knee length. An exception was made only for girls under 14.

On the beaches of New York, a special squad of 20 people, “Sheriffettes,” tracked down and expelled from public places ladies with swimsuits that were too short.

If women protested, they could even be arrested and taken to the police station. Several such cases are known.

But mostly the girls did not organize protests, but achieved their goal by cunning. For example, they tied a towel around their waist like a skirt, walked past the observers, and then took it off and remained in provocatively short swimsuits to mid-thigh for those times.

Men were also limited!

Don't think that only ladies were discriminated against. At the beginning of the 20th century, men were not allowed to bare their breasts on the beach. Their swimsuit had to be completely closed at the front or have very little cleavage. There was no question of swimming in just swimming trunks.

It was only in the 1930s that society came to terms with swimsuits for women and just swimming trunks for men. The reason was the fashion for sports. Swimsuits began to be perceived as clothing for physical education.

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