Discussion in 'Edwardian Fashion' started by Vitezslav Ivicic, Jun 13, 2007.
How would a 1912 male swimsuit look like?
That swimsuit with stripes looks nice...thank you for your pictures, Bob
Yes, that's the one I would choose. But note that it's worn by an older man, and the singlet style was probably more up-to-date. Both pictures, however, were taken in 1912. On the left is a Swedish competition team; on the right a holiday crowd at the seaside in Margate, Kent, just a few months after the Titanic went down.
Did men swim with socks and shoes on. And how did they get into the suit? That one with stripes has buttons, but what about the singlet style? Was it elastic enough to dress it without buttons, I mean just "step" into the suit and put the straps over shoulders?
And was not showing of armpits unsuitable?
Men would not have swum (or swam, but I think swum is correct) with socks and shoes.
It seems that the one-piece, torso-covering suits were not the only kind in 1912. There is a photo taken on a German liner that I'm pretty sure is pre-1912 of men in a ship's steamroom wearing what look like a precursor to what Americans call speedos and I believe the British call trollies (though I'm not sure if this is the primary British term for them). I forget the Australian word for them. At any rate, they're the "briefs" style swimsuits that are too skimpy for most men today, or certainly most American men.
A photo of the Imperator's swimming pool in Maxtone-Graham's "Liners to the Sun" has men in similar style suits. I'm sure such suits would not have been worn in public. I've actually always thought it surprising that photos would have been taken of people wearing such suits at all.
>>Was it elastic enough to dress it without buttons, I mean just "step" into the suit and put the straps over shoulders?<<
Probably. long underwear was elastic, and it was being worn back then. Elastic back then might of not of had as much of a stretch as now but it was in use.
Bob- I noticed the the fellow in the striped swimsuit has a bandage wrapped around his wrist. Whats the deal with that? Maybe he had a weak wrist or sprain or something. I notice stuff like that. Of course Gentlemen had a more free moving swimsuit then the poor ladies had. I saw a photo of silent movie actress Mabel Normand in the the mid teens to early twenties wearing a swimsuit the looked the same as what the gentlemen in the photo Bob provided where wearing. She was standing next to a dress dummy showing wearing the old fashioned swimsuit that women had to wear before women like Miss Normand put their foot down and said no more. What kind of swimsuit were women in 1912 wearing.
Vitezslav, the suits were fairly flexible and as you suggest they would be worn by stepping into them and pulling up over the shoulders. As you can see from the photos above and below left, armpits need not be covered but women's swimsuits often did cover them, though the legs were bared generally to just above above knee level.
Brian, the other photos below are of swimmers competing at the Summer Olympics in 1912. Clearly it wasn't shocking to reveal (in public) a lot more than one would on the beach when necessity demanded!
Thanks for posting those Photos Bob. I was hunting like made to find that Mabel Normand Photo on the Internet. You have saved my a lot of trouble by sharing your photos. Thanks George L. Lorton
My grandmother still has a women's swim suit that dates from the early part of the 20th century. It looks very similar to the suit worn by the woman on the far left in the far left photo above. What is interesting to me, it that it is made almost entirely of WOOL! I, myself, cannot imagine wearing such a thing for swimming. It would be soooo heavy. Heaven help you if you were wet and lying out in the hot sun. You would be shrink wrapped!
Of course in the early 20th century wool was probably one of the few materials that was affordable that stretched. Does this swimsuit have buttons on it? Do you slip it on? Wet wool. Burr as soon as you get out of the water your either too cold or too hot, depending on the weather. Scratchy too.
I believe it had a few buttons in the back, but I do not remember. The sleeves were quite modest and came down the arm as in the photo above. It had red, cream /ivory, and blue bands of fabric on the sleeves while the main body was cream/ivory in color. As I recall it still had an American manufacturer's tag sewn on the inside, although I don't remember the company. Quite the patriot the swimmer in this suit would be. I do remember that the area between the leg openings had quite a bit of excessive padding in the middle, as well as some sort of hard stiffening material to keep its shape. For lack of a better description, it appeared like sort of a glorified, giant, built in maxi-pad. Perhaps it was meant to keep the suit from riding up. The bust area, however, had no support. Perhaps that was a separate contrivance not included with the suit, or maybe there wasn't supposed to be any support in that area at all.
You guys are all too young to remember that in the early postwar years a great many kids on the beach (in Britain at least) wore woollen swimming trunks hand-knitted by their mothers. Billy Connolly used to do a 10-minute comedy routine based entirely on the horrors of that experience!
Bob- Poor kids probably caught cold a lot in the fall. I wonder if they made wool swimsuits in America during the Depression era. Money was very tight.
Jason-Thanks for the description.
Zelda Fitzgerald in the late teens wore a flesh colored swimsuit in Montgomery, Alabama that caused quit a scandal in that when she swam at night folks thought she was skinny dipping.
I have an old wool swimsuit, and when you wash it, it doesn't shrink, it is even worse....it stretches...a lot!!! You would come out of the water looking like a bag of potatoes.! (NB: I haven't worn it!)
I read somewhere that a full victorian (woolen) swimsuit weight about 15 pounds when it's wet. I am happy that I'm not a victorian lady...
I recently won the Napier Art Deco festival's Bathing Belle competition - I suspect because the judges were impressed with the fact that I was the only one wearing an original 1920s woollen bathing suit on what was a broiling NZ summer day, complete with knee-high rolled stockings. Hot, heavy and itchy! I couldn't have imagined wearing it in the water - it would be like swimming with a heavy sweater on.
That particular suit is a Bradley knitwear, but I also have an Annette Kellerman brand suit. Annette is, of course, the Aussie famous for pioneering the unitard and its variations for swimming in - she famously declared she couldn't swim wearing more clothes than she had on her clothesline. She was arrested in Boston in 1906 for her revealing swimsuit.
Designer Jean Patou, famous for his sportswear influenced fashions, experimented extensively in the 20s to find a swimsuit fabric that was resistant to stretching and fading.
'Speedo' is actually a brand name for a swimwear company that began at Bondi Beach, Australia in 1914 (it is today headquartered in the UK). I wear a Speedo swimsuit myself for athletic swimming and mucking around in the surf - a very functional one piece.
The men's brief style is sometimes referred to here as 'speedos' in a generic sense, but we also have a range of nicknames including the ever-popular "Budgie Smugglers".
Yes. I suppose the word "Speedo" is like the word "Kleenex" - very generic, but meaning of a certain style or type rather than a specific brand.
My old knitted swimsuit is Jantzen, another ancient brand, possibly as old as Speedo, that still exists. I wonder if you could have bought a swim suit on the ship, or even borrowed one, as I don't suppose everyone would have owned a swim suit
Jantzen is indeed an older brand, Sashka - older, in fact, then Speedo. It's been around since 1910. I'm hoping to eventually add a good 1920s example to my collection. Does your suit have the lovely diving girl decal?
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