27 August 2014

Bathing suit, 1916 - updated

In the photography category of this blog,  I've occasionally posted photos of beach scenes from the turn of the last century, and I suspect a modern person's responses are "what uncomfortable clothing to wear" and "what unattractive clothing to wear."

With regard to the latter (?mis)perception, I offer the above photo, from the camera of Alfred Stieglitz (‘Ellen Koeniger’, 1916, gelatin silver photograph, 11.1 x 9.1, J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles), as a reminder that when wet, those staid bathing costumes must have shocked some Edwardian-era sensibilities.

Found at Consciousness is a Congenital Hallucination.

Reposted from 2010 to add a link to another of Stieglitz' photos.  The two images have different dates and names, but it appears to be the same suit.


  1. : ) Interesting post. Never thought of it this way.

    Your blog is excellent.

  2. Also back then people where generally less fat and thus would have looked a lot more pleasing even wearing sacks and rags. Ah, the beaches back then must have been nice.

  3. the difference between that and a wet t-shirt is???


  4. The linked-to photo is dated a year later, and the bathing costume in question has longer legs. The earlier photo shows fraying at the bottom of the legs whereas the later one does not, so it's not a case of wear and tear. Ergo, similar outfits but not the same one.

    1. On second thought, cancel what I wrote above. I agree, they're the same.

  5. looks like wal-mart

  6. Suits in 1916 had overskirts/aprons for modesty reasons, neither of which is present in the above photo. I'm guessing that the Stieglizt photo is an "art" photo, rather than depicting actual fashion of the times.

    http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~roseying/ids110/WHIS.HTM discusses the history of women's swimwear, including "In 1909, Australian Annette Kellerman was arrested in the United States for wearing a loose, one piece suit that became the generally accepted swimsuit for women by 1910. After that swimsuits began the trend of becoming lighter and briefer. The apron disappeared by 1918, leaving a tunic covering the shorts. Even though matching stockings were still worn, bare legs were exposed from the bottom of the trunks to the top of the shorts."

    The Burlington, VT Weekly Free Press article from June 1916 shows various swimsuit styles that are more voluminous that that pictured above.

    Purported suit from 1916, showing the overskirt/apron

  7. Actually this looks like a competition suit as first worn at the 1912 Olympics (when women's swimming was first included). They were close fitting and quite sheer but would not, of course have been worn on the beach.


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