It’s not about the suit. It’s about the woman in the suit. Wearing a swimsuit no matter what your body size or whether you’ve reached your “ideal” weight or if you have varicose veins or your legs haven’t seen sunshine in years, or even if you aren’t twenty something anymore is a statement of power. It is an action (like the ones I talk about here) that says I’m going to enjoy my life and go to the beach or the pool or relax in my yard no matter what others may think about my body. The truth is everyone else is too worried about their own body to be judging yours. You are your own worst critic. So find a great suit that you love and go swimming! Or paddle boarding! Or canoeing! Or simply relax in a lounge chair. Here is my guide to swimsuits by body shape to help you get started.
Today I want to share some of my research on swimwear throughout time.
Of course the first swim attire was none. And if you haven’t gone skinny dipping it’s never too late – although finding the right locale may be a challenge depending on where you live. I am still jealous of a friend who was lucky enough to go skinny dipping with family when bioluminescence was happening in the water. So much smarter than me. The only time I saw bioluminescence I was too blown away to think about physically getting in the water. Let alone skinny dipping. So now I have another item on my bucket list.
I am not sure if we went straight from nothing to too much but according to Insider.com in the 1800s and early 1900s proper women wore bathing gowns. These were long flowy robes that sometimes had weights sewn into the hem to keep the fabric from billowing up. I imagine it was quite a workout to move through the water wearing one of these. But not to worry, according to the week women weren’t allowed to “swim” only submerge themselves in the water. Beaches were segregated and women were “protected” from prying male eyes.
Around 1910 these gowns were abandoned for more form fitting (but still not very revealing) suits that were more functional for actual swimming. There were style police (like it always seems there are) that would call out women and punish them for wearing suits that showed too much skin. As far as it not being about the suit but about the woman in the suit, this same article talks about Annette Kellerman who broke swim records and attempted to swim the English Channel. She was arrested for wearing her practical suit but didn’t back down. Instead she kept on swimming and according to Wikipedia started her own line of swimwear – The Annette Kellerman’s. She did promise to wear a cover up until she got to the water and promised to put it back on as soon as she got out. Thank you Annette for being a strong woman in a suit.
In the 1920’s (again pulling from the Insider article) suits got more revealing and the swimsuit police were busier than ever. There were rules and regulations and tape measures were sometimes used to measure distances (hmm). According to an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer in Sept. 1921, novelist Louise Rosine was another strong woman in a suit. She rolled her required bathing stockings below her knees and was informed by Beach Policeman Shaw that it was against the regulations at this beach to do so. She was taken to jail and also refused bail. I presume to draw even more attention to the unfair plight of women. Thank you Louise!
One piece suits got more practical and revealing as time moved on and in the 1940’s the bikini was introduced by Louis Reard. Wartime rationing of cloth played a hand.
Suits got smaller and smaller and the choices expanded until today when you can find everything from board shorts and practical one piece choices to tiny little pieces of fabric that are about as close to skinny dipping as you can get on a public beach.
I encourage you to be another strong woman in a suit to honor all those who came before us!