Spotlight Artifact: Bathing Suits

Now that summer is finally upon us, we decided to share a past article from our Summer 2013 issue of “The Album,” featuring two bathing suits from our collection.


 

Wool Swinsuit, 20-30s

Bathing Suit • “Neptune’s Daughter” • Niagara Knitting Mills Corporation Wool • 1920s-1930s

The swimsuit has a long and varied history. In the early 1900s, women wore long gowns with bloomers underneath. These bathing gowns were weighted down by several heavy layers of material, occasionally with weights sewn into the hem so the material would not float. Fabrics were chosen for bathing suits that would not become transparent when wet. By the 1920s, swimsuits were mostly made out of wool for that very reason. Being so absorbent, swimsuits tended to become heavy and uncomfortable, not to mention itchy in the summer sun. This black wool swimsuit from our collection dates from the 1920s to the 1930s. Labeled “Neptune’s Daughter,” this one-piece swimming suit with attached knickers was made by the Niagara Knitting Mills Corporation of New York, NY.

Bathing Suit Rose Marie Reid of California Acetate 1960s-1970s

Bathing Suit • Rose Marie Reid of California • Acetate • 1960s-1970s

By the 1930s and 40s, bathing suits were rapidly changing. Hemlines were shorter and more bare skin was showing. It was not until the late 40s and early 50s that one-piece bathing suits, or maillots, started to be produced in a variety of fabrics, moving away from wool. For comparison, we have a patterned swimsuit, from the 1960s to the 1970s. This brown, yellow, and black stripped acetate bathing suit, donated by Angela Georgi, was created by Rose Marie Reid of California. Made from a light-weight, stretchy fabric, one would imagine that this would have been much more comfortable to wear to the beach.

Rebecca Justinger
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