Bathing suit patterns appeared in Butterick’s Delineator magazine in both May and June, so there are many images to share.
Here, the central suit, 3812, has simple checked trim to match its pleated skirt…
… but the alternate views show it with optional embroidery or soutache braid trim, or looking like a double breasted coat. The under layer also shows square, rounded, or high neckline variations as dotted lines:
“Princess effect… exceptionally graceful model … the short sleeves …are more practical for the swimmer.” [No kidding!] Apparently the bloomers alone could be made from 2 yards of 36 inch material, with another 7/8 yard of a different material for the under-body/under bodice.
These four 1910 patterns include a skirt over bloomers with a bodice, and dresses over bloomers, with or without an under-bodice.
Bathing suit 3788 is gathered to a yoke.
The bloomers for Butterick 3839 are not attached to a bodice — they have their own waistband.
In June, Delineator showed a fourth bathing-suit for women (3925) and a bathing suit for men or boys (3870.) Men got to wear a lot less, while women who actually tried to swim were in danger of sinking under the weight of all that fabric.
“This is the kind of bathing-suit (3925) which will appeal to a great many women, both those who go into the water for the real sport of the thing, and those who spend hours on the beach sitting around or promenading up and down…. The cord or belt which is fastened around the waist gives the effect of a blouse and short skirt…. Our English cousins favor the long sleeve and high neck when in bathing and so use the shield with the high collar. Here in America, however, women usually prefer a slightly open neck and either puff sleeves or just sleeve caps. The separate bloomers are arranged to be made with bands or elastics at the lower part. Flannel [i.e., wool flannel,] mohair, serge and taffeta are the best material for bathing suits….” [Butterick patterns were also sold in England.]
Men, on the other hand, wore one layer of fabric and no sleeves:
The CF placket closing would hide buttons, not a zipper. The fabric could be flannel (nice, water-absorbing wool) or “Stockinget [sic]” or serge. A wet, knit suit with no lining would be quite revealing when wet. Men and boys had long been accustomed to swimming in the nude, so this simple, often sleeveless bathing suit was a concession to mixed bathing.
“Swimming was first included in the Olympics in 1896, but has only been open to women since 1912.” Think about competitive swimming in a water-logged wool swimsuit! (Kind of like swimming in a cardigan sweater….) What’s that saying about “everything a woman does must be done twice as well…?”
The Vintage Traveler is making a Timeline of Bathing Suits. Click here. (And try to imagine just staying afloat in those Victorian ones!)
5 responses to “In the Swim, 1910”
My grandmother told me about swimming at the time these patterns came out. She would have been in her 20’s, and lived in rural Colorado. According to her, women and children ‘bathed’ in one area and men in another. Women wore suits or simple cotton dresses; most of the men wore nothing. I asked her the reason for that. She said it was assumed that one or more young men might choose to get a closer look at the women’s LEGS. Women would never try to spy on the men ! Times have changed…
Thanks for that memory. Swimsuit illustrations usually show people at the seashore, so it’s good to be reminded that not everyone went to resorts or had a special outfit for “bathing.” My mother-in-law remembered a hot day in Texas when her step-mother (still wearing her housedress) joined the children in the drainage ditch where they were paddling around. At Oxford University there was a famous nude bathing area for men in the river Cherwell, called “Parson’s Pleasure.” Women could get out of their boats and use a footpath which avoided that view. After 1934, the university women had their own, separate place for nude bathing, called “Dames’ Delight.”
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I’ve seen a lot of bathing suits from this era, but never one like Butterick 3832. Maybe it was just to “different” from the prevailing style, or maybe people who run across this style do not recognize them as bathing dresses. Thanks for the link!
Did you mean 3812? The “dress” part does seem ridiculously heavy in all configurations. And it might be mistaken for a teen’s dress. If I could go in the water wearing just the under-garment, I might not drown — immediately…. (It seems incredible that my friends and I used to swim in the Pacific Ocean! Well, we were 14 or so, and we “surfed” on air mattresses.)