In the Swim, 1907 (Without a Skirt!)

Butterick bathing suit pattern 1245 is a one-piece, without a skirt.

This Butterick pattern from Delineator, July 1907, came as a surprise to me. “Where is the skirt illustration?” I was thinking. And then I read the text:

Pattern description, Butterick 1245, Delineator, July 1907.

This is a “swimming suit” rather than a “bathing suit.” Nice distinction!

Here is the bottom part of the description in bigger print:

The dress-like bathing suit in this story illustration [also from the July 1907 issue] is more typical (I think).

Story illustration from Delineator, July 1907. Page 56.

Love her beach shoes…. And what does his hat tell us about that character??? Looks like a college boy to me…. Or a guy who leaned forward to look in a store window and forgot he was wearing a hat. I wish I’d had time to read the story.


Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Bathing Suits, Edwardian fashions, Hats for Men, Men's Sportswear, Shoes, Sportswear, Swimsuits, Women in Trousers

13 responses to “In the Swim, 1907 (Without a Skirt!)

  1. I wonder how people on the beach would have responded to such an outfit. Or was this perhaps for special groups, segregated from the rest of the beach population? And isn’t it nice that the size range is so large.

    • That’s going to be a question for The Vintage Traveler 🙂 I did find a 1914 reference to women swimming without a skirt over those bathing suits I think of as “sinking suits!” Perhaps all the suits that had separate skirts were used this way? (Given my thighs, I was always happy to put on a coverup as soon as I finished swimming, even in the late 20th C.)

    • Christina

      The year is perhaps significant. The Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman toured the US in 1907 giving exhibitions in her one piece bathing suit. However, it wan’t until she appeared at Revere Beach in Boston in October 1907 that she was arrested. She was a huge attraction as she toured Europe and Britain. Butterick was probably testing the waters (no pun intended).

  2. I think these were strictly for use with bathing machines, so never on the beach itself. You will see Trijntje en Mijntje wear them in Twee Zeeuwse meisjes in Zandvoort, with a bathing machine. It’s from 1913 so that’s slightly later but the characters are supposed to be rural and very religious (to the point of comedy).

    • By the way, maybe you can answer this. i’ve always wondered if everyone wore theirs with shifts tucked in or if this was supposed to be a “these girls are such prude yokels, they don’t even know how to wear a swimsuit!” joke. The only other example I know is this: who definitely is not wearing a shift under hers. (bathing machine in the background!)

      • It may have depended on the woman. Some may have kept their corsets on, but these Olympic swimmers (1912) certainly didn’t. They do seem embarrassed at being photographed in wet bathing suits, though. (and what are those briefs?) These women have more usual knit suits.

      • That underwear is a huge mystery! I have NEVER seen anything like it in women’s clothing from that era. Maybe they were men’s and the women had to put them on for decency.

        I guess if it was parodied in that film, it was something some women did but was looked upon as dowdy or overly conservative. That seems reasonable to me.

    • Thank you for this film link, which I would never have found without you! I always love seeing the “extras” in films like this, because they are not actors, they are people wearing their own clothing (and looking at the camera, in this early short film.) The main characters are country girls on a visit to the seaside — I loved seeing them undressing — and wearing long underwear over their corsets. I’m not sure whether the police arrested them for dancing on the beach or for wearing those bathing garments — one-size fits everyone (badly) — away from the bathing machine. Since they kept their underwear (including full petticoats) on beneath the bathing suits, there’s nothing indecent to modern eyes! A charming film!

      • I think for creating a disturbance on the beach, but I’m not sure. I looked it up in the encyclopedia of early Dutch film and there’s no information about the plot lol. Apparently it was unscripted, the studio was busy building sets and they were sent out to the beach to record something. The intertitels were lost. So we will never know. It’s fun and also very important because it was such a big hit it helped establish Hollandia studios, but I always found the clothes the most interesting part of it!

  3. Christina

    Corsets were worn under bathing costumes. This is well documented. Useful link;

  4. This is a very interesting link in the bating suit evolution chain, and it is quite early for this style, which gained popularity after 1910. Before circa 1910, bathing suits usually were made with a skirt, with bloomers worn beneath. The skirt gradually climbed to the middle of the thighs by 1920, and then was eliminated (except for the tiny modesty skirt which is seen even today).

    During this period (1910ish) the gymsuit was usually constructed in the opposite manner, with the blouse being attached to the bloomers, with a detachable skirt. Maybe the designer of this sewing pattern took her inspiration from the gymsuit!

    In 1923 Jantzen started ab ad campaign with the catchphrase, “The Suit That Changed Bathing to Swimming”: Looks like Butterick was 16 years ahead of them!

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