Tag Archives: Annette Kellerman arrested indecency 1907

A Look Back at Stockings, Mostly 1920’s

[While I’m on vacation, I’m running a series of images with links to many old witness2fashion posts. Here’s a selection of articles sharing what I learned about stockings.]

Colored and textured tights were popular in the 1960’s, but brightly colored stockings and textured stockings were also worn in the 1920’s. [For further readings about stockings, rolled stockings, etc., links to earlier posts are provided throughout this one.]

Orange silk stockings match the orange skirt in this ad for Holeproof Hosiery. Delineator, October 1925.

Textured stockings were also worn  with Twenties’ sportswear:


Textured hose from an article about rainwear; Delineator, April, 1929.

For a longer post showing 1920’s textured stockings from Sears, colored stockings, and other stocking fashions like the ones below, click here.


Gordon’s stockings ad, 1928.

Many manufacturers offered styles intended to make ankles look slim, or just to attract attention to the leg.

A chartreuse dress gets stockings to match in this ad for Arch Preserver Shoes. Delineator, June 1929.

Artist McClelland Barclay did a series of color illustrations for Holeproof Hosiery. Delineator; May, 1925.  Notice how opaque these silk stockings for daytime are.

In the 1920’s, highly colored stockings could be almost opaque, as in these ads, but eventually sheer stockings became preferred for evening:

Models wear a range of sheer stocking shades in this 1929 ad for Realsilk Hosiery. Delineator, October 1929.

“They’re newer than sunburn. They’re newer than skin-tints. Yet they borrow from both. Overtones — the new hosiery shades — are a subtle blend of skin and costume colors…. Twenty-two of the most flattering hosiery colors ever launched.” — text of Realsilk ad, Oct. 1929.

Of course, the more sheer the stockings were, the less likely they were to survive several wearings, making them a luxury item.

A run in a sheer stocking ruins it; Lux soap ad, WHC, Feb. 1936. (Lux claimed to prevent stocking runs.)

For a much more complete  article about women’s stockings in the 1920’s, click here.

By 1929, suntanned skin was coming into fashion, along with the sheer look.

From an ad for Realsilk Hosiery, April 1929. Delineator.

These shades are not very different from the stocking hues illustrated in 1936, when stockings could coordinate with either the costume or the shoe:

From a fashion advice article in Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1936. [Click here for more….]

These heavy duty silk stockings were to be worn while gardening. Ad for McCallum “service hose.” Delineator, April 1927. [For more about “Hosiery Ads with a Bit of Wit,” by the same artist, click here.]

In the early Twenties, stockings were also worn while swimming:

“Mid-way of a dive . . two flawless legs, one flawless pair of hose are all that’s left to see….” From an 1927 ad for McCullum Hosiery. Delineator, August 1927.

(Swimming champion Annette Kellerman was arrested for swimming without covering her legs in 1907.)

Stockings were worn with bathing suits in the Nineteen-teens, but women started to bare their legs — or part of their legs — in the Twenties. Often, with bathing suits, they wore their stockings rolled:


Bathing suit, July 1925. Delineator magazine.

To read “Garters, Flappers, Rolled Stockings and Other Stocking Stories,” click here.

Lavender stockings match the lavender underwear in this 1927 ad for Ivory Flakes laundry soap. Delineator, May 1927.

Stockings in the 1920’s could also be embroidered, or otherwise decorated:


“A rose upon her shoulder, and a corresponding rose / Embroidered on the — well, the shin — of both her silken hose!” Nell Brinkley and Carolyn Wells. Dec. 1925.

To see more illustrations by Nell Brinkley, a woman cartoonist of the ‘Teens and Twenties, click here.

Young woman showing her undies and rolled stockings; photo dated 1918.


Four young women showing their bare knees and rolled stockings. That’s my mother wearing dark stockings with a light garter on the far right. Photo dated 1921.


Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, 1920s-1930s, Combinations step-ins chemises teddies, Hosiery, Hosiery, Hosiery & Stockings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Panties knickers bloomers drawers step-ins, Shoes, Underthings, Hosiery, Corsets, etc

Swimsuits for Esther Williams and Annette Kellerman

Cover of Esther Williams' autobiography, Million Dollar Mermaid.

Cover of Esther Williams’ autobiography, Million Dollar Mermaid.

Esther Williams’ swimsuit in the movie Million Dollar Mermaid (click here) , a film based on the life of champion swimmer and diving star Annette Kellerman, bore only a partial resemblance to the one that got Annette Kellerman arrested.

Swimming champion Annette Kellerman, circa 1907

Swimming champion Annette Kellerman, circa 1907. There is some disagreement about whether the offensive suit was sleeveless or had cap sleeves.

“When Annette Kellerman stepped out onto Revere Beach in 1907 wearing a one-piece bathing suit that ended in shorts above her knees, her legs caused a scandal. Police were called, and she was arrested for indecency,” wrote Kristin Toussaint in the Boston Globe’s website. [July 2, 2015]

To read the rest of Toussaint’s article, with a large slide show of vintage bathing suit photos, click here. This picture (click here) shows that other female competitive swimmers were wearing even less in 1907.

Nevertheless, ten years later, a group of chorus girls from Daly’s Theatre in London posed for a bathing suit photo in suits that covered a lot more than the suit that shocked Boston in 1907. (click here.)

In 1920, in the United States, women at a public pool posed in knitted wool suits which presented a real danger of drowning in the surf; if you have ever hand-washed a long-sleeved wool sweater, you know how heavy wet wool can be! In this picture from 1922, the woman on the right is wearing a ruffled swimsuit, rather like the one below– at least it’s not wool!

Ruffled 1920's bathing suit.

Ruffled vintage 1920’s bathing suit.

Of course, some swimming suits have always been intended for lounging and sunbathing, rather than getting wet.

Bathing suit from an ad for HInds sun cream; Delineator, June 1929/

Bathing suit from an ad for Hinds sun cream; Delineator, June 1929.

Annette Kellerman settled her problems with the law by promising to stay covered by a cape until she entered the water, according to Toussaint . . .

The young women at the left are critical of the conservative fashions worn by the one with the cape. From The Way to Wear'em, by Christina Walkley.

The young women at the left are critical of the conservative fashions worn by the one with the cape. From The Way to Wear’em, by Christina Walkley.

. . . or by wearing full length tights to cover her legs, as Kellerman did in this photo:

Annette Kellerman with her legs completely covered.

Annette Kellerman with her legs — and shoulders –completely covered.

As a long-distance speed swimmer, Kellerman had to eliminate the drag of her swimsuit as much as possible, but as an exhibition diver and swimmer — she played the vaudeville circuit — publicity photos like this one were more likely to get printed in local papers. Many women wore stockings with their bathing costumes. Since “erogenous zones” keep changing, it’s worth noting that it was her bare legs, not her breasts, that were the subject of scandal. I’m enough of a cynic to believe that the sight of Ms. Kellerman in a cold, wet bathing suit must have been part of her attraction. (Remember that best-selling poster of Farah Fawcett?)

That, and the fact that Kellerman introduced the Australian crawl to swimmers all over the world.

Kellerman kept up with the times, too. Here she is in an ad from 1931:

Annette Kellerman in an advertisement for her diet plan; Delineator, August 1931.

Annette Kellerman in an advertisement for her diet plan; Delineator, August 1931.

Women reading this ad would be aware that Kellerman was in her forties; she’d been a public figure (in both senses of the word) for 26 years. And her figure, once “perfect” because it resembled the Venus de Milo, now has the slender lines of the 1920’s and 30’s.

Annette Kellerman ad for her diet and exercise plan; Delineator, Aug. 1931.

Annette Kellerman ad for her diet and exercise plan; Delineator, Aug. 1931.

I’m happy to say that her weight loss plan appears to be based on healthy practices:

1931 aug delin btm 500 diet annette kellerman ad

“I allow you plenty of delicious, satisfying foods, but they produce energy instead of fat. I use no drugs or pills; prescribe no starvation diets.” The ad also mentions improvements in posture, “pep and energy,” so — I hope — exercise was part of “The Body Beautiful” plan.

Esther Williams was also a teenaged swimming champion before she became a movie star. In fact, in her very good autobiography, (which she also called “Million Dollar Mermaid“) she mentions the many times her life was in danger while filming, because there simply were no stunt performers who could do what she could do. Certainly, no stuntman could look like Williams in a bathing suit! She had to stay underwater for long periods, performing till the end of the shot before she could grab a breath from a concealed air supply tube.  She really did perform her own high dives off of trapezes and towers. (She did refuse to perform one very high dive while pregnant.)

Public domain image of Esther Williams

Public domain image of Esther Williams

The producers of the movie in which she played a fictional version of Annette Kellerman — “Million Dollar Mermaid” — wisely saved her most difficult high dive until the end of the shoot. Her glittering full bodysuit included a tight-fitting hood with a crown attached to its top. When Williams hit the water, the crown formed a cup at the top of her head; instead of piercing the water smoothly, her head and neck snapped back; she broke bones in her back, and she was lucky not to be paralyzed.

This costume is apparently the one that put Williams in a body cast for several months (click here).

Poor Esther — who made a full recovery — was always having to stand on her tiptoes in photos, to make her strong, athletic legs look longer.

Esther Williams posing on tiptoes in a Cole swimming suit. From her book, Million Dollar Mermaid.

Esther Williams posing on tiptoes in a Cole swimming suit. From her book, Million Dollar Mermaid.

So, naturally, when the studio recreated Annette Kellerman’s one piece suit for her, they shortened its legs, for an unbroken long leg line, effectively putting the star in an almost-modern (1952) bathing suit.  You can see the movie trailer [preview]– with several of her costumes, including the head-to-toe bodysuit — by clicking here.

Like Kellerman, Williams turned herself into a business. Williams had a long working relationship with bathing suit manufacturer Cole of California. She even persuaded the U.S. Navy to order 50,000 swimsuits from Cole.  Million Dollar Mermaid, by Esther Williams with Digby Diehl, would be a great poolside or summer “read.” Used paperbacks are available for as little as a penny!

And the movie has choreography (over the top — of course) by Busby Berkeley. Starring Esther Willams and Victor Mature. [Or, to repeat an old theatre joke, “Why ‘and?’ Why not ‘But?’ “] Rent it to enjoy a little Technicolor time travel; take with plenty of popcorn and low expectations of historical accuracy.  Just in:  the 1952 movie will be shown on Turner Classic Movies on Sunday, Sept. 6, 2015:  10 pm Eastern time, 7 pm Pacific Time.


Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1930s, 1950s-1960s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Bathing Suits, Sportswear, Swimsuits