Antique c. 1910 lightweight black wool bathing suit features the sailor collar, short puffed sleeves, and attached blouse/bloomer construction that came into vogue in the early 1900s. It would have been worn with a matching skirt buttoned over the bloomers at the waist and falling far enough below the knee to cover them. An oil silk or rubber cap and lace up canvas shoes would have completed the costume.
The bathing suit is trimmed around the collar and sleeve hems with triple rows of white braid, and buttons up the front with 4 black plastic buttons. There are an additional 4 buttons at waist level—one at either side and 2 in back. The bloomers are gathered at the hem with a cord-like material.The sleeves are gathered at shoulder and widen to a bell-like shape, which along with the low, dropped low crotch must have been very comfortable for swimming!
The popularity of actually swimming (vs wading at the shoreline) grew quickly once caps for protecting the hair, some of them fringed with human hair curls, came on the scene. And, as a 1904 article put it, no longer was the bathing suit an “unsightly garment of heavy blue flannel”; rather it was fashioned in a variety of fabrics (mohair, silk, taffeta, serge, linen, and duck among them), often trimmed with lace and ribbons, and came in colors like brown, dark red, and white as well as dark blue and black.
Measurements are as follows: Bust 40”, shoulders 13.5”, waist 29”, hips 40”, length center back to waist 16”, length center back waist to hem 27”. The stockings measure 26” from the tops to the ankle, and the foot stretches from 8.5” to 9” long.
Condition is fair, clean and sturdy enough for display or restoration, but with the following issues: Mismatched buttons, a thinning area near the right waist seam, breaks in the waist band in front, a (non-period) patched area at the left waist, another patch near the bottom of the left leg, and several pinholes in the bloomer legs as well as a tear near the elastic on each (see photos #5 and #6 for closeups of these issues).
The cotton stockings acquired with the swimsuit (photo #6) will be included; they are free of tears or holes but have discolored quite a bit, presumably with the surf of over a century ago!
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