Womens fashion in action....Making a SplashFrom historical records we know that humans were no strangers to water but it wasn't until the Victorian era in England that women were allowed to enjoy swimming in public.
This photograph ( thanks to Roland Unger) comes from a 10,000-year-old rock painting of people swimming and was discovered in the Cave of the swimmers near Wadi Sura in Southwestern Egypt.
It seems we had to wait until the 1800 in England before woman started bathing in the sea.
The introduction of the railways made it possible for many more people to travel to the seaside.
It was still unfashionable to have a tanned skin or to expose too much of the female body in public
At the beginning of the 1800's walking dresses for the sea side were designed. These were usually of light cotton with a high neck and long sleeves and worn with cotton trousers, gloves, scarf, bonnet and sandals or light shoes.
By mid 19th century dresses were being designed for bathing, these were made of heavy flannel worn over bloomers to the ankle in the same fabric .The ensemble included stockings, shoes and a hat or turban.
At first they were made to completely cover the whole body and were cumbersome to wear and extremely heavy when wet and often were worn with a special corset designed for swimming.
|From American Harper's Magazine 1858|
|Bathing Dresses 1864|
|Corset for swimming, American|
By the late 1800 the costume design had changed to allow more freedom but were still made of wool. The sleeves of the dresses were short and puffed worn with knee length bloomers and often black stockings.
By the end of the century mixed bathing was permitted and with it less restricting fashions, the bathing machines became redundant.
In 1912 swimming became a recognized sport for women and they were allowed to compete in the Olympics for the first time.
in 1920 figure hugging jersey suits with no sleeves lower necks and short legs.
In 1926 Gertrude Ederle, an American, was the first woman to swim the English Channel