Location:Home > slippers > and fancycaps. Image: Library of Congress LC-DIG-ggbain-01346 There werevarieties of style and colo

and fancycaps. Image: Library of Congress LC-DIG-ggbain-01346 There werevarieties of style and colo

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The 1900s Victorian Bathing Suit

Victorian Bathing Suit

There were varieties of style and color in Victorian and turn-of-the-century bathing suits.


During the early 1900s, people flocked to oceanside beaches for popular seaside activities as swimming, surf bathing, and diving. The only activity for women in the ocean involved jumping through the waves while holding onto a rope attached to an off-shore buoy. Their clumsy Victorian and Edwardian style bathing suits were often quite burdensome. Women typically dressed in black, knee-length, puffed-sleeve wool dresses, often featuring a sailor collar, and worn over bloomers trimmed with ribbons and bows. The bathing suit was accessorized with long black stockings, lace-up bathing slippers, and fancy caps. 


Victorian Bathing Suit

Image: Library of Congress LC-DIG-ggbain-01346  

There were varieties of style and color in turn-of-the-century bathing suits. The more conservative women stuck to the plain black taffeta or mohair bathing suit with just a slight touch of color about the collar and belt. These were not as attractive as the bright colored or striped bathing suits seen at the more fashionable sea-shore resorts.


Victorian Bathing Suits

Image: Library of Congress LC-USZ62-100442-1898


Victorian Bathing Suits


Patterns for bathing costumes were offered in the 1903 issue of The Delineator. The magazine also recommended accessories for the beach. A fancy handkerchief or cap could be worn over an oil-silk cap to make a pretty headdress while bathing slippers or sandals with cork soles were beneficial for walking on the hot sand. These were worn with stockings in plain colors, preferably black.

RIGHT: An association of contrasting colors is suggested in this style bathing suit. The pattern included a shirt-blouse and knickerbockers in one, and a straight, full skirt. The blouse had a vest shield and offered a choice of a deep sailor or plain or scalloped shawl collar. The bathing suit could also be made with a high or open neck and full, three-quarter or puff sleeves.
LEFT: The feature of this bathing costume is the shield in the blouse. The collar is the deep sailor style and the four-gored skirt can be either tucked or gathered.


Victorian Bathing Suits

Image: Library of Congress LC-USZ62-74076  

Victorian Bathing Suit

While the main lines in a bathing suit changed little from year to year, the style of trimming and material of the suit varied with succeeding summers. The same basic model was used as a foundation for various styles of ornamentation.  Most bathing suit patterns included a blouse, knickerbockers, and skirt. The most used material was mohair although silk taffetas were also popular.  A good quality mohair would be chosen and shrunk before it was cut. Typically about 9 yards of fabric was required to complete the outfit. The trimming, if it was wool or mohair, was shrunk also to avoid puckering. Bias folds of a contrasting mohair or serge, or hercules braid were commonly used for the trimming. A bias striped trimming was particularly effective.

LEFT: This 1904 black mohair bathing suit features short puff sleeves and an ivory white collar bordered with polka-dotted white mohair. A broad band of the polka dot material encircles the lower edge of the skirt.



In 1906, The Ladies’ Home Journal describes one charming bathing costume of black and white striped taffetas, each stripe being about an inch-and-a-half in width. The rolling collar, belt and bands on the short puffed sleeves were of plain black taffetas. The handkerchief was tied above the forehead in a smart knot with ends of the same silk. Black silk stockings and black leather sandals laced with white silk cord completed this attractive costume.


Victorian Bathing Suit

Image: Library of Congress LC-USZ62-117915-1913  

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