The Bathing Suit Dance: 1906

Smart Bathing Costume 1905

DANCING IN BATHING SUITS

Summer Resorters Find the Abbreviated Costumes Lend Ease and Grace

(New York World.)

“I’ve much less on when I’m dressed than when I’m undressed,” said the celebrated Mme. Sans Gene [“Madame Without-Embarrassment,” a character in Sardou’s play of the same name], speaking of the court dress of her own very “natural” days.

Perhaps madame foresaw the bathing-suit party, which was suggested by the most ingenious and cleverest woman of the Four Hundred, but which has been carried out by others less prominent in social circles.

For the first time society and the Health Culturists meet on common ground. For there are various women at the different bathing resorts who wear bathing suits from the first of May until the middle of September for their health’s sake.

For them a bathing-suit dinner party is a thing of common occurrence, and once you’ve gotten used to it, it is one of the most comfortable ways of enjoying an al fresco meal.

The small boy whispered that you can eat more in a bathing suit than in your regular clothes, and he wishes he could eat his Christmas dinner in this buttonless suit, but luckily by the end of September he is forced into the restrictions of a belt: otherwise the ravages on the Christmas pudding would be too terrible to think of. Bathing-suit life is the healthiest kind of life to lead, and now that it is to be popular the bathing-suit dance will not end up with fainting and exhaustion on the part of the tightly laced lady.

After all clothes are merely a matter of longitude and latitude, and what seems rather scant to us is far too much covering for the inhabitants of other digress.

The peek-a-boo waist has prepared us for almost anything. It is a case of “after this the deluge.” So naturally we take to bathing suits.

A bathing suit party was given last week at a summer hotel whose broad porch runs into the sea. Tables were set on the porch, which was afterward cleared for dancing. The women guests vied with each other in the attractiveness of their suits, which were new for the occasion.

Most of the men balked and compromised on a species of apparel which resembled the boating costumes of rowing clubs on ladies’ day. Gorgeous flannel shirts appeared with duck trousers, and but one or two sturdy adherents of the rules of the game came in old swimming suits, modestly covered with flamboyant bath robes. As usual the men appeared ill at ease at first, but women, with their inherent adaptability, seemed perfectly at home and happy to wear their ocean garments on dry land.

The single health culturist who had come from an adjoining cottage was in her element. This woman has not had on a gown since May 1 and has been out of doors all the time, even sleeping in a semi-covered porch…

“I am the open air fiend of the family,” she said, laughingly, when some one tried to persuade her to dine in the stuffy dining room of the hotel. “I don’t intend to eat indoors or to be indoors one moment more than is necessary. My doctor, who believes in nature, once ordered me to be out of doors, and I think he will be satisfied with the way I have obeyed orders. Yes, my skin is tanned, and my hair is bleached several shades too light; but I, who was so weak and anaemic in the spring, am now the healthiest woman at the shore. When I came here I could neither eat nor sleep. Now I expect to have the caterer raise the prices on all the food, and I have gained twenty pounds.

“When you attribute your recovery to a bathing-suit life, Mrs. L__?” asked a half-hearted guest at the party.

“Certainly, my dear; so does the doctor. By wearing so few clothes I get all the good effects of sun and air on the body. One of my friends has cured herself of incipient lung trouble by taking all-day sun baths in her bathing suit, and she has courage, for she is wearing her suit in the mountains, where the only possible excuse for it is a seven-inch-deep brooklet, and I believe that dried up at the sight of the suit.”

It was this young matron who started the bathing-suit parties. At first she and her husband appeared at a separate dining table in their bathing suits. They looked so comfortable and cool that one by one their friends joined them at their health culture clinics, from which the over-dressed people were debarred. Finally one sweltering afternoon, as tea was being served at the bathing-suit table, some of the newly arrived guests of the hotel, thinking bathing-suit dinners were “de rigeur,” appeared at the table d’ hote in their new and cool silken suits, and the custom was established. The landlord was happy in having found a “specialty” never before seen in any other hotel, and he will serve you a delicious hot or cold dinner on the open veranda where you sit in a loose, cool comfortable bathing suit.

The young people are bound to dance afterward, particularly as mine host boasts of his Hungarian orchestra, newly arrived from across the river, and twice the delight is felt in the rhythmic movements of the dancers when no tight and over-heating clothing hinders the freedom of the their movements.

Girls dancing in bathing suits are more graceful than when dancing in long, tight dresses. Every movement displays the joy they feel in this newly-found freedom, just as the women walking up and down the beach in their abbreviated bathing skirts stride with the little sinuous movements of healthy savages, so different from the wobbly, mincing gait they have to affect when hindered by high heels and many skirts.

Dancing can be indulged in ad libitum without much fear of the doctor when “bathing suits” are the order of the evening, for the dance necessarily takes place out of doors and one of the chief enemies of the dance hall—namely, bad air, is avoided. When loose clothing is worn with high neck and elbow sleeves danger of taking cold is obviated and dancing in one’s bathing suit by the light of the electric lamp as well as by that of the moon becomes a thoroughly hygienic pursuit. Sanctioned by fashion, indorsed by physicians, acclaimed by the lovers of “health culture,” the bathing suit glories in its own apotheosis and we return in it to the real love of simple living. Two suits are all you need for your summer holiday.

Denver [CO] Post 29 July 1906: p. 16

Those “two suits” might be special costumes created just for the “Bathing Suit Dance.”

BATHING SUIT DANCE COSTUME THE LATEST

Say, girls, how’d you like to trip the light fantastic in a bathing suit? Asks the Los Angeles Record.

Now, really, that isn’t so awfully shocking, after all, when you come to think of it. The bathing skirts might be a little shorter than you’re used to wearing, the sleeves longer and the necks a good bit higher—that’s all the difference. And just think of the comfort and coolness of such a costume…

Of course, the bathing suit dancing costume is elaborate, and of course it can be just as becoming and just as distinctive as you please.

The goods may be silk or any other costly fabric, and the trimmings may be most expensive; because the bathing suit dancing costume has never seen the salt water.

It’s just to dance in, girls.

Riverside [CA] Independent Enterprise 11 August 1906: p. 2

bathing suit dance2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It was said that Harry Lehr, the court jester for Newport’s “Smart Set” first suggested a bathing suit dance to Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish. She often went along with Lehr’s japes, but on this occasion, she was not amused.

YELLOW PRESS AT ITS BEST

The New York Newspaper Story About the Bathing Suit Dance Denied.

Newport, R.I., July 5. Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish opened her Newport mansion last night with an entertainment at Crossways, but it was of a most simple nature and nothing out of the ordinary happened. It had been reported in the New York newspapers that the guests would be asked to come in bathing suits, but this gave Mrs. Fish so much annoyance that this afternoon she requested that the following denial be given to the press:

“Mrs Fish asks the newspapers to deny that she proposed having her guests appear in bathing suits at a dinner the night of the Fourth of July. It was simply a dinner for forty guests, at which there were no special features, and only a little dancing followed in the ballroom.

Kansas City [MO] Star 5 July 1906: p. 3

 

bathing beauties 1905

There was an alternate version of the origin of the “Bathing Suit Dance—” as the brain-child of a proponent of modest dress:

The idea was really started last winter in New York, when a good deal of controversy was raised concerning the décolleté gowns that were the rule among the fashionable crowd, both at parties and at the opera. A well-known millionaire, who is somewhat straitlaced in his ideas concerning womanly modesty, said that he would much prefer seeing a daughter of his attend a ball in her bathing suit than in one of the evening gowns considered de rigueur in smart society. A lady who was present, and who overheard this remark, at once took him up and said that she would give a bathing suit party in his honour, to which all the men would come in ordinary evening dress, but that all the ladies present must wear the clothes in which they were wont-to take their “dip” in the summer. He could then judge whether the bathing costume or the evening dress was the most correct form of toilette for the modest young woman.

New Zealand Herald, 13 October 1906, Page 2

To Mrs Daffodil’s regret, no decision on the question was announced in the paper, only that the party was a great success and that all the ladies looked charming in their abbreviated costumes.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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