Miss Bonnington’s Bathing Boots: 1907

Digital Capture

Perhaps at a more fashionable watering place Miss Bonnington’s boots would not have created the slightest stir, but at Silver Beach the first question asked the newcomer on the piazza was “Have you seen Miss Bonnington’s boots?” and a negative reply was to admit a truly recentness of arrival.

There was nothing remarkable about the boots save that they were of nile green waterproof material laced high upon the calf. At a resort where stockings, or at the best the sort of canvas slipper to be had at the drug store for a quarter, were considered sufficient, the appearance of Miss Bonnington on the sands at the bathing hour was the signal for the gathering of a crowd of the curious.

Natalie Bonnington professed an indifference to the curious gaze of the hotel patrons and the natives. She could not help being aware of the excitement she created, yet she did not discard the boots.

Ridley told himself a dozen times that he did not love Miss Bonnington because of her boots. In honest truth, he could not tell whether or not he loved the girl.

Aside from these odd bathing boots, her attire was most demure. She affected the simplest dresses— and looked better in them than the women who wore silks and satins all out of harmony with the weather.

Her manner matched her garments, for she was demure almost to a point of affectation and never a roguish twinkle marred the calm serenity of her full, lustrous brown eyes.

Those eyes were Natalie’s greatest charm. Ridley loved to lie on the warm sands in the afternoon, sounding the placid depths of her liquid orbs. At such times he was sure that he was in love, and he was — until he remembered the boots.

It was in this uncertain frame of mind that he took to dressing early for his bath, and then running up the sands, around the point well out of sight of the crowd around the boots. Not until he felt sure that she had gone back to her dressing room did he venture to return, but even with this expedient his heart continued to be torn by uncertainty.

But it was to the boots that he owed the final answer to his questioning heart. He was running along the sands on his way back to the bathhouses when, on the turn of a point he discerned a huge sun umbrella.

Projecting below the edge he could see Miss Bonnington’s boots beside a mound of sand that covered the extremities of her companion. Just as he passed, scarcely making a sound in his bare feet, he heard a kiss; a loud, undeniable smack.

It was not the sort of a kiss he imagined some day bestowing upon the arched curve of those red lips when he should have at last decided to speak.

He had mentally rehearsed the scene over and over again, now in a dark comer of the piazza, again under the sunshade, but always in his dreams the scene had ended in her whispered “Yes” and his lips had touched hers, tenderly, reverently, in the first kiss of love.

That Miss Bonnington should seek a secluded part of the beach on which to indulge her osculatory tendencies was intolerable. He was a man easily swayed by little things and the loudness of the smack had sickened him, while at the same time his loss told him how truly he had loved the girl.

He dressed as rapidly as possible and sought his room. He was too miserable to mix with the others. He wanted to be alone where he could think it all over.

His room seemed blurred with images of the past. He could see the yellow sands and himself beside Natalie questioning the limpid clearness of her eyes. He could see the piazza in the soft moonlight and the wrapt look upon her face as he quoted poetry to her.

Then he vanished before the image of the afternoon with the boots beneath the sunshade and that smack reverberating like the noise of thunder in the solitude of his soul.

By evening he had pulled himself together and he even dressed for the regular Wednesday night hop, but he kept carefully away from Natalie until late in the evening, when he ran across her standing pensively in a corner of the piazza, watching the reflection of the moon across the broken waters.

Her face brightened at his approach and she impulsively put out her hand to stop him.

“I have not seen you all day,” she cried. “Have you been ill?”

“I was a little upset,” he answered, constrainedly.

“Is it trouble?” The soft eyes beamed their sympathy.

“In a way,” he agreed. “I saw something this morning that rather upset me. Around the point,” he added, meaningly.

“Ah, yes,” she mused. “You go far up the beach to bathe.”

“Way beyond the crowd,” he confirmed. “I like it better there.”

“You must take me some morning,” she said. I have never been to the point. Is it not absurd?”

“You have not been to the point?” His lip curled in scorn. Probably she would deny the scene of the morning.

“I should like a quiet swim,” she said, softly. “Do you know that I have just found out why the beach is so crowded.”

“Yes?” He wondered what she would tell him now.

“It is because of my boots,” she said, with a rippling laugh. “Do you know that people came to see my bathing boots. Of all the foolish things of which I have ever heard. It seems they were almost what you call a sensation.”

He smiled in spite of himself. Her mother was a Russian, and at times her odd expressions were delightfully quaint. One might almost believe that she was sincere in her declaration of the new discovery.

“The boots are a little—individual,” he agreed. “I could recognize them anywhere.”

Natalie did not observe the emphasis upon the last word. “They were very comfortable,” she said, musingly. “And the people were so disappointed when I did not wear them this morning.”

“You did not wear them this morning?”

“I gave them to the maid, who makes the bed. With $100 I could not give her as much pleasure. Is it not odd, her love of color?”

With beaming face he caught her hand.

“Natalie,” he cried.

The rest of the scene passed off as he had planned it, even to the whispered “Yes,” and that reverential first kiss. Miss Bonnington’s boots had served their turn.

Los Angeles [CA] Herald 6 October 1907: p. 29

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has nothing but scorn for a young man with such a vivid imagination and no appreciation for bespoke footwear. First he builds a sand-castles-in-the-air romance despite having never spoken to the girl, then his hopes are dashed to bits by a beach umbrella and a “smack.”  One imagines Shakespeare rewriting the plot of Othello with bathing boots instead of a handkerchief.

Exotic European novelties for the beach were often reported, but seldom seen in the States, so perhaps Miss Bonnington’s boots did cause a sensation.

Brilliant Bathing Boots Please Paris

Silk on Velvet Footwear Impracticable, of Course, or It Wouldn’t Be Attractive

Paris Fashionable shoemakers are already being besieged with orders for the new bathing boots which have been the rage at the Riviera and Monte Carlo baths. These silk and velvet boots are brilliant in color, the most conspicuous being orange boots lined with purple, white lined with red, and green lined with yellow.

In accordance with the theory that whatever is fashionable must be unpractical these boots are not laced, but are of the slip-on kind, so that once in the water they are sure to slip off.

Bootmakers contend that the bathing boot must be wide and baggy around the leg, so as to permit freedom of movement, while fitting the foot like a glove, and while the impartial spectator may agree with their arguments he is obliged to doubt the practicability of the principle.

Wisconsin State Journal [Madison WI] 26 March 1920: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil has written before on the theory and practice of bathing footwear in Shoes for the Surf.

 

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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