Tag Archives: Victorian bathing

Spoopendyke and the Bathing Suit: 1880

1877 men's bathing suit

A COMPLICATED GARMENT.

“My dear,” observed Mr. Spoopendyke, looking up from his paper, “I think I would be greatly benefited this Summer by sea baths. Bathing in the surf is an excellent tonic, and if you will make me up a suit, and one for yourself, if you like, we’ll go down often and take a dip in the waves.”

“The very thing,” smiled Mrs. Spoopendyke, “you certainly need something to tone you up, and there’s nothing like salt water. I think I’ll make mine of blue flannel, and, let me see, yours ought to be, red, my dear.”

“I don’t think you caught the exact drift of my remark,” retorted Mr. Spoopendyke; “I didn’t say I was going into the opera business, or that I was going to hire out to some country village as a conflagration. My plan was to go in swimming, Mrs. Spoopendyke, to go in swimming, and not grow up with the country as a cremation furnace. You can make yours of blue if you want it, but you can’t make mine of red, that’s all.”

“There’s a pretty shade of yellow flannel–”

“Most indubitably, Mrs. Spoopendyke, but if you think I’m going to masquerade around Manhattan Beach in the capacity of a ham, you haven’t yet seized my idea. I don’t apprehend that I shall benefit by the waters any more by going around looking like a Santa Cruz rum barrel. What I want is a bathing suit, and If you can’t got one up without making me look like Fulton street car I’ll go and buy something to suit me.”

“Would you want it all in one piece, or do you want pants and blouse?”

“I want a suit easy to get in and out of. I’m not particular about following the fashion. Make up something neat, plain and substantial, but don’t stick any fancy colors into it. I want it modest and serviceable.”

Mrs. Spoopendyke made up the suit, under the guidance of a lady friend, whose aunt had told her how it should be constructed. It was in one piece, and when completed was rather a startling garment.

“’I’ll try it on, to-night,” said Mr. Spoopendyke, eyeing it askance when it was handed him.

Before retiring Mr. Spoopendyke examined the suit, and then began to get into it.

“Why didn’t you make some legs to it?  What d’ye want to make it all arms for?” he inquired, struggling around to see why it didn’t come up behind. “You’ve got it on sideways,” exclaimed Mrs. Spoopendyke. “You’ve got one leg into the sleeve.”

“I’ve got to get it on sideways. There ain’t any top to it. Don’t you know enough to put the arms up where they belong?  What d’ye think I am, anyhow? A star fish? Where does this leg go?”

“Right in there. That’s the place for that leg.”

“Then where’s the leg that goes in this hole?”

“Why, the other leg.”

“The measly thing’s all legs. Who’d you make this thing for, me? What d’ye take me for, a centipede? Who else is going to get in here with me? I want somebody else. I ain’t twins. I can’t fill this business up. What d’ye call it, anyway, a family machine?”

“Those other places ain’t legs; they’re sleeves.”

“What are they doing down there? Why ain’t they up here where they belong? What are they there for, snow shoes? S’pose I’m going to stand on my head to get my arms in those holes?”

‘I don’t think you’ve got it on right,” suggested Mrs. Spoopendyke. “It looks twisted.”

“That’s the way you told me. You said, ‘put this leg here and that one there,’ and there they are. Now, where does the rest of me go?”

“I made it according to the pattern,” sighed Mrs. Spoopendyke.

“Then it’s all right, and it’s me that’s twisted,” sneered Mr. Spoopendyke. “I’ll have my arms and legs altered. All I want is to have my legs jammed in the small of my back and my arms stuck in my hips; then it’ll fit. What did you take for a pattern, a crab? Where’d you find the lobster you made this thing from? S’pose I’m going into the water on all fours? I told you I wanted a bathing suit, didn’t I?  Did I say anything about a chair cover?”

“I think if you take it off and try it on over again, it’ll work,” reasoned Mrs. Spoopendyke,

“Oh! of course. I’ve only got to humor the gastod thing. That’s all it wants,” and Mr. Spoopendyke wrenched it off with a growl.

“Now pull it on,” said Mrs. Spoopondyke.

Mr. Spoopendyke went at it again, and reversed the original order of disposing his limbs.

“Suit you now?” he howled. “That the way you meant it to go? What’s these things flopping around here?”

“Those are the legs, I’m afraid,” said Mrs. Spoopendyke, dejectedly.

“What are they doing up here? I see; oh! I see, this is supposed to represent me making a dive. When I get this on, I’m going head first. Where’s the balance? Where’s the rest? Give me the suit that represents me head up,” and Mr, Spoopendyke danced around the room in fury.

“Just turn it over, my dear,” said Mrs. Spoopendyke, “and you are all right.”

“How’m I going to turn it over?” yelled Mr. Spoopendyke. “S’pose I’m going to carry around a steam boiler to turn me over when I want the other end of this thing up? S’pose I’m going to hire a man to go around with a griddle spoon and turn me over like a flapjack, just to please this dod gasted bathing suit? D’ye think I work on pivots?”

“Just take it off and put it on the other way,” urged Mrs. Spoopendyke, who began to see her way clear.

Mr. Spoopendyke kicked the structure up to the ceiling, and plunged into it once more. This time it came out all right, and as he buttoned it up and surveyed himself in the glass the clouds passed away and he smiled. “I like it,” he remarked, “the color suits me and I think you have done very well, my dear; only,” and he frowned slightly, “I wish you would mark the arms and legs so I can distinguish one from the other, or some day I will present the startling spectacle of a respectable elderly gentleman hopping around the beach up side down. That’s all.”

The Brooklyn [NY] Daily Eagle 27 June 1880: p. 2

swimsuits 1882

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: We have met the irascible Mr Spoopendyke before, as he complained of the masquerade costume the much-tried Mrs Spoopendyke had selected for him. Back in the day his vile abuse passed for humourous domestic banter. If Mrs Daffodil were Mrs Spoopendyke, she would have sewed a number of lead weights into the seams and hems of the bathing costume she had so kindly constructed and would have encouraged the lout to eat a hearty lunch and then take a nice long swim, far far from shore.

 

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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The Gentleman at the Beach: 1903

 

MEN’S BATHING SUITS.

Two-Piece Affair Now the One Universally Accepted.

From the Haberdasher.

The man who swims and the man who suns will be better taken care of in the matter of raiment this coming summer than they have ever been. It is not many years since the average bathing costume was as hideous as it was uncomfortable, and man never appeared to worse advantage than he did when dressed for the beach. The old style one-piece suits of baglike form with their unsightly row of buttons down the front and their very peculiar striped patterns have been finally retired in favor of garments that not only fit perfectly, but that are comfortable, and to most men at least, becoming. At the seaside resorts bathing and beach lounging are now accepted as the principal diversion and men and women have learned to appreciate costumes that while slightly and not vulgar possess those attributes which are essential to comfortable swimming. The two-piece suit is now universally accepted and the model is practically universal. The only points so far as difference is concerned lie in the sleeve lengths. The shirts are made with quarter sleeveless or sleeveless, the latter being the favorite style with the young men, and for that matter with all men who really swim. As the beach is located at some distance from the hotels and houses at the majority of seaside places, it has become customary for men to wear a gown over the bathing suit while walking from the house or hotel to the beach.

Heretofore the bath robe was considered good enough for this purpose, but this summer there has been put on the market a robe designed specially for beach wear. These robes are made of heavy mercerized Oxfords in neat striped or figured patterns in combinations of self and contrasting colors. The robes are quite long, reach to the ankles, and have a button at the neck. The collars are of the Eton form and moderately wide, and the sleeves are finished plain or with a raglan cuff. There is one pocket which is patched on on the left hip, and the girdle is made of the same material as the robe. The robes are cut full so that they can be wrapped about the figure, and being light in weight and of a smooth finish can be thrown on the sandy beach without injury. When a man has put on his bathing suit and sandals, he puts on his robe and then he may amble about the beach or walks to his heart’s content. When he emerges from his dip he spreads the beach robe out of the sand and sits or reposes on it. This keeps the sand off the body and admits of one’s drying clean, a process which is impossible if one dries off on the sand.

The improvements made in bathing suits have been as great in the matter of fit as of colors and combinations. There is a great deal of variety now, and the colors are all perfectly fast if good quality garments are bought. Navy blue continues to be the favorite color. Suits having this for a ground color are relieved by stripes on the sleeves, shirt and drawer ends of white, red or light blue. The sleeveless shirts have solid half-inch bands of color about the arm-hole. Broad striped shirts come in college colors and are generally worn with solid trunks.

One of the best-selling suits is of army gray, with relief stripes in red, white, blue or black. Another good suit shows fancy pattern stripes in one color, and others show the granite or mixed stripes in gray, red or blue.

The novelty of the season in bathing suits is the broad striped sleeveless shirt worn with the loose solid color trunks. The trunks have belt loops and through them is a white cotton belt with nickel snake buckle is passed. The shirt of this suit is tucked into the trunks. Another new idea is to have the monogram embroidered in colors on the left breast of the shirt.

Bathing sandals are made of white canvas, with canvas or leather soles, or they are made entirely of leather. The latter consists of a sole which is held on by straps after the manner of the old Roman sandals.

Evening Star [Washington DC] 9 May 1903: p. 25

Bathing shoes, c. 1910

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  There was a good deal of resentment from ladies at the comparative sartorial freedom for gentlemen at the beach. Some ladies said that if they had to wear stockings, the men should also be compelled to conceal their nether limbs.

Aroused at strict toggery laws enforced by the beach authorities with regard to the fair sex Mrs. H.B. Harrison, of Washington, in a letter delivered to Chief Surgeon Charles Bossert, head of the “beach patrol,” today says:

“The way men are allowed to parade the beach makes them repulsive. The girls, after all, have curves and attractions not at all disgusting when they are permitted to come out on the beach without stockings. Why can’t you say something about the awful looking men who parade around in nothing but a little scrap of a bathing suit, which fails utterly to cover their unsightly bodies?

“And their limbs are simply awful, full of knobs, and besides most men are bowlegged. Could anything be more unsightly? The men, not the girls, should be compelled to wear stockings, and long stockings at that, also something to cover up their arms and chests. Nobody wants to see them, and they only clutter up good-looking scenery.” Atlantic City Special.

The Bambert [SC] Herald 21 August 1919: p. 6

Gent’s bathing costume, 1877

 

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.