Planning a trip to the pool, river or beach? Can you imagine packing a bathing suit like this, complete with layers of itchy wool, stockings and slippers?! It’s hard to believe, but 100 years ago, young ladies actually felt a bit of freedom wearing a costume like this. That’s because the bathing suit – even one that was dark, wooly and heavy – was a symbol of their changing roles at the turn of the 20th century. The “New Woman” was not content to spend her days in the drawing room or nursery – she wanted to be outdoors enjoying the benefit of exercise on a bicycle or playing golf or swimming at the shore. But progress didn’t mean an end to decorum. She wanted to be dressed properly, and that meant modestly.
Bridget’s bathing suit, pictured here, is a one-piece romper with puffed sleeves and a separate skirt. Most suits were black or navy blue wool or heavy cotton because, when wet, they did not become see-through as a light color, light-weight fabric would. It was considered rather daring to show one’s legs so the heavy stockings are included in the costume; the slippers protect her feet and the jaunty beret cap holds her hair in place. Suits were often trimmed with red and white braid and a large sailor-type collar.
Take a special “Summer Season” Maymont Mansion tour, now through September 2, to see a vintage wool bathing costume and learn how the Dooleys and others coped with the summer heat. https://www.maymont.org/calendar?cid=2&ceid=1461&cerid=4353&cdt=8%2f13%2f2013