April 14, 2024

Swimwear through the Ages

Swimming at Water Works Park

As the weather warms, we start to think of what to wear to the pool, lake or ocean.  Swimming and swimwear have changed with the times although not in the sequence you might expect.  Cavemen swam but probably not so much as a leisure activity than as a means of getting somewhere or as a part of bathing. At times through the years, learning to swim was promoted more to save a life than as a leisure activity.  During the great flood of 1913, many people drowned because they couldn’t swim.  Swimming was also a gender separate activity – men and women on different beaches.

 Swimsuits were originally bathing gowns for women and long underwear for men. Modesty and protection from the sun prevented bathing suits from showing any skin. The suits were made of wool and worn with woolen stockings and thus, very heavy when wet.  As swimming became more popular, the swimsuit slowly evolved.  Lighter materials were used and the stockings disappeared. Then the arms were uncovered, the pants were shortened, necklines plunged and backs were bared until the suit reached the point of as little coverage as possible.

The Delphos Canal Museum has a swimsuit from those early years donated by a daring relative of the owner. You will find many interesting articles of clothing from yesteryear on a visit to the Delphos Canal Museum.  Please stop by.  We are open on Thursday mornings from 9am until noon and on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm until 3pm.


Printed in the Delphos Herald June 8, 2013

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