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Edwardian  • Bathing Costume

Bathing machine attire about 1905
Early Edwardian sea bathing was still influenced by Victorian attitudes.The purpose was theraputic for health reasons rather than for fun. Sea bathing especially in the case of women, involved hiring a bathing machine. A bathing machine could be described as a wooden shed on cartwheels,in which she would change into her bathing costume.
The machine was towed by horse into the sea where she would open the door and descend the steps into the water.
The woman on the left has probably hired her costume with the machine. It appears to be a "one size fits all" design made from a sturdy fabric. It consists of a loose wrap tunic with tie belt and baggy drawers; a style little changed since the early nineteenth century.
The women below are wearing typical costumes of the day, again consisting of a wrap bathing tunic over bathing drawers. Impractical for swimming, they are dressed for bathing in the sea.
Bulky bathing caps were needed to keep the bulky hairstyles of the day dry.
Mixed bathing was frowned upon or banned on most beaches. Mixed swimming contests were against the law until 1913 thus women swimmers could not compete in the 1908 London Olympics.