Edwardian Bathing Costume

Edwardian Bathing Costume

‘Bathing costumes have a combined duty – serviceableness and daintiness. How many girls know how to swim these days? Nearly all of them; in fact, the girl who cannot tumble about in the water is an exception these days.’ (San Francisco Call, 1902)

That’s my 1900s bathing costume.

Edwardian Bathing Costume

Edwardian bathing costumes were either made of wool, cotton or silk fabric. For my bathing dress I used blue cotton fabric.

‘Black and dark blue wool is the best color’. (San Francisco Call, 1902)

But not all Edwardian bathing suits were made of wool.

‘Ladies’ two-piece bathing suit […] made from good quality blue cotton fabric, with sailor collar, blouse effect, with the collar and skirt trimmed with white braid.’ (Sears, Roebuck and Company, 1900s)

Edwardian Dress Sailor Collar

My Edwardian bathing costume has a sailor collar. Edwardian bathing suits often had nautical details, like this 1900s blue bathing costume with white sailor collar.

Edwardian Bathing Suit

I used white cotton fabric strips and black cotton ric rac ribbon to trim the bathing suit.

Edwardian Nautical Bathing Dress

The bathing dress has knife pleats in front which are stitched down at the shoulder and at the waist under the belt. Here’s a late 1870s bathing suit with knife pleats at the front.

The belt is stitched down at the back and is closed with one button at the front. The description of a 1904 bathing suit says: ‘The girdle holds the suit well in place while it gives perfect freedom to the body in swimming.’

Edwardian Bathing Dress

At the back, the fabric is just gathered beneath the yoke and sailor collar. (1900s bathing suit with sailor collar and pleats at the back)

‘Sailor collars have been and always will be just the right thing for the water. Even they vary slightly in style. One may be fastened snugly at the throat and be absolutely guiltless of ornamentation, while the next one may be V-shaped and a mass of applique work. Again it may be square or it may be circular; it may fasten over a vest and again it may be the only trimming the suit boasts of.’ (San Francisco Call, 1902)

Edwardian bathing costumes were either made with the blouse and drawers in one part and a button-on skirt, or the blouse and skirt in one part and separate drawers. My bathing costume is like a knee-lenght dress with the blouse and skirt in one part.

‘And speaking of skirts, whatever else you do, do not have them that ungainly, wretched length that makes of the prettiest girl a fright. Have it short – the shorter the better. Never below the knees, for then it loses that something which smart folks call chic.’ (San Francisco Call, 1902)

Edwardian Blue Cotton Bathing Dress

In the Edwardian era, bathing corsets were sometimes worn under the bathing dress (picture of 1902 bathing corset). But I’m not wearing one here.

‘After they [the bathing suits] are wet they cling and stick as closely as possible and the young lady who has not the figure of Venus feels rather shy at displaying all her defects so openly.’ (San Francisco Call, 1902)

Edwardian Bathing Costume Bathing Corset

But because of the belt and pleats, the bathing costume gives the figure an Edwardian S-curve silhouette.

1950s Sailor Style Dress

It was a beautiful, warm September day when we took the photos.

Edwardian Bathing Costume Sand Beach
The first yellow leaves

Edwardian Bathing Dress Lake Trees

This lake was my favorite place. But, sadly, these are the last pictures from there, because the whole area is now closed off with giant brush piles and gigantic sand heaps. 🙁

1900s Edwardian Bathing Photo Photograph
View of the lake

Nautical Dress

I put my hair into an Edwardian pompadour hairstyle.

Nautical Summer Dress

Here you’ll find my tutorial for this easy and authentic Edwardian Pompadour hairstyle.

Edwardian Bathing Costume Playing With Water
Splashing in the water

Summer Playing With Water

1900s Edwardian Dress Water Drops In The Air
Playing with water -> water drops in the air
Playing With Water Water Drops In The Air
More water drops

Edwardian Bathing Costume Photograph

Here’s an Edwardian black and white photograph of a woman with a similar bathing costume: Atlantic city beach ca.1905 by William M. Vander Weyde

Edwardian Bathing Dress Photo

I love the bathing costume 😀 – it’s comfortable to wear and so pretty. It can even be worn today as a sailor-style dress.

Edwardian Bathing Shoes and Bathing Costume

With the bathing costume, I’m wearing my matching DIY Edwardian bathing shoes with cork soles, which are made with the same blue cotton fabric.

Here’s a picture of a pretty 1885 bathing costume with bathing shoes.

Lace Edwardian Bathing Shoes
Lacing the bathing shoes

1900s Bathing Shoes

In the 1900s, legs were never bare while bathing, but were always covered with stockings, usually dark wool stockings. I’m wearing black cotton stockings.

Sailor Dress

The shoes are comfortable to wear – a bit slippery on steep sand hills like here.

1900s Bathing Costume Lake

Here you’ll find my pinterest board ‘1900s sportswear‘ with more 1900s bathing costumes.

7 thoughts on “Edwardian Bathing Costume

  1. That’s such a lovely bathing costume. And cotton is an excellent choice. I cannot for the life of me imagine going into the water with wool on. Won’t it get wet and sink you?

    You did a wonderful job of recreating this piece!

    1. Thank you! 😀

      Wool was usually used for Victorian and Edwardian bathing suits because it’s supposed to be warmer than cotton when wet, wool fabric is a sturdy material and it’s easier to dye – especially dark colored cotton fabric bled color when wet and stained the skin. Woven wool also doesn’t reveal the figure as much as cotton when wet. An advertisement of a mohair bathing suit in the 1908 Sears & Roebuck Catalogue says it “sheds water well and does not cling to the figure” (source).

      There are very soft and thin wool fabrics. I think cotton and wool bathing gowns are both very heavy when wet – but I haven’t tried it yet. I’m curious if it’s possible to swim in my Edwardian or 1920s bathing suit. Maybe I’ll try it later this year when it’s warmer! 😀

      1. I really love your bathing outfit! It is so beautiful and becoming. I am so very tired of seeing women wearing outfits that are nothing but glorified underwear.

        Where did you get the pattern for your bathing outfit?

  2. These bathing dresses are my favorite period of swimwear. They always look attractive and flattery. Your costume is beautiful!

    Also, I love what you did to your hair.

    What is the purpose for ladies to wear those black socks?

    As for the question if someone can swim in these bathing dresses, yes you can. It’s a litte heavy but not too be bad that will cause someone to go under. Two videos prove:



    1. Thanks, Edward! Most women, but not all, wore those wool stockings for warmth, for modesty reasons and out of habit (because their legs were always covered – even in summer).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.