Amelia Bloomer introduced dress reform for women in the 1850s, but trousers, even long, full ones, were considered masculine. The only place deemed proper for a woman to appear in them was at the beach. Can you imagine what the beach looked like in the 1860s?

This two piece bathing suit consists of a tunic and drawers. Many women went to the beaches, but few of them actually swam. Suits were made of non-clinging fabric such as wool flannel, serge, or mohair. This all wool paletot dress of brick red rep (wool) is trimmed in black braid. The pants are completely lined. The buttoned waist has safety ties, in case the bather pops a button.

These heavy wool swimsuits with all the accessories - long stockings, laced up bathing slippers, fancy caps - made it unsafe in the deeper water. Annette Kellerman, an Australian swimming star, became famous in synchronized swimming in 1907. She helped change women's swimming fashions. Esther Williams. Today's beach wear is varied and comfort has finally been an established practice. So whether you wear a big shirt or sarong to make your way to the water, remember the swim suit has a long and noble history.

This reproduction was made by Peggy Fields.

Click the image for detailed views.