I look at bathing suits from the first quarter of the 20th century and I get the idea that the true purpose of them was to make women look as unattractive as possible. They were pretty worthless when it came to actual swimming, and the sex appeal is nonexistent. Thank goodness for the 1920s and the knit wool suit, droopy and saggy as it was!
Bathing suits changed a lot in the 1910s. At the beginning of the decade most of them still had sleeves. They were most commonly made from woven wool. The bloomers covered the knees. By 1920 the sleeves were pretty much a thing of the past, sateen and twills cottons were becoming more popular as the fabric of bathing suits, and the bloomers skimmed the tops of the knees.
This suit shows both the old and the new. There are no sleeves, and the fabric is cotton. But the bloomers remain long, hitting just below the knees. The top is like a dress, comes to the knees and is shapeless.
A common problem with collecting older bathing suits is that the pieces often get lost. I’ve found just the bloomers, and just the dress, and belts are usually long gone. But this suit is intact, including both a white and a black belt. It even had a pair of black cotton stockings with it.
This suit was certainly homesewn, as shown by the poorly executed stitching. But I love the attempt at interesting details in the form of the white cuffs with black buttonholes.
The bodice shaping is accomplished through the use of two big tucks and the belt. Still, it is basically just a sack cinched in the middle. Somehow I can see why this look did not satisfy the modern 1920s woman.