Our words are important. This is true in politics and in fashion history. I love people who have the strength to sell old clothes online because I know how much work it can be, but what I don’t like is how a garment can morph from its original purpose to something entirely different in the interest of selling that garment.
The garment shown above is a gymsuit. Period. It is not a playsuit. It is not a romper. It is, despite what etsy listings would lead one to believe, a gymsuit.
This is a bathing suit by Tina Leser. Period. It is not a playsuit. It is not a romper. It is, despite what etsy listings would lead one to believe, a bathing suit.
This is a 1911 bathing suit. A similar suit is currently listed on etsy as a “1920’s Cotton Playsuit, Beach Romper, Athletic Wear, Bloomers” but it too, is a bathing suit. Nowhere in the description, nor in the tags, was the term bathing suit even used. That would completely eliminate that suit from the search I regularly do for older bathing suits.
But more importantly, things like this change the terminology of fashion and of clothing. It’s like calling a short 1920s dress a “mini”, or a long 1930s dress a “maxi”. These terms did not come into use until decades later, and so using them in an older context is incorrect. I will agree that it is possible that some people might have referred to the Tina Leser type suit as a playsuit, but rompers were for toddlers, not for grown women.
As of this writing, there are 3125 listings for “playsuit” in the women’s vintage category on etsy. Most of these are for 1950s and 1960s bathing suits. Some are for 1980s jumpsuits. And all are titled and tagged in a manner that a serious collector is never going to find them.
UPDATE: I know better than to make a statement so definite as ” rompers were for toddlers, not for grown women.” A friend has emailed a photo of a 1920s sewing pattern of a one piece garment with legs for ladies, misses and girls, and the pattern refers to it as a romper. Let me rephrase that to say that in my experience, rompers were worn by my little sister and cousins in the 1960s, and I wore culotte dresses in the 60s and jumpsuits in the 70s.