1920s Silk Bathing Shoes

In pandemic times, what would we do without the internet?  I’ll be completely honest – I find shopping in a real store or antiques market and spotting something wonderful for my collection much more satisfying than online shopping. This is especially true of ebay auctions where there’s little immediate gratification. But some things are worth the wait, and here’s my latest example of that.

I spotted these silk 1920s bathing shoes on @1860-1960’s Instagram page, and my poor heart stood still.  Bathing shoes of any kind are getting harder and harder to find, and here was a pair that I’d never seen before. A week later, they were mne, and a week after that, they showed up in my mailbox. I was not disappointed.

These are actually a silk print placed over a canvas base. I have several canvas pairs of bathing shoes. They had to be made of a sturdy fabric in order to survive their hard use on sand and rocks, and in salt water.

Almost all bathing shoes had canvas soles. I do know that Keds made a bathing shoes with a rubber sole, and by the 1930s, rubber bathing shoes had pretty much replaced canvas ones.  I have seen canvas shoes with leather soles advertised as bathing shoes or boots, but no.

My new shoes have a two-button closure. Some have one button, like Mary Jane shoes, some tie, and others, mainly boots, have laces.

I looked for an image in my resources that showed a printed fabric made into a bathing shoe, but was not successful. So I decided to show some  of the history of bathing shoes from photos in my collection. Please note that bathing shoes go back to Victorian times, and some are very fancy.These are rarely seen on the market.

These bathing boots date to the 1910s, and I can’t quite figure them out. I think they lace and the wearer tied them on the back of the leg.

Bathing boots continued to be popular into the early 1920s. Note that the dark stockings have been replaced by rolled white ones.

These could be black, but I’ve seen these in red and dark green as well as black.

A few years later, this woman wore bathing boots which were cut out in the front.

They are not quite a shoe, and not quite a boot.  These date to the mid 1920s.

My new bathing shoes were probably made in the mid to late 1920s, at the end of the canvas bathing shoe’s popularity. In the  1930s, women turned to rubber shoes, or bare feet in the water, with sandals on the shore.

This photo dates from 1929 or 1930. Her fantastic shoes are made from rubber.

I really do want to thank all the online sellers who have persevered during such a trying time. Thank you for keeping collectors like me from going insane!


Filed under 1920s fashion, Collecting, Proper Clothing, Summer Sports

9 responses to “1920s Silk Bathing Shoes

  1. jacq staubs

    Lucky find?! The print is interesting.I suppose they were for walking /dipping close to the edge of the water. Swimming in them is awkward. I like the wrapped ankle.


  2. Fascinating, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Claritza

    I learned at the Rehoboth Beach (Delaware) Historical Society that a lot of people did not know how to swim so they mostly waded or stayed on the beach. The museum displays a heavy iron ball to which a rope would be attached. The ball would act like an anchor out in the ocean a little ways and bathers (bathing, not swimming!) would hold onto the rope. Rehoboth was founded in 1873.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nann

    And they fit you?! I got bathing shoes from Lands End this year and they’ve been great for my Lake Michigan beach walks because I can wade.


  5. Vicky Loebel

    What lovely colors. It’s amazing how well they’ve survived in a clearly worn pair of shoes. Thanks for sharing!


  6. What an amazing find 🙂


  7. Christina

    These may be earlier c1916-1918. Adverts show sateen bathing shoes with canvas soles at 50c. The moiré pattern is also seen on an example I found. Yours are in such good condition.


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