Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Victorian seaside

Today my daughter was meant to be having a Victorian seaside day at school. I had made her little costume, found a parasol and an old straw hat. We were all set but then I found a letter in her school bag stating they have a confirmed case of swine school at her school. Oh dear! Luckily the person who has it seems to be mildly affected thank goodness. However we then had a huge dilemma of whether to send her in or not. Part of me thought 'don't make a fuss - it's enivitable we will be exposed to it - perhaps it's better to get it now' whilst the other part of me thought 'It's only a few days to the summer holidays - we shouldn't expose her to this if we can avoid it'. So three hours later after chatting to a few other parents we came to the decision to send her in. But then at about 1.30am things changed as she seemed to come down with the vomiting virus that has been going around. So fate intervened and she is at home! She seems right as rain luckily!!
We've been looking at my book 'Seaside Fashions 1860- 1939' by Avril Lansdell which has some great pictures of the old bathing machines. It was invented in 1753 to enable women to swim in modest seclusion. They would enter it from the rear and undress while a horse pulled it down to the sea. When the horse stopped a canopy was let down over the door and steps so the bather could hide under it. Then a female assistant called a 'dipper' would lead the woman in to the sea. In Victorian times horses were no longer used and teams of men moved them with the tide. They faced out to sea and a plank was laid from the beach accross the edge of the water. The canopies also disapeared in Victorian times but men and women would swim seperately.
Women wore bonnets or straw hats sometimes tied on with a scarf and in 1852 Amelia Bloomer invented the bloomer and the bloomer suit became the standard swimwear. It consisted of ankle length trousers gathered at the ankles with a knee or thigh length jacket like dress, often made of dark coloured fabric with braid or embroidery. Lace up slippers were worn which were abit like ballet shoes.
I'm glad things have changed! It would have been so uncomfortable and restrictive swimming fully clothed. I also believe they were responsible for some drownings. It's amazing how much swimwear has changed in the last century.

NB: Bathing machine picture from Archant Regional and other from fashion-era.

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