Just Add Water, Part I

It's the first day of summer vacation for FIDM students! Where better place to spend it than the beach? This Jazz Age man's swimsuit from the FIDM Museum collection is hardly recognizable as beachwear today. Gender-segregated swimming hours were strictly enforced along the coasts and at inland watering holes during the nineteenth century. As a result, men could swim in the nude. This practice changed by the early twentieth century, when men and women commingled in all manner of sports. Gazing at firm, muscular physiques in clinging, wet knit swimsuits like this one must have delighted many female beachgoers. 


United States
Museum Purchase (Funds provided by Tonian Hohberg)

Generally, wool swimwear was unembellished; perhaps a nautical stripe or two was added for contrast. This machine-embroidered version is a rarity. Equally unique is its theme, Native Americans in mountainous terrain. The figures, rendered in alternating color bands, are identified by their eagle feather headdresses, and are surrounded by teepees and campfires. Unfortunately, the maker of this brilliant red suit is unknown, as is the rational for embellishing such modern sportswear with romanticized American frontier scenes.

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