It took three and a half years, but I’ve finally managed to do a photoshoot in the ca. 1907 worsted wool Edwardian swimsuit that I made for the HSF ‘Inspiration’ challenge back in 2014.
I generally have to plan and prep for a photoshoot in full historical for a good few days beforehand, but this one was quite spontaneous.
It was a gorgeously sunny and warm Saturday, after days of storm and rain. Quite out of the blue, Mr D asked if I wanted to do a photoshoot that evening. I thought about showing you yet another pair of shorts + a Miramar top, but that wasn’t particularly exciting. It was too warm for most of my historical costumes, but then I remembered the Edwardian swimsuit: very little prep and ironing needed, and not hard to put on! And certainly long overdue!
I’m wearing the swimsuit with the scarf I made to go with it, wool stockings from the Rosalie pattern, and cheap little slip-on sandshoes. They aren’t actually that far from period originals in construction (Keds, after all, started out as a maker of beach shoes), and I won’t be heartbroken if the seawater makes them fall apart.
I’m not sure what was worn under swimsuits in the first decade of the 20th century, but the few clues I can find, and logic, suggest the answer is nothing. I’m not that brave, and was worried about wool chafing, so opted for a cotton singlet and knickers (both from the Scroop Wonder Unders pattern, of course!).
No corset with garter clips did present a problem. How to hold up the stockings? I held mine up by rolling them down over a tied garter. Some images of women in similar swimsuits show what appears to be an extra ribbon tied around the cuff of the bloomers. Was it just for decoration, or was it a further garter to help keep stockings from slipping?
I’d forgotten how much fun it is to wear this. It’s very comfortable, and twirls and bounces most pleasingly. There was quite a brisk breeze, so the skirt fluttered around me.
I had the most delightful time skipping about on the exposed sand flats, chasing seagulls, and twirling in the wind.
The sea was quite rough and unsuitable for swimming, though I did wade in up to my waist. The photos of that are pretty bad though, as Mr D wasn’t willing to walk out onto the wet sand flats.
The worsted wool didn’t absorb much water at all, and the wind dried it as soon as I came out.
These photos were all taken at Lyall Bay, on Wellington’s South Coast, near the airport. You can see the airplanes in the background behind me in the photo above. Surfing was first introduced to NZ at Lyall Bay by Duke Kahanamoku on March 21, 1915
There were quite a few surfers down the other end of the beach, but no swimmers. The sea was quite rough, and the side we stayed on isn’t great for swimming even at the best of times, so we pretty much had it to ourselves. I did get a few strange looks as I was getting out of the car, and when posing nearer to the sidewalk. One poor cyclist almost ran into a pole because he was turning his head back to look at me!
Wearing the Edwardian swimsuit to the beach was an unmitigated success, but what about swimming in it? Would it hold so much water you’d sink? Be so cumbersome and bulky you could only stand there? Chafe? Would the wool keep you warmer than an ordinary swimsuit? The answer to all those questions will be in my next post…