I do like to be beside the sea (in an Edwardian Swimsuit)

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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.

ca. 1907 Edwardian swimsuit by

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!

ca. 1907 Edwardian swimsuit by


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.

ca. 1907 Edwardian swimsuit by

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?

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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.


ca. 1907 Edwardian swimsuit by

I had the most delightful time skipping about on the exposed sand flats, chasing seagulls, and twirling in the wind.

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ca. 1907 Edwardian swimsuit by


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.

ca. 1907 Edwardian swimsuit by

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!

ca. 1907 Edwardian swimsuit by

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…

ca. 1907 Edwardian swimsuit by



  1. Looking forward to more details about how the suit wears! It’s great that you found an opportunity to model this outfit and test it out.


  2. Lynne says

    Love the photos! Especially the one of you cavorting on the wet sand. How often in modern dress can one carry off a really good cavort? This outfit was made for it!

    I was interested to hear that the wool was not madly keen on absorbing water, and kind of shook dry when you came out. Let’s hear it for wool. Does so much more than people expect.

  3. Beautiful photos. Beautiful setting and use of nature to feature a nature activity, swimming.

  4. Patti rudolph says

    Had no idea that you were so far away, from st louis mo usa. Love your posts and clothes. Getting ready to retire and we are american revolutionary war reenactors 1750 to 1810. learning to make our costumes with no hx of sewing or tailoring. Just love the clothes. My husband has a small business making and selling reproduction maps of the era. USA only. Love all your posts and photography. Wont be attempting gowns for a while. Wanting to go to williamsburg virginia for some of their classes. Thanks for all the beautiful photos.

  5. Lyndlenz says

    Lovely! That’s actually very fetching!
    There’s a lot of chat in Belles on Their Toes (the sequel to Cheaper by the dozen) about their swimsuits – althought it was the early 20s the girls had to wear the old fashioned swimsuits decreed by their father – but I haven’t been able to visualise exactly what they were talking about. They had two piece swimsuits (an inner and outer part) that didn’t show their knees, and when Martha wore only the under piece, she is described as svelte in a something that sounds like a woollen, long legged version of a modern one piece suit. The others are scandalized and envious. Their mother buys them all an up to date one piece suit.
    Any clues about the two piece suit? I’m guessing the girls’ ones would have had to be current in late teens New England; Mother’s diaphanous one with the long under piece could date from much earlier.

    • Lyndlenz says

      I imagine the one piece to be very like the Starlight park in the Bronx photo on your pinterest board, by the way

    • The swimsuit descriptions in Belles on Their Toes always puzzled me too. I think it’s partly because the book wasn’t written until 1950, and the authors memories aren’t perfect, and they are trying to exaggerate things to appeal to their audience. I must read it again and figure it out.

      • Lyndlenz says

        ah yes, I thought about it being written much later, but forgot the exaggeration factor!! Good point, thank you!

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