Woollen swimwear in the 1930s

PHOTO (C) Beeldtype: My grandmother, her sister and my very young mother wearing woollen swimwear in 1938 and of course Daisy, the Scottish terrier.

Summer is over and our bathing suits can be tucked away. I was thinking about how quickly the modern bathing suits dry. Some even faster than others. I decided to take a look at what my mother and grandparents wore on the beach.

But when I looked at the picture above, I immediately started to laugh. They are wearing woollen bathing suits! Wool! Did they know what happens to wool when it gets wet? A sheep is not equipped for swimming and that is because wool gets heavy (and saggy) !

I guess that back in the 30’s people wore natural fabrics like cotton, wool or silk. When I look in my closet today I see a lot of synthetic fibers. Unfortunately, because I really like the feel of organic fabrics. But synthetics are cheaper and more readily available. And in the case of swimwear: more comfortable.

What bothers me is that I can’t believe people didn’t care in the 30’s about the sagginess of the bathing suits. Did they just cope? Or did it have to be wool, because cotton might reveal too much of the body? So many questions…

Here’s an interesting website that answered my questions about woollen swimwear:

Spoiler alert: the answer was Lastex, yarn covered in rubber. Rubber… can you believe that? I like that we have evolved beyond that 🙂

I really like this bathing suit my grandmother is wearing. Isn’t she a diva? (The photo was not developed well, one side is lighter)

My grandmother wearing a polka dot swim suit in 1938 on the beach, probably The Hague.

I really like the lining of my grandmother’s bathing suit. I am almost certain that she would have said that it actually mader her look fat 😦

My mother and grandmother getting their feet wet in 1938. I do not know what the black thing on the right is… a rope?

My grandfather seems to wear a onepiece swimsuit with open sides:

My mother cuddling with my grandfather on the beach in 1938.

Published by Françoise Vaal

My addiction to visuals started with cartoons on tv, comic books, and movies. I dreamt away while looking at my mother’s landscape photographs and imagined going there and capturing the landscapes for myself. For more than twenty years I was a picture editor for newspapers and magazines but my own photography had been limited to snapshots of faraway countries. My wish of dedicating myself to my own photography and art finally came true. My home base is The Netherlands.

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