The bathing suit of the 20s was originally made of wool. In the 1920s, the idea of going to the beach for a swim was still a relatively new concept and being fashionable was more important than
functionality. The idea of using wool for bathing suit materials was a result of the theory that wool will keep one warm.
Jantzen revolutionized swimwear material, by making swimmers with stretchy ribbed Jersey material. The stretchy ribbed jersey fit more snug than normal jerseys and was more comfortable than thick wool.
With the evolution of swimsuit materials, swimming became easier; necklines dropped too deep boat necks or V necks. Armholes grew bigger to make swimming real easier.
Vintage Swimsuits in the early 20s were reduced to a one-piece garment with a long top that covered shorts and paired with matching stockings. The swimsuits also began to shrink and more and more flesh was visible, from the bottoms of the trunks to the top of the stockings.
The shrinkage of the swimsuits brought about measures to ensure public decency which usually involved police officers patrolling the beach with measuring tapes, in some places. The tapes were used to measure the bathing suit of women to ensure that too much skin was not exposed.
WHAT PEOPLE WORE TO THE BEACH IN THE 20S
Going to the beach or the local swim pool became a popular activity in the mid-20s. Irrespective of whether people wanted to swim or not, they still visited the beach because everyone wanted to be seen in their fashionable swimwear.
In the early 20s, women wore the usual swim dress over attached longer shorts while more daring women wore the slightly more risqué two-piece Jantzen unit. The Jantzen swimsuit resembled a tank top sewn to a pair of swim shorts that reached midway down the upper legs. The swimsuits came in several contrasting bright colours.
Swim shoes were also necessary for the beach, the beach shoes consisted mainly of “beach boots”. The early 20s beach boots were typically lace-up boots that reached just above the calf, but by the mid and late 20s, the shoes evolved to smaller beach-friendly shoes made of Duck canvas. All rubber slip-on shoes in bright colours were another item that was best suited for rocky beaches, rivers and lakes.
Women also wore colourful swim caps to compliment their outfits and also protect their bob hairs from losing shape. An aviator style rubber swim cap was worn in the mid to late 20s. It fit tight as a cloche hat and had optional straps under the chin, prior to that, pleated caps or scarf wraps were used to keep the hair dry.
The designs ranged from simple to dramatic, with big bows, fringes and buckles. They were made in bright colours, such as red, blue, green or natural rubber.
Vintage swimsuits for men in the early 20s were nearly identical to that of women suits. It was made of woolly material and also had the design of a tank top over a snug-fitting pair of shorts that was sewn at the hemline.
Over the years, the length of the skirt of the swim-top, shortened from knee-length to about mid-thigh level. It was considered risqué to raise the top any further in order to avoid the revealing of men’s parts. Instead more suit material was removed from around the arms and the back, to make swimming easier as well as reveal more muscles.
Men’s swimsuits were made of wool or ribbed cotton in very bright colours like red, purple, yellow, navy blue, brown and the very popular orange. White, black or coloured stripes outlining the edges skirt were popular with the one-piece” California style” swimsuit.
By the mid-20s, the two-piece swimsuit for men went mainstream. It consisted of a ribbed wool onesie that buttoned at the crotch and paired with separate shorts. The onesie top had a scoop neck and was generally plain, white or grey but could be stripped or solid colours too.
The swim shorts went down to the mid-thigh, with a flat front and sometimes stripes at the side. Fly front shorts were often wool flannel instead of worsted wool, but both were options. A white webbed belt with a silver metal military buckle was used to secure the shorts at the waist.
In 1929, a one-piece suit called the “speedy suit” emerged. It was originally designed for college athletes but soon became the public’s favourite. In the speed suit, most of the back was removed and it had cutouts on the arms.
Men also wore canvas lace-up beach boots or shoes with rubber soles to protect their feet from hot sands on the beach. They also wore aviator-style caps and submarine style caps to complement their swimsuits. They came in bright colours like green, red, white or navy blue and were made of rubber.