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Fashion-Era a great costume web site

The Early Seaside

Fashion History

By Pauline Weston Thomas for


Victorian and Edwardian Seaside Fashion


Georgian Bathing Machine

Bathing machine.The fashion history of swimwear took its lead from ordinary dress and the outfits were very modest, almost totally covering the body. 

One of the early images of swimwear is the dress shown in this Yorkshire picture right and depicting coastal life in Georgian Britain in 1813.  Note how the bather is assisted into the sea from a bathing machine.

One reason people often find themselves on this webpage, is that they are looking for a swimming costume for re-enactment.  One website I have found with a selection of swimming costume patterns is the online site Ageless Patterns and there is link further down the page.  Check which style you really need before visiting them.

 Victorian Swimwear

Once the railway arrived in Britain the masses visited the seaside regularly and it spawned a need for new fashions. Picture of ladies wearing early/mid Victorian swimwear.

In the early Victorian era women had worn serge or dark flannel bathing dresses, but by the 1860s two piece belted costumes replaced the earlier styles.

The swimwear bodice top was jacket like and the swimsuit bottom part three quarter trousers which had been rejected only a decade earlier when Amelia Bloomer urged women to adopt them.

Picture of ladies wearing mid/late Victorian swimwear.The later Victorian swimsuit outfit was still cumbersome, but was more practical and more attractive than earlier bathing clothes.

Pictures - Early and Mid-Victorian swimwear for women.

Picture of ladies wearing late Victorian swimwear. Costume History, fashion history pictures.Although the trouser was acceptable as Victorian beachwear it did not enter mainstream fashion until the 1920s when trousers were accepted after practical wear in the Great War of 1914-18.


Late Victorian Swimwear

Picture of ladies wearing late Victorian, early Edwardian swimwear. Costume History, fashion history pictures.Even when bloomers were accepted by many late Victorians as cycling wear in the 1890s they still remained only on the fringes of fashions of the day. 

Swimwear fashion changes moved very slowly. Differences in swimsuit styles were simple such as the introduction of short cap sleeves.  Eventually sleeveless styles with more ankle showing beneath the bloomers became usual.Picture of ladies wearing early Edwardian swimwear. Costume History, fashion history pictures.

Edwardian Swimsuits

Picture of ladies wearing early Edwardian swimwear. Costume History, fashion history pictures.Edwardian Swimsuits were very similar to Victorian styles. They were still made of wool and now consisted of bloomers and a wool over dress.

The dress was now a sleeveless version and the outfit was worn with black stockings and laced footwear.

Pictures of Edwardian swimwear.   

Gradually by 1920 necklines were lowered and the overdress shortened even more.

Retro Re-enactment Swimwear at Recollections

If you are seeking fully made up garments at reasonable cost and suitable for re-enactment in Victorian and Edwardian style then try those by Marianne at Recollections. I am a long time fan of Marianne and her period clothing website Recollections. Recently Marianne introduced several retro ladies swimming costumes to her extensive range of over 500 costumes. You can see for yourself in the photographs below how good these look.  Recollections

Recollections - Retro Re-enactment Edwardian Swimwear

The retro Victorian Edwardian swimming costumes above are by Marianne at Recollections

For 1950s retro swimwear you may find something suitable at the Poppiswim Retro Swimwear Boutique .

Go to Swimwear in the 20th Century.

If you prefer to make your own costumes then Ageless Patterns have a range of swimming and bathing suit costume patterns suitable for re-enactment. The swimwear related pattern dates they currently offer are from 1868 to 1898.  They also offer some 1920s and 1930s beach pyjamas.


If you love sports quizzes try my husband Guy's new website at


  • My Fashion Template eBook


Click here and download my ebook How to Recognise Undergarments in Fashion History.  Only $9.95

Buy my latest ebook and learn how to recognise changes between Paniers, crinolines, bustles, bras and corsets and the affect this has on the outer silhouette of female costume


My How to Recognise Undergarments in Fashion History e-book has 12 chapters about the changes in under foundations in costume history found in various articles on this website.  It also has a new chapter on the history of  drawers and knickers and one covering the chemise and petticoats.  This ebook enables you to read, print and copy from various web pages of all in one go.   

Don't know what an ebook is? Click here

The Undergarments ebook includes information from my articles on early corsetry, C18th Paniers and the sack dress, stays to corsets, crinoline styles from 1830s to 1860s, bustle styles of 1870s & 1883/5, Edwardian corsetry, bras and girdles before and after 1950, and a new chapter on drawers, pantaloons, knickers to panties.  A look at Rational Dress Reform, the contribution of Mrs. Bloomer and Dr. Jaeger to the resultant cycling and swimming dress.   For more information on the contents of Undergarments click here.

A Printer Friendly Version allows the ebook to be printed as single chapters or as a whole book without clipped text at the sides and can also be copied into Word for ease of use when writing handouts.   Don't know what an ebook is? Click here

Click here and download my NEW ebook  Undergarments in Fashion History.  Only $9.95    


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For more information about the Victorian Era
1837-1901 click on the title links below:-

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Go to Swimwear in the 20th Century.


For superb Victorian or Edwardian
re-enactment costumes in USA, try the reproduction costume range at:
Recollections for Victorian and Edwardian costumes

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About looks at women's costume and fashion history and analyses the mood of an era.  Changes in technology, leisure, work, cultural and moral values. Homelife and politics also contribute to lifestyle trends, which in turn influence the clothes we wear.  These are the changes that make any era of society special in relation to the study of the costume of a period.Fashion History can take no responsibility for any information on the site which may cause you error, loss or costs incurred from use of the information and links either directly or indirectly.  This site is owned, designed, written and developed by author: Pauline Thomas and Guy Thomas. This site is designed to be viewed in 1024 X 768 or higher.

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