bathing costume

bathing costume


Navy blue cotton, one piece bathing costume. Machine knitted in narrow rib stitch. Striped white. High round neck, fastening centre front to hip level with five grey mother of pearl buttons. Neck and front opening bound white cotton. Fronts in one section each side of fastening. Back in one section. Bands of white striping across top. Short sleeves, striped white in one section seamed at underarm with small triangular gusset. Dividing for legs with triangular gusset between; wide band of white striping below knee. Originally catalogued as a woman's costume.

Display Label

Men generally bathed without any clothing before the middle of the nineteenth century, and even up tol the 1870s when bathing drawers in striped flannel were increasingly adopted for modesty. The Rev Francis Kilvert described "running down naked to the sea" in 1872, but by 1874 prudery had set in, and he felt compelled to start wearing drawers to cover his nudity. A campaign to ban public nudity took off and during the 1880s most seaside corporations issued edicts forbidding bathing without costumes. Certainly by the 1890s, all-in-one costumes were common for men, along the lines of some female costumes, and often made of striped jersey or cotton. This costume of about 1900 is typical of that date, and can be distinguished from a woman's by its relative simplicity, its centre front buttoned opening, and its lack of any modesty-piece as a short skirt. It is remarkable to think that in contrast to this garment, only twenty years later, men were wearing bathing trunks similar to today's styles.

Object Name

bathing costume

Date Created



inside leg: 22.9cm
Length: 96.5cm

accession number


Collection Group


Place of creation




© Manchester Art Gallery

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