Sunday, May 6, 2012

Taking to the Water - Part 5

I have to say, I really hope none of our bathing party attendees decide to adopt this particular bathing costume!

So what's a bathing machine?

The bathing machine was like a box on wheels; it was about six feet in length and width, and about eight feet high, with a peaked roof.  Some had solid wooden walls; others had canvas walls over a wooden frame. The bathing machine had a door behind and in front, and as the floor was four feet above the ground, it had to be reached by a step-ladder.  The only light was from an unglazed opening in the roof; there was no mirror, and no fresh-water. The bathing machine was wheeled or slid down into the water; some were pulled in and out of the surf by a pair of horses with a driver and others by human power.

Bathing machines originated at a time when beaches were segregated by gender and bathing was typically done in the nude.

The bathing machine provided a place to remove the street clothes and change into bathing costume and they also eliminated the need to walk from the shore into the water and back - especially important once the clothing was wet and clinging to the figure. 

This may initially seem needlessly modest but how many of us wrap up in a towel or other cover up for that same walk?    

Female attendants or "dippers", were available to aid the lady of uncertain swimming abilities or a rope might be placed around the waist.

My husband was quite pleased that my research showed bathing machines to be much more common in Europe, especially England, than in the United States. He was even more pleased when I discovered they were only used at the ocean - not lakes. I still think it would be way to fun to create and use a bathing machine, but alas, it would not be correct!

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