Sunday, May 20, 2012

Taking to the Water - Part 6

The goal of this series, "Taking to the Water" is to construct mid-19th century bathing costumes, and I think it's time to share some images of ladies who have done just that!

I found the photo above online and it's one of my favorites - I think this is a great interpretation, with a definite nautical feeling, but yet feminine with with the ruffles and scalloped hem.

The next several photos were taken at the 2009 Ladies and Gentlemen of the 1860's conference. You'll notice quite a range of trim options and trouser styles:

Some of the ladies did not intend their costumes for bathing, but for gymnastics or other physical pursuits.

Here's another found online, and another great creation, although the short sleeves are not appropriate for an 1860's interpretation.

Here's one created from this year's "conference fabric":

And here's the original used as inspiration:

The original is a short, pleated skirt dress made of wool with trim of wool braid. The trousers have a yoke of cotton, to reduce bulk at the waist and are lined with a polka dot cotton - a detail included on the reproduction trousers!

I have my wool and I'm currently looking for coordinating wool braid (that I can afford!) and I will be sharing my very first costume diary with you throughout the construction phase - so more to come!


  1. The short sleeved dress was copied exactly from an 1863 fashion plate by my friend, who is pictured there. Here is the link to the plate:
    So on the contrary, short sleeves are appropriate for 1860's.

  2. Very pretty reproductions! I'm glad that you posted these. I love the navy blue bathing costume (based on the 1863 fashion plate). The more fitted style is very becoming and the trim is lovely! I had dreams of making an 1860s bathing costume once, but there just never seems to be the perfect event to wear it to. :)

  3. I have to respectfully disagree on the subject of short sleeves, if you view this previous post - I have included the original (not recopied - in the copied version, the positions of the ladies differs) fashion plate you reference and it clearly shows long sleeves - I have this particular fashion plate in my own collection. I have not found a single original garment or image dating to the 1860's with short sleeves.

  4. It is interesting that there are two different versions of that fashion plate, one with short sleeves and one without. There is also this bathing costume, which the Karen Augusta Antique website dates to the late 1860s, with short sleeves:

  5. I found this fashion plate as well. It is from 1864. Short puffed sleeves on the left:

  6. It's an interesting plate, but I don't see a date or name of the publication - I'd really like that info before forming an opinion on that particular plate.

    As far as the two versions of the other plate - publications frequently plagiarized from each other. It would have been very easy for the copyist to have been in a hurry and simply to have drawn arms as opposed to sleeves.

  7. I agree that it may have been a copied fashion plate, but I don't believe that it can be assumed that the copyist drew something that was not socially acceptable. If it wasn't socially acceptable for short sleeves to be seen on a bathing costume, then they would not have been drawn. You have been presented with two fashion plates of the period displaying short sleeves. It is your decision to reject them.

  8. On this website: that Samantha also referenced, there are photos of an original bathing costume with short sleeves. Also, on that website, the fashion plate with the short sleeves is dated 1863, while the fashion plate with long sleeves is dated 1864. That would make the fashion plate with long sleeves the copied one, and the one with short sleeves the original.

  9. I was able to track down more info on the other fashion plate I linked to. In my copy of the book "Fashions and Costumes from Godey's Lady's Book" edited by Stella Blum, it is given as being from July 1865. It's on page 81.

    I can only wonder if--since short sleeves were acceptable for children and young ladies--it could have been appropriate in bathing costumes for people of this age as well? Just a though... :-/

  10. Rather than commenting back and forth, I've put up a new post outlining my thoughts on the this subject.