This cabinet photo show three children in old-fashioned bathing suits. Note the spades and pails. The matching suit looks to be tunics and knee pants swith sailor style detailing. These images were often taken at beach resports. (This portrait we believe was taken in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. (The cabinent card image is indestinct.) Harrisburg is some distance from the ocean, located west of Philadelphia. The children also wear dark long stockings for the portrait. I'm not sure how common that was at the beach.
The portrait was taken by the Eaton studio at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We would gues the portrait was taken about 1890. The children look like boys, although the center child may be a girl. A reader writes, "Fascinating illustration of early swimming costumes. I doubt very much that the center child is a girl. By the way, we know that women of the period wore black long stockings for bathing at the beach, so I suspect that the boys shown here also wore stockings in the water and not just for the portrait. Wearing the necessary waist with hose supporters in the water seems somewhat of a nuisance, but I think they probably were worn in some instances. Modesty rather than warmth would
have been the principal motive." I think wearing long stockings for swimming may have been affected by gender. I think women may have worn them, but not men. I am less sure about children. A German reader tells us that she has not noted this in Germany. This is interesting because long stockings were very commonly worn in Germany.
Another reader writes, "If the button-convention is true, those children are all girls." There is no doubt in my mind that the children on the left and right are boys. I think the center child is also a boy, but am less sure. I think conventions about color and buttons became universally accepted in the 20th century. They may have existed in the 19th centurt, but were not nearly as rigid.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main early swimsuit chronology page]
[Return to the Main swimming clothing page]
[Return to the Main sport uniform page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Cloth and textiles] [Clothing styles] [Countries] [Topics]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellite sites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]