September 2016 Newsletter
Featured Item--Sea Shell Window
Article--Fun at the Sea Shore with Louis Comfort Tiffany, Part II
Max Sennett Bathing Beauty, Mexican actress, Georgette, Relaxes by Her Hollywood Mansion Pool. (Actually, my sister’s spoiled Chihuahua; and we don’t own a Hollywood mansion.)
BY THE SEA, BY THE SEA, BY THE BEAUTIFUL SEA, Part II
Greetings, Stained Glass Fans!
Whoopee! It’s still summertime!
Even though it’s September and school is back in session, don’t let that throw you off; summer doesn’t end until September 21st. More hot, sunny days are still ahead; – so let’s all go to the beach and collect sea shells, (as we did in July’s newsletter), which brings me to our Featured Item: The Sea Shell Stained Glass Window; a lovely composition of assorted sea shells interpreted in stained glass. Check it out!
The July 2016 Newsletter was about going to the beach during Tiffany’s time and the advent of beach resorts and amusement parks. This month’s newsletter chronicles beachwear and the crazy outfits people have had to wear to cover themselves up through the years. Fun illustrations, too. Read about it in Fun at the Sea Shore with Louis Comfort Tiffany Part II in the Article section.
Seashell Stained Glass Window
This window will forever be a reminder of a beautiful day by the sea. The blue glass highlights a collection of seashells brought into your home as a colorful souvenir.
Seashell Stained Glass Window
by Shades of Tiffany
ARTICLE : FUN AT THE SEA SHORE WITH LOUIS COMFORT TIFFANY FROM 1848 TO 1933 Part II
A nostalgic look at bathing wear--a chronicle of one generation shocking the next.
When Louis Comfort Tiffany was a youngster in the mid-1800s, dressing for the sea shore was as much an ordeal as dressing for a walk down main street. Being from New York City he probably visited Coney Island where he would have seen folks walking on the boardwalks and sitting on the sand covered from head to toe in full, proper beach attire.
Three bathing suit styles, 1900s, 1917, 1947
On the Shores of Bognor Regis, by A.M. Rossi, 1887
From the early 1800s beach fashion was in its infancy, since before the railroads came along, the majority of people did not have access to public beaches therefore no need of bathing wear. They swam in local watering holes, nude. There was no law against swimming nude in public places until the mid-19th century at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837 and even then most men swam nude right up until the 1900s.
AN INTRODUCTION - Stepping into the Water from a Bathing Machine – a Very Private Affair
Despite the fact that swimsuits of the time revealed barely anything at all, little houses on wheels, called bathing machines, (precursor to the cabana), were introduced in the 1750s. They were designed to prevent anyone from seeing a woman in her swimsuit before she slipped into the waves and after when she reappeared soaking wet.
Bathing Machines with horses, c. 1880
The bathing machine was drawn into shallow water by a horse. The woman inside changes out of her layers of petticoats and dresses into another layer of swimwear. She opens the door and quickly drops into the waves. When the splashing around is finished, she dons a cape over her soaking wet flannel dress and emerges from the water unseen to reenter the bathing machine. She changes back into her street wear as she is hauled back to the shore. This way a Victorian lady could spend the entire day at the beach in complete privacy.
Bathing machines were used through the Victorian era up until the 1920s.
Emerging from a Bathing Machine, c. 1875
Stepping into the water from a bathing machine, c. 1910
Victorian Swim Wear
Victorian Ladies dressed in early swimwear, 1850s
In order for women to appear in public for a dip in the sea, the first bathing suits worn were heavy woolen or taffeta numbers, not much different than regular attire. Men still swam naked. Swimsuits of this period hid the female body, making swimming restrictive. Because of the heaviness of the swimsuits women had to hold onto an anchored rope so that they didn’t drown. Worse yet, Victorian ladies sewed weights into the hems of the dresses to prevent the garment from floating up and exposing their long bloomers. Heaven forbid – pass the smelling salts!
Toward the end of the Victorian era beach costumes required somewhat less fabric.
Three Victorian waders wearing swim suits with less fabric, 1890s. Note bathing machine left.
Fast forward – Three Brazilian waders wearing swim suits with less fabric, 2016
Victorian men did not fare much better than women regarding bathing suits. The first male swimsuits were made from knitted wool, had long sleeves and legs similar to long underwear and became very heavy when wet making it difficult to swim and leaving bathers vulnerable to exposure if the suit slipped off under its own weight. Chests were covered.
Victorian men's swim wear--1880s. Bare-chested men were socially unacceptable.
Fast forward – Modern men’s swim wear.
Bare-chested men are socially acceptable, 2016
The Times; They Are A-Changing!
Not until the more relaxed Edwardian Era, (1890s - First World War, King Edward VII, after his mother, Queen Victoria’s death), did the voluminous bathing dresses get modified, thanks to the French. Blousy, long sleeves were replaced by short sleeves and 9-yard skirts, narrowed. Even so, woman typically dressed in black, knee-length, puffed-sleeve wool dresses featuring a sailor collar, and worn over bloomers trimmed with ribbons and bows. Long black stockings, lace-up bathing slippers and fancy caps completed the outfit.
Tiffany’s Girls take a break from lamp making
at Midland Beach, Staten Island, NYC, 1905
Sailor swimsuits, 1910
At the same time men’s beach costumes eliminated the sleeves, legs were shortened but under the published Bathing Suit Regulations male costumes had to include a skirting outside the trunks for modesty sake, especially for when the suit became clingingly wet. Colors were solid or stripes.
Man’s skirted tunic swim suit, 1900
Edwardian couple in beach costumes.
Max Sennett & His Scandalous Bathing Beauties
In 1915 silent film director, Max Sennett of Keystone Comedy films, featured a bevy of girls known as the Sennett Bathing Beauties. He filmed them frolicking on the beach dressed in provocative bathing costumes. His shocking gimmick for success was risqué “knee nudity”; knee-high hose. His Beauties became the first pin-up girls for the soldiers serving overseas in the First World War. The outraged letters from moral groups and massive ticket sales told Sennett that he was doing something right.
Max Sennett Bathing Beauties – those hussies! 1915
Meanwhile other film studios copied the concept as the public emulated fashions of their favorite movie stars and beachside communities staged their own Bathing Beauty contests. In Atlanta the police shut down one revue for obscenity.
Brazen Bathing Beauties defying public decency, 1918
Flash! - Roaring 20’s Thumbs Nose at Rules!
By the 1920s women’s bathing suits were reduced to a sleek, lighter weight jersey knit garment with a long top that covered shorts. They no longer camouflaged the contours of the female body. Stockings, slippers and caps were still worn but by the end of the 1920s they were eliminated. The Roaring 20s “flapper” girl could finally move about in newfound freedoms, which she found terrifically sexy.
Complete one-piece swim suit outfit, c. 1920
The beach measuring police, c. 1927
Bare-legged, liberated Flappers smoking at the beach, c.1929
In the 1920s as men became more body-conscious and athletic, swim wear fabrics became lighter in weight and men’s one-piece costumes more streamlined with generously-cut armholes.
An athletic man wearing a swim suit tunic. C. 1929
Hi! I Didn’t recognize you with your clothes on - Modern Swimwear
Olympian swimmer Johnny Weissmuller models a unisex swim suit, c. 1930
By the 1930s with the development of new clothing materials particularly latex and nylon, swimsuits became even more minimal, sporting a unisex look of tank top and belted shorts. They were practical for water sports for both men and the modern, athletic woman and perfect for the new pastime of soaking up the sun.
By the time Tiffany passed away at the age of 85 in 1933, beach wear had evolved a long way from his Victorian hay-day. In the late 1930s men began taking off their tops for swimming and by the end of the 1940s male bare-chestedness became the norm. For women; in 1946 the French bikini made its shocking debut, a daring two-piece outfit that exposed the female midriff and the bellybutton – uncharted territory at the time - that scandalized even the French.
By the late 1940s and early 1950s with the development of Spandex and Lycra, bathing suit designs evolved as we know swim wear today, a colorful support garment for women and a brief suit or shorts for men.
News Flash! - Glamorous Screen Actress, Georgette, makes a splash in the latest Two Piece Bathing Suit. Bow-WOW! What a Cutie! (What a spoiled Chihuahua!)
Hollywood swim star, Esther Williams,
Today with string bikinis for both woman and men that cover just the tiniest bare essentials, public opinion has become very blasé about beach modesty.
I wonder what the Victorian Tiffany would think?
Tiffany, age 82, relaxes at the beach with his granddaughter (left),
and his nurse, (right), c. 1930