A Paris Bathing Dress - From Home Notes June 1895

Paris, June 1895

When you see my sketch this week, you will think I have been to the seaside again and have been sketching there for your benefit. This is not so. I was reminded of your needs by some friends of mine asking me how they could make their bathing dresses, for they were leaving Paris shortly and intended to enjoy bathing in some quiet, secluded seaside resort.

I was able to help them, for a few days ago I went to see some very good swimming at the baths close by and as I usually do on all occasions, I took my sketch-book with me, with the result that I am able to give you a design for a simple bathing dress.

A Parisian Bathing Dress, June 1895

There is a great difference of opinion as to the superiority of cotton material or serge. I think, as a rule, expert swimmers prefer the former, because it is lighter. On the other hand, when bathing on a low flat beach, where the machines are necessarily at some distance from the deep water, I think serge is the better. It is warmer, and in coming out, it does not cling to the figure in the unbecoming way that the thinner fabric will do.

Well, my bathing dress is simple in the extreme. It is made with a combination garment and very full tunic [skirt]. The bodice, you will see, buttons down the front and has a wide sailor collar edged with braid. The sleeves are short and edged in the same way as the collar.

It is a great mistake to be too heavily clad in the water, so whatever you choose, be very careful that the material is light, and do not let your bathing dress reach below the knee. Again, when making the tunic, pleat it evenly into a band. This must not be tight, or you will be inclined to cramp in the water, and that, besides being exceedingly painful, is very dangerous.

I very much dislike dull bathing dresses. I cannot see why, when enjoying such a delightful pastime as bathing, one should be compelled to wear clumsy and dull-looking costumes. Of course, it is necessary to choose a colour that will stand sea-water, for it is most tiresome if the dye comes off on the skin. Blue and white galatea with a nice clear stripe, trimmed with dark blue, looks very well, or if you wish to have blue serge, let it be trimmed with blue and white flannel or bright red; in fact do anything rather than be dowdy.

I cannot too strongly condemn the practice of hiring bathing dresses at the seaside, and I cannot imagine any lady with refined feelings doing this, for really the cost and trouble of making bathing dresses is so slight that there is no excuse for not having one's own. The exact cut and decoration of a bathing dress are not necessarily of that finished style which our costumes [dresses] demand.

For further information on 1890s clothing, please see our article THE NEW WOMAN - Fashion in the 1890s.

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