The Summer Girl at the Seashore, 1907

Practical Washing Costumes   Stripes and Strappings   Bathing-Gowns   Princesse Muslin   Childrenís Wear

"If ever the summer girl had her opportunity, it is now. All comes to those who wait. During the last two or three seasons the washing-frock has been steadily gaining in favour, and would have arrived considerably sooner, save for the retarding influence of the "blanche" toilette.

I shall have something to say, further on, anent a certain Princesse muslin and lace confection, the which holds an especial grace, but it is destined for exclusive dressy occasions. Meanwhile, we must discuss without delay the fancy-striped, checked cottons, together with the self coloured zephyrs, ginghams and mercerised lawns - fabrics all coming under the head of :

Practical Washing Costumes

It will take, if I mistake not, more than the present season to exhaust the varieties of the kimono, fichu and pinafore bodices, these playing the most important roles in the many charming schemes that abound. In the lingerie vest and sleeves a deliciously cool appearance is achieved and positively endless opportunities, at the same time, supplied for working out a range of alternative fancies. Then the skeleton character of these corsages [sleeveless over-bodice worn with blouse] make for the most covetable ease, while the shapely elegance they impart to the figure, has frankly spoilt us altogether for the ordinary blouse and skirt and has even, for now, cast into shadow the traditional coat and skirt.

Again, the days are few and far between, in our climate, when the atmosphere at the sea permits the wear of a clear blouse, unaccompanied by any outer garment of sorts; and if such moments do arise, it is easy enough to cast fashion to four winds and discard the skeleton corsage, which is very seldom attached permanently to the skirt. This, at least, describes the really practical washing-frock, designed to meet individual needs, whereas, on the other hand, many modistes - quite notables ones bien entendu - who are amiably condescending this summer to the demand for simple washing-gowns, arrange simulated under-bodices, on thin-fitted linings, which are equally responsible for the over part. But, as I said before, there is unstinted opportunity for variety to bear on the subject.

Stripes and Strappings

Notwithstanding a certain suggestion of ubiquity, stripes are holding an easy first in designs, ranging from what is known as hair cord to an appreciable width. For the adornment of these, little is needed, save strappings or crossway fold of the same - diversities that extraordinarily prolific and invariably effective. When a skirt is not arranged with a bias seam down the front, a dovetailed inset strapping affords an effective touch. It has recently been discovered, moreover, that single-width materials can be used width way, the stripes thus curving over the hips and falling in graceful, natural lines back and front, necessary extensions being added beneath the kindly covering of the stripes.

I do not feel I have described this quite lucidly and am tempted to add the rejoinder, that what is aimed at is the smart, swirling effect accentuated by the disposition of the stripes. In the case of cotton voiles, the latter are shown often elaborated by a tiny beaded effect, as in a scheme I recall pleasantly, of pink and white, the corsage folded fichu-wise over a fine Irish lace chemisette and sleeves, the latter concluding in a mass of tiny Valenciennes lace frills, a chiffon that the enterprising shopkeeper is selling, ready to adjust, by the yard.

It is an exhaustive topic, this one of washing-frocks; but whereas there are several other equally important items to discuss, it is necessary to concentrate on the designs included in the accompanying group.

Four Summer Seashore Outfits: one costume, one bathing-dress and two frocks for little girls

The artist and I are agreed as to the attractiveness of a water-green and white stripe, worn with a neat green suede belt, the outside hem-facing of the skirt piped and sleeves finished with bows of plain green. As will be readily gathered from the sketch, this bodice is a genuine skeleton, adjusted separately from the under-bodice of tucked muslin and lace, worn with one of the picturesque coolie hats of panama, the brim lined a becoming and crown massed with black mousseline taffeta loops. So arrayed will the summer seashore girl be able to face all vicissitudes, selecting the accompanying blouse, according to her surroundings and individual exigencies.

About Bathing-Gowns

Being in the way of hearing such things, I have come to know that bathing dresses are likely to be attacked with considerable vigour this year, several hitherto unexpected sources rushing into the breach with fresh ideas of cut and construction.

Alpaca, it is avowed, will take the lead in materials, having come forth triumphant from a series of tests. It is decidedly less weighty than serge, whether dry or wet and has resisting properties, which engender it greatly to the heart of the woman who values the best possible appearance under dripping contingencies. It is important also to recall, under this order, the worth of ticking, so beloved of the American, for surf bathing, together with heavy weight galatea. So without venturing into the realms of such extravagances as taffeta, tussore and satin - suggestions that appeal but scantily to the services of the athletic English girl, who seldom bathes unless she can swim - there is plenty to choose from, without touching on the commonplace.

In the matter of decoration, braid still commands the favoured choice - the application of lace had but an evanescent vogue - and there is variety enough and to spare in that direction. At the same time, cultivated, experienced taste in these bathing garments attends primarily to a perfect construction, and certain approved latter-day details - such as an entrance not easily disturbed by the inevitable force of water, knickers that are modelled intact with the upper part and are terminated well above the knees, so that their presence is not revealed below the skirt - are all thought out; while, for the skirt, there is one, really only one accredited shape, and that is a circular one, with a comfortable flow at the base. The nice moulding about the hips of this style affords a hold altogether lacking in a gathered skirt, and there is no superfluous material to hamper swimming movements. Now, having enumerated the possibilities in a genuinely practical suit, a glance at our sketch will speedily reveal how all the above demands have been carefully attended to.

Because of its invariably becoming attributes, we counsel navy alpaca, trimmed with narrow white braid, a broader width of which fashions the girdle. It will be quickly remarked that the chief feature lies in the constructive value of the yoke band, an entrance being effected on either shoulder and base of sleeves, the big drop thus provided affording an easy ingress and egress, together with absolute security

A Dressy Dress (The Princesse Muslin)

It is well to remember that at the seaside the shore is not everything. There are numerous other pursuits of a wholly differing character, each one in its way exacting sartorial attention. Reverting to the above-mentioned Princesse muslin and lace confection, here you have the Sunday, garden party or smart promenade costume. This whole idea is exceptionally practical inasmuch as the gown is fashioned in one, and entirely free of all foundation. A separate skirt and corsage could not possibly attain the swirl and swing of these Princesse affairs, for the creation of which couturieres are falling back on old-world spot and sprig muslins, enhanced by inset motifs or scroll effects of lace. Sometimes the actual or conventional Princesse is arrived at through the medium of a corselet arrangement of tucks at the waist or gaugings, while anon the length is an adjusted affair, the waist-line defined by a draped ribbon belt, the latter by no means infrequently concluding in long sash ends decked with lace.

For packing purposes there is nothing to equal these limp little gowns. They fold up into nothing and if required, iron out equal to new, the silk slip usually won beneath, thus serving several other ends and being invariably in two halves. A voile over-dress for example, with convertible bodice for evening wear, might be securely taken into consideration, as an alternative outer covering or a Shantung for immediate use. Contrary to expectations and despite many rivals, the run on taffeta continues unabated and truly there are few fabrics offering cooler wear, while deftly planned with one of the inevitable skeleton bodices, the convertible schemes that proffer themselves persuasively are verily legion.

Childrenís Sensible Seashore Garbing

As is customary with me, I have overrun and am therefore reluctantly reduced to offering a mere description of the two original designs for little maidens included in the group. The dear, sweet girlie enraptured with her feats in the way of sand pies, wears a pale pink zephyr, the fullness arranged back and front in three box pleats divided by three single stitched pleats. The box pleats are ornamented and at the same time restrained by a fancy feather stitching, and the chic of this little frock lies in the absence of any belt. As a finish to the deep collar and cuffs a white hem-stitch beading is introduced, and the dainty toilette completed by a white linen milkmaidís sun-bonnet, draped with a wide mousseline satin washing ribbon.

For the other model, a pompadour organdy is requisitioned, or one of the pretty cotton voiles would serve the end with equal effectiveness. As for the construction, this is simplicity itself, the symmetry resting chiefly on cordings, soft white hem-stitched muslin collar and cuffs offering a dainty touch to neck and sleeves, while a shady linen hat, tied about with a ribbon scarf, falls sympathetically into a scheme, that works out successfully in almost any colour or combination of colours."

Mrs. Jack May, 1907

For further information on 1900s clothing, please see our article FASHION IN THE EDWARDIAN ERA PART I:  1900-1909  The Last Age of Elegance.

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