Arrested for showing too much skin on the beach
Imagine being arrested for wearing the wrong bathing suit. In 1918, the year my forthcoming novel takes place, that was a distinct possibility. Not only did women not yet have the right to vote – that finally happened in 1920 – they were also subjected to ticketing and possible arrest for wearing swimsuits that didn't cover enough skin. Police officers used a tape measure to determine if a woman’s swimsuit was too short on her legs.
The decade of the 1910s brought big changes to women’s “bathing outfits.” This, as more women chose to actually swim, rather just wade into the surf holding onto a rope. Obviously, you can’t swim if you’re weighed down with forty pounds of billowing skirts, puffy sleeves, stockings, large hair coverings and bathing slippers. By the way, those bathing costumes were often made of wool or flannel.
It was during that decade that many women finally ditched the stockings they wore with their swimming costumes, actually revealing bare legs.
Believe it or not, women were still being ticketed on the beach in the 1950s, this time for wearing bikinis.
If you’d like to see more pictures chronicling the bathing suit battle, check out this pictorial article on Rare Historical Photos. Interestingly, men had to cover up their chests on the beach. There’s a picture in this article on the Dusty Old Thing website of a man being ticketed for exposing his middle.
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