M986.168.1 | Bathing suit
1920-1930, 20th century
Gift of Mr. D. Lorne Gales
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Bathing suit (5)
Keys to History
One of the highlights of any summer vacation is water. Physicians have long recognized the therapeutic and calming effects of "taking the waters." During this period, men were advised to bathe in order to prevent flushing and baldness. For women, bathing was said to heal anemia and rheumatism. And with the advent of summer vacations, bathing also became an important water sport. In Canada, there were many rivers, lakes and coastal waters to swim in, but these tended to be cool. With the development of the railways, Canadian vacationers could also travel south to swim in the waters of the American seaboard.
This bathing suit would have been considered indecent in the 1800s, an era when swimmers covered themselves practically from head to foot.
At the end of the 19th century, and well beyond, people would go swimming almost anywhere because water pollution was unknown.
Recreational swimming began late in the 19th century; before that, people generally feared that swimming would result in drowning.
Swimming quickly became very popular, in part because it was very accessible.