M991X.1.1.1-2 | Two-piece bathing suit
1910-1920, 20th century
10 x 87 cm
Gift from Eaton's of Canada
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Bathing suit (5)
Keys to History
Towards the end of the 19th century, swimming was becoming a more and more popular pastime in Quebec, particularly enjoyed by the middle class.
During this time, women's bathing suits were like long dresses and were difficult to swim in since they were often worn over a corset until the 1890s. A practical, comfortable women's bathing suit, which only became available at the beginning of the 20th century, would be adopted by woman who wanted to do more than dip their toes in the water and really wanted to swim. However, this type of bathing suit, more acceptable but still not very convenient and following the outlines of outer garments, remained common.
Of course, not all women swimmers could afford the latest fashion in bathing suits. It would take until the 1910s and 1920s before this wardrobe item was mass-produced and so became really affordable.
Chemical dyes for textiles were perfected during the last quarter of the 19th century. These innovations facilitated the production of coloured fabrics.
Starting in the 19th century, some people had the privilege of holidaying at the riverside resorts of Quebec, particularly in the Lower St. Lawrence region. Renowned for its therapeutic benefits, sea bathing was very popular.
Wool serge and flannel are two fabrics used to make bathing suits at the beginning of the 20th century. However, wool would be used almost exclusively until the 1930s.
The well-to-do took advantage of the riverside resorts, while the workers had to make do with the rivers, streams and lakes.