A Petite’s BATHING SUIT Chronicle thru the Centuries-PART II


A Petite’s Chronicle thru the Centuries PART-2

Proper Etiquette Bygones…with STUDS!

So, we’ve cover the “bathing-gown” of past Centuries, in part one of this chronicle, but, “What the heck is a bathing machine!?” Well, it wasn’t so much a “machine” as it was a four-wheeled, roofed, wooden carriage covered in canvas (some made of solid wood), populated in the 18th and 19th centuries. This contraption allowed sea-bathers, while still on the beach, to undress from their everyday frocks, pantaloons and robe à la françaises, in complete privacy. The carriage was pulled by two studs (no…not the human-kind, *sigh*, but the “horse-kind”) out into the ocean, which then allowed the sea-bather to step down into the water without being seen by the opposite sex.

This contrivance was considered proper etiquette for the Victorian concepts of modesty, and was most commonly used in the United Kingdom. However, because of segregation of the sexes during this era while “bathing,” this device managed to appear in several countries, including: France, Germany, Mexico and the United States. This propriety was more stringently enforced upon women than men (men were still allowed to sea-bath nude), but in the name of “proper etiquette,” especially with the new “middle-class” of people, as well as the upper-class, both women and men utilized the obscurity of this box to enjoy the benefits of the sea, all while keeping with the strictest of savoir-faire (Social adeptness).

A Daunting Task – Not for the “petite”-at-heart!

The whole experience of “sea-bathing” seemed a bit daunting, if you ask me. Here you come to the beach hoping to sunbath, frolic about in the sand, take a dip in the water…maybe catch a few waves, and have the experience of your life! But instead, you’re placed in a sweltering, dimly-lit, wooden box where a “dipper” (usually a sunburned, portly-petite attendant of the same sex) waits for you to disrobe, then commands the horses forward, sliding the carriage over the pebbly beach and into the water, leveled to the floor of the hut. Reports had been made that, at times, due to the slope of the shore and the shingled beach, this could be a “violent ride,” knocking the subliminal bather around as the carriage descends into the ocean.

Once in, the beachgoer walks down the steps provided and into the open arms of the awaiting “dipper,” who then thrusts the bather about, propelling them through the waves and plunging them under water. During times of rough sea, the attendant would anchor the bather to a rope attached to their torture-chamber, where they would shove forward and yank back the excited, albeit overwhelmed, sea-bather, through the treacherous water. This, supposedly enjoyable caper, would last about 10 or 15 minutes, with a total of three plunges – it was all considered “part of the experience.” Do you suppose this is what they considered, back then, “a day at the spa?!” YIKES!

“Hmm, my petite brain wonders…?”

Have you ever though what it would have been like living in past centuries where rules of etiquette were so strict? For me, OMG – I don’t think I would have made it, so to speak <Grin>. No, really, I’m serious because given my natural tendencies to be a nonconformist, free spirited nature, sometimes dogmatic behavior, candidness, “no fear” confrontation (when needed), passionately opinionated (for the good or bad), tough on the outside, gooey on the inside, smart, silly, hip, ex-valley-girl type who likes to be a “sexy” woman (as often as I can) and who thrives on attention and always has something to say – I don’t know, I’m just saying… I don’t think it would work, LOL!

If the aforementioned above happened to me, I would have probably punched the sunburned, portly-petite attendant in the face and tied her to the rope, then swooshed the horses to drag her ass back over the pebbly beach, to her port. Not to mention that, in NO WAY, NO HOW, in Yahshua, Buddha or God’s name (or whomever it is you choose to blaspheme at the time) would I wear a woolen dress covering my entire body to even go out-and-about in, much less swim in! I would have, indeed, ended up arrested like 5’3” petite-professional swimmer, vaudevillian, actress, writer and advocate for the change of women’s swimwear, “Annette Kellerman” (better known as the “Australian mermaid”), for stridently opening-mouth, inserting-foot!

Petite Superstar Who Paved the Way for Swimsuit CHANGE!

In 1907, she created a lot of hubbub the day she appeared on a Boston beach in a one-piece bathing suit that revealed her arms, legs and neck (OH MY! I shudder at the thought…pfft!). Kellerman was arrested and jailed for “indecent exposure” due to her “reveal” and her reported “voluptuous body!” This petite-pioneer is often credited for inventing synchronized swimming after performing the first “water ballet” in a glass tank at the New York Hippodrome. Talk about a mighty “petite!”

At age 18, Annette Kellerman was the first woman to attempt to swim the English Channel, and, in 1916, she was the first major actress to appear fully nude in the first million-dollar film production, “A Daughter of the Gods,” by Fox Film Corporation. Kellerman was honored with the prestigious award, “The Hollywood Walk of Fame Star,” located on Hollywood Boulevard. But to most, she was the caveat of “change to come” for women’s swimwear that followed shortly after her advocacy.

Perhaps Kellerman paved the way for actress “Gloria Swanson” to become one the most loved, petite pin-up girls in Mack Sennet’s “Bathing Beauties?” Swanson stood at a tiny 4’11”.

“A change is a-comin’!” in Part-3 of this Journey!  Written by: Tana Corpron

PART ONE “Bathing Suits” -Where They’ve Been, Where They Went, And Where They Are Today!


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