Swimalong Inspiration: Victorian Bathers

Let’s go for a timey wimey trip here to the glorious Victorian era. This period comprises a huge range of looks. Wikipedia is going to help us out a bit. Thanks Wikipedia editors.

The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria‘s reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence for Britain. Some scholars date the beginning of the period in terms of sensibilities and political concerns to the passage of the Reform Act 1832.

The era was preceded by the Georgian period and followed by the Edwardian period. The latter half of the Victorian age roughly coincided with the first portion of the Belle Époque era of continental Europe and the Gilded Age of the United States.

The bathing suits look like garments to our modern eyes but remember that they wore lots and lots of layers so one or two layers of fabric was closer to being in their underwear. You can read more about Victorian bathers in Victoriana Magazine.

I know a lot of people think of the Victorians as all being in super tight laced corsets, unable to breathe and fainting when they got excited or over tired. In every age there are always people who reject the norm, who refuse to wear the trend and those who wear either last year’s fashions or are fashion forward. It wasn’t any different in Victorian times. There were women who didn’t like corsets.

Also, toward the end of this Victorian age, exercise became more common and there were corsets made that gave the wearer more range of movement.

Fashion-era points out that it wasn’t until Britain got a railway did the Victorians decide to visit the seaside. It’s amazing to see how the railroad impacted to many aspects of our lives.

It wasn’t until late in the Victorian age that you start to see short cap sleeves. Over all, swimwear didn’t change all that much in those 64 years, except that it got a little shorter and they started to show more ankle but it wasn’t until the Edwardian era that you see sleeveless and shorter skirts as bathing suits.

You could go for a patterns like these from the Mantua Maker. This is her newest pattern:

Or you can make do with patterns you have on hand like many have done already. Check out this one. She used this Folkwear pattern and improvised a skirt. Well done!

I absolutely adore these suits! Oh, the stripes!!

Victorian bathers were made of silk taffeta (gah! I know) and mohair (jaw drop! I know!).

Recollections is a site that carries ready-made bathing costumes. I love this red one, though they make them out of cotton. I don’t see any made of taffeta.

I could’ve sworn there was a Steampunk con that had as a component to the fashion show, a swimwear fashion show but it was a couple of years ago. It got me thinking I needed a Victorian swim costume. Maybe one day. These are just so adorable.

Tell me your thoughts on the Victorian age? Did you learn anything today at the Swimalong? Any components of the images shared today inspire you to make your own swimsuit?

4 thoughts on “Swimalong Inspiration: Victorian Bathers

  1. Brooke says:

    I’ve always thought the Victorian bathing outfits were so cute! But I just cannot imagine how awful it felt to swim in the fabrics they used! Wet mohair – ick! It’s gross accidentally getting my cotton socks wet when I’m wearing them.

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