Back in the 1800s, hanging out at the beach had an entirely different meaning and method. Not wanting to violate the Victorian practices of being “proper,” men and women sea-bathed separately. It was a pretty big “no-no” for each sex to see the other wading in the water in swimwear — even though that swimwear was close to today’s regular clothing options!
So, along came the bathing machine. Picture this: A wooden cart, often with a two doors and wide wheels, waiting on the beach. The bather would enter through the front door on the beach and change in the dark, placing their clothes on a high shelf to keep them dry. The bathing machine would then be wheeled out into the shallow water – by horses, steam engine, or even pulled by hired helpers!
The back door of the bathing machine would then be shielded with an awning or a curtain – lest anyone on the shore catch a glimpse of you as you stepped out! Finally, the sea-ready swimmer would exit through the back, down a set of steps into the water and begin wading. The ladies could hang out together and be blocked from the shore.
When the 1900s hit and it became socially OK for men and women to swim together, the popularity of the bathing machine declined. Lucky for all of us modern folk, the machine exists no more and we can relax and strut our stuff on the beaches in things like these:
Enjoy your beachwear!