59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum


c. 1890

Unknown maker


Gift of Howard H. Eddy from the estate of Helen Hart

Gift of Mrs. Howard S. Hart

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, tightly corseted women wore long dresses, even to the beach. But as social mores began to change, fashion at summer resorts began to loosen up: woman could enter the changing rooms on the boardwalk in Oak Bluffs and shed their stiff encumbrances. Constrictive clothing was replaced with a dark wool bathing suit that included bloomers, stockings, shoes, and often a matching cap to cover their hair.

The suits all looked much the same. Sailor collars, puffy short sleeves, and knee-length skirts were trimmed in white ribbon. Considering how covered up the bathers usually were, these suits probably felt risqué, though it was not until the 1920s that bathing suits began to resemble the shoulder- and leg-baring, form-fitting outfits that are familiar today.

With thanks to the following individuals who have adopted this object for one year: Marty and Joanne Homlish