Do you know how women bathed in the sea centuries ago? Surprisingly, in the 18th and 19th centuries, women couldn’t just put on their bathing suit and sunbathe on the beach. At that time, a very strange seaside etiquette was in effect, which had to be unquestioningly observed by everyone without exception. It was considered the height of indecency if a woman appeared on the beach in a bathing suit – therefore, special bathing machines were used, which will be discussed in this article.
To help women maintain their modesty and dignity, a simple invention called the Bathing Machine was created. It was similar to a beach cabana, but larger and fitted with wheels. A woman could enter this booth and there change into a bathing suit that was much more modest compared to today’s standards.
The Bathing Machine moved directly into the sea with the help of a horse, and sometimes by hand by special carters. Once the cabin was in the sea, the bather could open and dive into the water away from prying eyes on the beach. Some vehicles were equipped with a canvas tent that lowered directly onto the water and created an enclosed swimming area. The bather was usually accompanied by a strong woman whose duty it was to help her get out of the bathing machine. If a woman could not swim (which most often did), a strong rope was tied around her waist, tying the other end to the wagon.
Once the bathing process was over, the woman returned to the inside of the car, where she dried off and changed into normal clothes. Then the woman raised a special flag, and the cabin was brought back to the shore.
Bathing machines made their debut in Britain around 1750 and spread to the US, France and Germany. As moral values changed, in 1900 the number of bathing machines decreased significantly. During the last days of their existence, bathing laws were relaxed, men and women often used these booths together. After the 1920s, this practice disappeared altogether. Over the decades, the history of fashion has also changed, and women began to wear completely different swimwear.