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July 3, 2010 / Lifestyle / 3 comments

The invention of the railway, and the proliferation of rail travel in the mid 1800s made it possible for large numbers of people to visit coastal regions. In the 18th century women wore “bathing gowns” in the water; these were long dresses of fabrics that would not become transparent when wet, with weights sewn into the hems so that they would not rise up in the water. The men’s swim suit, a rather form-fitting wool garment with long sleeves and legs similar to long underwear, was developed and would change little for a century.In the 19th century, the woman’s two piece suit became common—the two pieces being a gown from shoulder to knees plus a set of trousers with leggings going down to the ankles. In the Victorian era, popular beach resorts were commonly equipped with bathing machines designed to avoid the exposure of people in swimsuits, especially to people of the opposite sex. In 1907 the swimmer Annette Kellerman from Australia visited the United States as an “underwater ballerina”, a version of synchronized swimming involving diving into glass tanks. She was arrested for indecent exposure because her swimsuit showed arms, legs and the neck. Kellerman changed the suit to have long arms and legs and a collar, still keeping the close fit that revealed the shapes underneath. She later starred in several movies, including one about her life. That is a long way back, and after that the swimming suits just started shrinking, and these days there is even some part of the swimming suit missing. Well these could be the results of the global warming, the suits are gone!

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