The Most Scandalous Swimsuits of 1898

Have mercy, the fashions today! Another gem from British Pathé, this one featuring bathing beauties frolicking in Brighton. The footage shows swimwear fashions that are downright shocking... for 1898. In 2015, they look like really conservative pajamas.


"These Daly's Show Girls form a pretty picture of gold diggers of the Middle Ages," the interstitials announce. Not even sure what that means, but perhaps it explains the swing in their steps.

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These pictures would have been considered SERIOUSLY scandalous at the time. No one was supposed to see anyone in a swimming suit (or "bathing costume," as they were called then) at all. It was akin to being seen naked. People did not hang out on the beach at that time unless they were fully dressed.

Those wagon-looking things behind the women were called bathing machines. A person would step into a bathing machine on the beach fully clothed. S/He would change into their bathing costume in the bathing machine as it wheeled out on a track into the water. Then the swimming would exit out of a little door at the back and quickly into the water to minimize the risk of being seen. The process would reverse when a swimmer got out of the water.

Queen Victoria had a bathing machine at Osbourne, her home on the Isle of Wight. Being seen by anyone while wearing a bathing costume was a BFD, as only she, her family, and their guests had access to the Osbourne beach. The bathing machine was recently restored and is now on display at Osbourne.