Fashion icon on the beach

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Watching the TV news recently two of the largest holiday companies are, or say they are, experiencing more people booking holidays at this stage of the New Year than last year, even in these times of austerity.

Walking along a beach on a really hot summer’s day, it has become obvious over the years that swimwear for many people particularly sun worshippers has become more of a fashion item for lounging or in some cases posing in the sun rather than actually going in the water.

The swim suit, forgive me for being old fashioned but the humble cossie has now moved on so much that it has now been designed for every shape and size of person.

Who could have imagined when we were visiting the swimming baths to perhaps be a reluctant participant in the school swimming gala and already knowing it was odds on we would be last.

Sorry no one is allowed to be last these days - I mean to say a ‘runner-up’! It was always a struggle to try and beat your mates in the one length race but I believe you can now actually get a costume that will make you swim faster. Perhaps today we would have a reasonable chance of being a higher placed runner up.

Looking at this photograph of the Brighouse Swimming Club of 1914, this must be one of the earliest photographs of club members still around. It was taken at the Mill Royd Street swimming baths just a few years after it opened and not long after the original club was formed in 1893 at the old Ramsden Baths at the bottom of Bramston Street.

The girls are all wearing swimming costumes that are nothing like today’s - note the club logo on the costume.

I am sure many ladies will remember their childhood swimming costumes and what they were made from.

None of this as yet uninvented Lycra but fairly thick and coarse wool.

In the early 1930s while breaking swimming records was for the few, more and more people were just wearing them for ‘sun-bathing’.

One advertiser described their 1931 season of ladies costumes as, ‘Sunbathing is more fashionable and a decidedly more comfortable occupation, ‘Ribana’…is fashioned in exquisite cut-away shapes for this season’s sun worshippers’ abbreviated garments, commencing rather late and leaving off quite early, but definitely decorous nevertheless.

‘Never was wool so super-fine, so caressing to the skin, never did wool look so colourful and so much in keeping with the holiday spirit and seldom have the health-giving rays of summer sunshine encountered so little opposition.’

Note the tasteful and carefully chosen words to describe what certainly sounded like quite daring garments for just over 80 years ago – abbreviated garments – cut away shapes, rather late and leaving off quite early.

I think I must ‘suss out’ these new cossies. I wonder if there is one for an older gentleman who is not too fashion-conscious, but the cossie must has a vice like waist band so that some of us can at least pretend to be Johnny Weissmuller.