A Sparkling Vintage Life

31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Summer, Day 9: Take a Dip

swimsuit2“I found Barbara sitting on the beach, delectable in white icing, her quite unbelievable hair shining in the sun, and her rather sizable but very graceful feet crossed in front of her.
“‘Good morning, Barbara,’ said I, not throwing away my cigar. ‘Do you love me today, Barbara?’
“‘No, Peter,’ said the girl of my heart. ‘No, indeed, Peter. But I think you are very nice looking.'”
(from “Barbara on the Beach” by Edna St. Vincent Millay)

In her 1943 book, Personality Unlimited, Veronica Dengel advises her readers, “During the summer months, swim in fresh or salt water as much as you can . . . I know of no all-round exercise that can compare with outdoor swimming for improvement of muscular co-ordination and body symmetry.” Not a fan of the indoor pool because of possible irritation from chemicals, she adds, “Fresh air and sunshine are important, vital, to your well-being. Sunshine supplies the best source of Vitamin D.  . . . But do your sunbathing intelligently,” which for Miss Dengel means “lie in the sun for not more than ten minutes on each side. . . . Increase the exposure by a minute a day until you are well accustomed to it, and remember that a windy day will cause you to burn more rapidly.”

Also writing in 1943 (a good year, apparently, for feminine advice books–perhaps trying to take girls’ minds off their boyfriends fighting at the Front?), Grace Margaret Morton advised readers on what to wear for swimming. “The one-piece bathing suit is superior to any other for someone with a less than perfect figure. A very heavy person appears to better advantage wearing a dressmaker draped suit in a fabric with body. For others, stretch fabrics are possible. Rubber caps, thong sandals, beach coats, shifts, bulky sweaters, hats, and dark glasses are sometimes needed at the beech or pool. Bathing suits should not take the place of play clothes; they belong only at the beach or pool.”

Once you’re properly draped and ready to go, Eleanor Boykin (1940) offers this advice:

“Ill-bred people stand out plainly at the beach. First, there are those who go to be seen and heard. Others advertise their coarseness by lolling on the sands in postures so unlovely that they hardly seem human, or by putting on intimate scenes that are disgusting in public. . . . See that your conduct on the beach does not suggest savage ancestors. Don’t indulge in rough play on land or in the water.” She adds a special note for the boys: “If you must act the funny man and duck unsuspecting victims, pick on boys your own age, not on girls who may not be used to such monkeyshines.”


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