Why were some early swimsuits made of wool?

Why not?

Back in the day, undercrackers, especially those worn in winter, were made of fine wool.

A 1920s newspaper advertisement for men's commercial woollen underwear, featuring 3 men in full-body button-fronted Union suits in fine 100% wool or part wool, one smoking a pipe, one holding a newspaper and reading glasses, and all 3 looking remarkably happy to be standing around together in their underwear as if that was a completely normal thing to do in the 1920s.
Commercial woollen underwear, 1920s, an age where manly men were in the habit of getting together in their underwear to smoke and discuss the latest news.

Commercial woollen underwear, 1920s.

Wool was a huge, huge industry in most Western countries. We cannot imagine, today, with cheap off-the-peg clothing imports, what the wool industry was like before the 1970s. Think Amazon, think eBay, think Microsoft: that sort of big. Just getting dressed was a major part of life, before you could pop into Primark and come out with a complete wardrobe, including smalls, for £10–20. In my grandparents’ day, it meant going to a tailor for your decent outdoor and winter clothing, purchasing rolls of cotton or linen to sew your summer clothing, and knitting, knitting, knitting in every spare moment to provide yourself and your family with socks, underwear, gloves and other ‘comforts’. For many families, it meant carding and spinning the wool, before knitting. Much of Great Britain’s former wealth, and its Industrial Revolution, was driven by wool.

And so, of course, when sea-bathing became the In thing to do in the Victorian era, the outfits were naturally made of wool – though usually woven flannel fabric, rather than knitted.

2 photos of the same woman in a sailor suit styled swimsuit (try saying that after a couple of gins) comprising a short-sleeved dress and knee-length bloomers.
The first shows her entering the sea, the second shows her leaving the water and entering a beach cabin. The peplum of the dress portion appears to have lengthened slightly in the second photo.

This fabric did not sag and expand (much) when wet, and if it did, so what? It just meant it covered up more of the body, which was the point of these cumbersome outfits.

It was only when fashions changed to more skimpy swimsuits that it became apparent that wool, particularly when knitted, wasn’t ideal: the sagging then revealed more than hid.

But there’s no reason to avoid crafting your own swimwear: crocheted cotton is a sturdy fall-back –

A woman wearing an orange bikini in crocheted lace. I'm probably just a touch too old for this style. A mere smidge. Which pretty much describes what it covers.
Crocheted cotton bikini

and even wool is okay, if you work with its qualities rather than against:

Quora linky.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s