When my grandmother Jennie was a young girl in the early 1920s, it wasn’t common for young ladies to own a bathing suit or go swimming in a pool. But on hot summer days, she and her female relatives would cool off at the beach by Canarsie, Brooklyn. They all wore old clothes and — holding hands with each other — they’d take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean.
When I was growing up, we always wore bathing suits when we played in the kiddie pool or went to the beach. But even when my family got a membership at a nearby pool, Mom never bought us high-quality swimwear. Kids outgrow their clothing quickly, so Mom would have considered an expensive bathing suit a waste of money.
Still, a well-cared-for swimsuit can last several seasons. I remember Mom wearing the same blue-and-red one-piece suit for at least two or three summers.
Since I rarely go swimming, I don’t own a bathing suit. Instead, my solution is to purchase athletic gear that can double as a swimsuit, like tank tops and gym shorts. These pieces get plenty of wear as casual summer clothing and they’re great for a trip to the beach or a dip in the pool. I love how these separates serve multiple functions and they last me for years.
If I were a more frequent swimmer, I’d consider a good quality bathing suit in a classic style. And I’d take good care of it to make sure it lasted several seasons. When it wore out, I’d reuse the fabric, perhaps to make a headband or ponytail ties. I might even turn an old one-piece suit into a tote bag by cutting across at the leg openings, sewing up the bottom, and using the existing straps as my handle.
But, like Grandma, I don’t have any special gear for swimming. And I really don’t need it; my shorts and tank tops work just fine.
Feature image: Provincial Archives of Alberta, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons