Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


March 13, 2014

Bathing beauties

Swimsuits subject of new Highlands exhibit

ASHLAND — Although spring is a week away — and swimming weather is even farther away — the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center is in the spirit with its newest exhibit.

“Beauties by the Sea: Bathing Attire Through the Decades” features swimwear from 1910 to 1980. Curator Carolyn Warnock said she was surprised to find so many pieces of swimwear in the museum’s collection that date to so early in the 20th century.

“We have one of the most extensive collections of swimsuits,” she said. “They’re just remarkable. They had to go out (on display.)”

The oldest pieces date to 1920 and look more like modern-day summer dresses than swimsuits.

Warnock said some of the older swimsuits contain up to eight yards of material. As a result, when they’re wet, they can weigh more than 20 pounds. Photographs from the time show female swimmers holding on to ropes while in the water to counteract the extra weight of the wet suits.

One of the displays shows lace-up shoes that match the swimsuit.

One photograph in the exhibit shows an official measuring how much leg a woman reveals in her swimsuit. Local ordinances dictated how revealing a swimsuit could be. Another photograph shows a woman being arrested for her swimsuit being too risque.

Men’s swimsuits also are included in the exhibit. Warnock said it was illegal for men to be topless in public, too.

A men’s swimsuit from 1933 in the display is an example of the topper; the top unzips so that the chest covering may be removed in case the wearer found himself in a situation in which removal of the chest covering would be appropriate.

By 1937, men were legally allowed to go topless, Warnock said.

The exhibit includes a swimsuit from the 1940s — a modelst two piece — and one from the 1950s.

In keeping with the theme, Warnock said there are some books related to the exhibit acquired by the Boyd County Public Library and displayed  near the exhibit for visitors to peruse.

There also are some children’s books and children are invited to guess how many shells are displayed in a bowl and how many grains of sand are in a jar beside the exhibit. Answer sheets are provided. Warnock said the winner will receive a $10 gift certificate good in the museum’s gift shop.

The winner of the gift certificate will be announced Aug. 15.

“Beauties by the Sea: Bathing Attire Through the Decades” will be on display through August.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.

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