This summer, across the nation, people are galavanting around America's beaches without a care in the world. However, it wasn't so long ago that that the beach police existed in many of our cities and monitored women to ensure that no one was wearing a swimsuit of questionable length.
In the 1920s, as form-fitting clothing and swimwear came into vogue, dress codes were implemented and enforced on public beaches and other swimming areas. The specifics of the codes varied from beach to beach and city to city, but for the most part, the beach police were on the lookout for women who weren't covering enough of their legs. Often this was enforced with an actual ruler or tape measure, with men measuring the amount of leg showing in inches. Mashable declares that this is "what slut-shaming looked like in the 1920s."
Women who were found to be violating the codes had a few options. They might be forced to cover up, or sent home. Some were even arrested. In some cases, like at Clarendon Beach in Chicago, the "beach tailor" was called upon to "stitch up loose armholes [and] sew longer, more-modest skirts" onto swimsuits that were too revealing. Naturally, "men's swimwear was also regulated, but…dress codes for men were enforced far less stringently than they were for women."
The entire process looks like it was completely ridiculous and embarrassing for everyone involved, but we love that the women photographed in this silly situation gave off a vibe to suggest that they cannot even with this.
1. Here's a typical sign, informing beach-goers of the rules.
2. Some were brave enough to flout the rules.
3. Beach-going women were often confronted by private citizens.
4. But, more often than not, a police-issued tape measure was called into action. In Chicago, this was one of the only "beats" female officers could walk.
5. In 1922 in Washington D.C., the Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds ordered that swimsuits could not rise more than six inches above the knee. Officer Bill Norton, below, patrolled Tidal Basin beach valiantly.
6. Officer"Smokey" Buchanan of the West Palm Beach force, seen here in 1925.
7. Atlantic City in 1920 had these rules as well.
8. "Everything seems to be in order here."
10. Occasionally, policing the way that women dressed was a two-man job.
11. Even as recently as 1933.
12. But, for whatever reason, in Chicago…
13. …these two women violated an edict on "abbreviated bathing suits"…
14. …and just needed to be arrested. For their bathing suits.
Don't forget to wear sunscreen this weekend!
David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org