Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection


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Costume; Sports clothing; Beachwear; Bathing suits


Wool, braid


1900-1910. Woman’s one-piece bathing suit of navy wool with white braid trim in two widths, closing in front, with elbow-length sleeves and short pant legs, and a separate short skirt buttoning to the waist.

The main bathing suit is made of four pieces: two front panels with one knife pleat each to shape the garment to the body, and two back panels with an inverted box pleat over the center-back seam at the waist. Each panel is cut in one piece from shoulder to shorts hem, there is no waist seam join. An interior waistband of polished brown cotton, 7 cm / 2.75 in. wide, is sewn in place to support the four buttons attached at center front, center back, and each side for the separate button-on skirt. The bathing suit opens in front with five large flat buttons from just below the waistband to the base of the pointed collar; the fourth button from the top is at the waist. Elbow-length sleeves with two seams are fitted smoothly to the scye. The knee-length shorts have a drawstring 9.5 cm / 3.75 in. from their hems, which would have created a slight ruffle when pulled tight.

The skirt has three panels of the same fabric, box pleated in back and knife pleated for the rest of its width to a waistband 5.7 cm / 2.25 in. wide, which is lined with brown polished cotton. The waistband has five buttonholes spaced along it at center back, the sides, and one at each end in front. When attached to the suit, the buttonholes at both left and right sides of the skirt go over the same center-front button.

The bathing suit is trimmed with broad white braid 6.4 cm / 2.5 in. wide flanked with two narrower braids 3.8 cm / 1.5 in. wide. This combination crosses the front and back of the bodice horizontally at the chest as well as edging the sleeve cuffs, skirt hem, and pants hems, and flanks the center-front opening from neck to waist. A double row of the narrower braid outlines the collar and the skirt waistband.

The bathing suit is unlined except for the very top of the bodice at the shoulders, which has a partial cotton layer. Machine-sewn.


Bust: 78.7 cm / 31 in.
Waist: 66.7 cm / 26.25 in.
Hem: 148 cm / 58.25 in.
Shorts inseam: 35.6 cm / 14 in.
Skirt length: 41.3 cm / 16.25 in.
Overall length: 106.7 cm / 42 in.


Gift of Mary Pepperrell Ffrost Sawyer, Margaret Hamilton Ffrost, and Elizabeth Rollins Ffrost

Museum Number



University of New Hampshire Library


Astrida Schaeffer, photographer/curator

Date Digitized


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License


The Irma G. Bowen Historic Clothing Collection digital catalog was produced by the UNH Library Digital Collection Initiative, supported in part by a grant from the Mooseplate program and New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. Additional funding provided by the E. Ruth Buxton Stephenson Memorial Fund.
Photography copyright, Astrida Schaeffer.

Ffrost-Sawyer_history.pdf (75 kB)
Ffrost-Sawyer history


Women's bathing suits, Swimsuits, Swimwear, 1900-1910, Durham, New Hampshire, United States, One-piece bathing suits, Wool, Navy blue (color), Braid trim, White (color), Elbow-length sleeves, Pointed collar, Knee-length shorts, Drawstring, Ruffle, Short skirt, Button-on skirt, Knife pleats, Box pleats, Waistband, Polished cotton, Glazed cotton, Brown (color), Buttons, Machine-sewn, Ffrost Sawyer (donor), Ffrost (donor), Frost (donor), Hamilton Ffrost (donor), Rollins Ffrost (donor)


item origin