1920 July 28

Women May Wear One-Piece Swimsuits on Long Island, NY


The police chief of Long Beach, New York, on Long Island, announced on this day that women would be permitted to wear one-piece bathing suits, without either shoes or stockings. He added, however, that “there must be no immorality,” and that his officers “will see to that.” At the Rockaways, also on Long Island, a local magistrate issued an edict that people in bathing suits could not promenade on the streets or ride through town in automobiles.

The history of clothing, non-clothing (i.e., nudity), and personal grooming is filled with civil liberties themes. The key issue has always been power and control, as dominant groups have sought to control other groups. The history of women’s swimsuits in the 20th century is the story of a long battle over the control of women’s sexuality. In the 1960s, long hair among whites and Afros among African-Americans were political statements, and both groups ran into attempts to limit them. T-shirts with slogans, meanwhile, continue to raise First Amendment issues.

See a related controversy over women’s swimwear at Atlantic City on June 16, 2001.

Learn more about the history of women’s swimwear: http://blog.lulus.com/fashion/fashion-era-the-evolution-of-swimsuits-over-the-years/

And more: Learn more about women’s fashion in the 1920s: Catherine Horwood, Keeping Up Appearances: Fashion and Class Between the Wars (2005)

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