Here's a selection of vintage beach photos from an article titled Before the Bikini: Rare Vintage Beach Photos. The article is about the origins of beach vacations and how the swimsuit has evolved from the early 1900s to the 1970s.
Beach vacations started as early as the late 1800s after railroads became a viable source of transportation, according to Victoriana Magazine. Swimwear consisted of fully covered gowns and bloomers that revealed very little. Although the sun’s harmful UV rays were an unknown danger at the time, this conservative beachwear would have provided a good deal of protection.
By the early 1900s, beach resorts were becoming a popular destination. But water activities such as swimming and diving were a burden due to the bulky Victorian-style swimsuits, especially for the women, the magazine reports. Thus, by the 1920s, fitted swimwear that modestly conformed to the body became a part of beach fashion. Susan Sessions Rugh, an American history professor at Brigham Young University, points out that as the years passed, swimsuits became smaller and smaller.
“Earlier in the century, the sexes were often segregated on the beach and women were chaperoned, even though today their swimsuits look ridiculously modest,” Rugh said in an interview with Weather.com. “Swimsuits shrunk over the years as new stretch fabrics and manufacturing methods allowed a more form-fitting garment.”
These are my favourite 20 photos from the article, you can see all 359 photos here. I would love to find a series of vintage photos of beach vacations in the Arab world.