Summer is here at Revere Beach….! This story is being reposted as it’s a good way to reflect upon the styles and evolution of bathing attire and swimwear over the years……Annette Kellerman and her story are featured in the 1957 film Million Dollar Mermaid by MGM.
When Annette Kellerman stepped out onto Revere Beach in 1907 wearing a one-piece bathing suit that ended in shorts above her knees, her legs caused a scandal. Police were called, and she was arrested for indecency.
Those legs had also made her famous: The Australian swimmer held all the world records for women’s swimming in 1905. She was a vaudeville star with an act full of high dives and underwater ballet. Newspapers hailed her as “The Original Mermaid.’’
But Victorian-era vacationers didn’t care to feel the sea or sun on their skin. In the early 1900s, women waded into the water in black, knee-length, puffed-sleeved wool dresses worn over bloomers with long black stockings, bathing slippers, and even ribboned swim caps, according to Victoriana Magazine. Kellerman may have been thoroughly covered, but to her fellow bathers, she may as well have been naked.
“Me, arrested!’’ Kellerman said in a 1953 Boston Sunday Globe article recalling the 1907 incident. “We were all terribly shocked, especially my father, for I was his innocent protected little girl. But the judge was quite nice and allowed me to wear the suit if I would wear a full-length cape to the water’s edge.’’
The Globe article looked back on Kellerman’s accomplishments, noting her records that rocked the competitive swimming world.
“She got three-quarters of the way across the [English] channel, in 10½ hours, in 1905, a record at the time and an attempt that captured the attention of the world. She broken the world’s record for the 100-yard dash and two of her records still stand, for the 26-mile swim from Dover to Ramsgate (in 1908) and for the underwater time of 3 minutes, 27 seconds.’’