We are always buying postcards and photos from before 1950 - email us at circa1910@tampabay.rr.com.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Antique BATHING BEAUTY Postcards

Living in Florida, we have a special fondness for Bathing Beauty postcards, showing off the joys of the surf and the beach 100 years ago, with swimmers out to bask in the sun as we do today...except for the vastly different bathing suits which were then made of wool, covered most of the body, and left ladies hanging onto ropes in the surf for safety once their wet bathing suits weighed them down.  Some of the Victorian bathing beauties wore colorful leggings, others had bare legs.  Some bathing suits were more demure, others quite revealing.  At the time, they were all considered daring, and bathing beauty postcards often include men trying to catch a peek or a photograph like the fellow on the early undivided back postcard at the right.  Above we see a classic embossed and Made in Germany Bathing Beauty postcard, with three lovely ladies out for the day.  One uses her  binoculars to explore the view, another takes a break from her summer reading, and the third waves to a friend.  These ladies are all wearing fantastic colorful bathing suits, the blue-and-white one having peek-a-boo openings up the thigh - her sailor suit design was also popular for ladies' shirtwaist dresses and children's outfits.   We love these embossed designs, each with lively characters and bright colors, and included several of them in our framed display shown at the end of this post.  They are not difficult to find, but they only represent one type of bathing beauty postcard.

To the left below is a bathing beauty on a flat postcard with an early undivided back.  She is not at the seashore, but shown in a wooded area beside a lake with shady trees and tall grasses.  Her suit is very revealing for the time, with a low-cut front and delicate straps, bare shoulders and bare legs.  Beautiful artwork adds to the value. 
Below we see a scene of two friends outside a wooden bathing cabana which could be rolled out into the water so that ladies who were particularly modest could step out into the waves without having to expose themselves to the people on the beach.  One woman wears a red suit with a matching cap; the other is wrapped up in a white towel.  We like the fact that these beauties were all quite healthy-looking - no skinny size 0 models for those collectors!

More flat cards are available with images like this one with the women wearing striped suits, here decorated with lacy collars and fancy caps.  These three bathing beauties are stopping for a cigarette break, another daring behavior for Victorian women.  Smoking added one more risque element to this postcard of scantily-clad bare-legged women cooling off in the water.  These printed cards are made from photographs of women in striped suits posed with little boats, on piers, with friends. A wide variety of designs is available.  

Below is a more unusual highly-embossed and airbrushed bathing beauty on a card that illustrates the safety rope mentioned above.  This bathing suit is more modest, with a skirt and sleeves.

Rafael Tuck of England published a very attractive series, Greetings from the Seaside.  We show two examples from the set here - not only are pretty bathing beauties in abundance, but children and dogs appear to complete the day-at-the-beach images.  A variety of well-crafted designs and nice embossing add to the charm of the series.

  Here is a bathing beauty displaying a carefree enjoyment of a windy day by the ocean.  A more artistic style adds to the beauty of this postcard which, having no sentiment, would look especially nice framed.  We decorated a guestroom in Victorian seaside motif, with framed photographs from the turn of the century of families at Atlantic City, watercolors of seaside towns and the framed selection of bathing beauty postcards shown in this long frame.  Whatever your favorite collecting subject, you can easily use postcards as part of your decorating scheme!

Price Estimates are challenging to give as there are so many kinds of bathing beauty postcards, including black and white, artist-signed, real photo, embossed and flat. The artwork ranges from simple to sophisticated and the prices reflect this.  (The bathing beauty is a classic collectable, and another post will focus on linen bathing beauties.)  A variety of flat cards like the ladies in striped suits can often be found at auction in lots - buying several at a time can save you money and reduce the cost to a few dollars each.  The embossed bathing beauties like the card that introduces this post can cost $10 - $20  at shows or in eBay stores; you may be able to do better if a card you like comes up for auction.  The earliest bathing beauties with top quality artwork, like the lady by the lake, can cost as much as $25.  These prices are for cards in EXCELLENT condition, and they are only estimates.   

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