Today, baring skin at the beach is the norm – but that wasn’t always the case. Let’s rewind a century or so and observe the difference between wearing a cover-up and being told to cover up.

The History of Beach Cover-Ups

Victorian Bathing Machines
In Victorian England, beach etiquette was a big deal. If women wanted to swim, a contraption called a bathing machine was brought in. Basically, ladies would enter the portable bathhouse on dry land, change into their swimsuits (often a tunic/bloomer combo), then be wheeled out to sea. That way, not even an ankle was exposed to male onlookers.

Prohibition-Era Beach Censors
Imagine a time when alcohol was banned and swimsuits were supposed to skim the knee. Less than a century ago, officers – known as beach censors – actually combed shores (like Coney Island, NY) to arrest scantily clad swimmers. Those in question would be given the opportunity to either change or “tell it to the judge in the morning.” Which is the nice way of ordering people to either cover up or ship out.

By Jillian Hudon, Staff Writer

Want the lowdown on fabrics and more? Follow our What Are You (Really) Wearing? column.

Not a Member and like The (Style) Guide? You’ll love Rue La La. Join now.

May 23, 2014

Cover Up

You’ve snagged the swimsuit. But don’t dive in just yet. Read up on these tips for finding that just-right cover-up, then grab a pair of sandals and strut with confidence from beach to boardwalk (or perhaps just to the Popsicle stand).

The Tunic: Half shirt, half dress, the tunic cover-up is universally flattering. Its body-skimming shape looks particularly great on apple-shaped women – disguising a tummy while showing off great gams.

The Romper: Boy-shaped? Create curves with a romper, which draws the eye to the widest parts of your hips and bust. Bonus points for extra frills.

The Sarong: There are a bajillion ways to tie a sarong (read up and try them all), but the simple knot around the waist is particularly flattering on pear-shaped women who want to show off a slim upper body.

The Kaftan: There’s something so Hollywood-vacation about this bold, flowy garment – especially if done right. If you’re petite, opt for a knee-length version (traditional long styles can drown you). If you’re taller, try a floor-length printed number with a deep V-neck for a punch of beach glam.

As for fabrics? Simple: look for ones that will dry easily. Think 100% cotton, linen, and terry. And steer clear of super-hot polyester and denim, which take ages to dry. Now, off to the beach you go.

By Joanna Berliner, Editor 

Like this week’s post? Check our The Fitting Room column every Monday

Not a Member and like The (Style) Guide? You’ll love Rue La La. Join now.

July 15, 2013