Come In - The Water is Fine

The world of women\'s bathing
suits, swimming and swimwear developed throughout time
with the expectations of making bathing an enjoyable social
experience.(Kidwell, 117) While the focus of my
advertisement draws on the bathing accessories women
bought and wore in 1914, it opens up the entire realm of
morality and modesty in that age. I will touch on the social,
political and cultural implications of the advertisement I
chose and ask why things were the way they were not so
long ago. While researching this advertisement, I\'ve realized
that everything is relative. No wonder women wore dresses
and shoes while swimming. They weren\'t even given the
capability to learn to swim. The expectations from the early
1900\'s are so different than what they are today that we
need to realize that they were in a completely different
mindset. On the surface, the advertisement I chose is about
women\'s bathing accessories, but as we dig deeper, we
can see that it deals with women\'s equality. Women once
wore shoes, hats, and bathing dresses to swim in. A
bathing dress alone weighed about 30 pounds when wet,
aside from the accessories that women felt obliged to wear.
Women were not expected to swim in that attire, they were
expected to bathe.(Carter, 223) This advertisement for
swim accessories at Macy\'s was made during a time of
change. The fact that women were expected to wear all of
this attire in the water confirms the fact that women were
not expected to swim as of 1914, but instead to bathe for
social pleasure. Women were starting to learn to swim
athletically instead of standing in the water
socializing.(Kidwell,118) This was not only the turning
point for women\'s clothing and swimwear to become less
restricting, but also the time for athleticism and for women
to stand up for themselves and gain equality. This ad was
written 6 years before the 19th amendment to the U.S.
constitution was ratified, the amendment that gave equal
voting rights to women. Back then, it was illegal for a
woman to vote. I guess it doesn\'t surprise me that we were
wearing dresses in the water. In reality, though, "back then"
was only 79 years ago. America was free but not equal.
This poem about female swimmers in the 1920\'s written by
Grantland Rice depicts the male perception of women\'s
ability as a whole: With the women in their swimmin\'
Turning Records into wrecks With the ladies raising hades
In a matter quite complex, With their biceps getting
stronger Where their strides are getting longer In about four
generations Who will be the weaker sex?(Kidwell,120) It
sounds like this man is scared that women might someday
gain the same treatment as men. Rice is talking about the
physical characteristics of women, but you can take it one
step farther and see the last 2 lines in the poem as his own
insecurity as to where women would be in four generations,
which, ironically, is right now. I am exactly four generations
from the man who wrote this poem and it seems completely
absurd that anyone would say such a thing. If someone told
me to wear shoes, a hat and a dress while swimming, I\'d
wonder what planet they came from. In reality, here in
America, women were expected to wear those things while
swimming just 85 years ago, right here, not on a different
planet, or even in a different country. I can\'t imagine
growing up with the expectation that I couldn\'t do as well in
life as a man could, or that I couldn\'t wear a two-piece
without people thinking I was walking around in my
underwear. Culturally, the people that grew up in this time
did live on a different planet. When it comes to
expectations and behavior, we are on opposite ends of the
spectrum than we were just 85 years ago. This Macy\'s ad
demonstrates not only the fact that women were not equal
to men in the eyes of the law but also the fact that there
were different classes, just as there are today, and that
Macy\'s had something for almost anyone\'s price range.
From my perspective, the social aspect of this
advertisement leans on the difference between social
classes. The wealthy women probably wore the expensive
front and side lace shoes that cost $2.24 and the silk and
satin fancy caps or hats that were $3.24 instead of the
$0.23 caps and the $0.29 canvas shoes that the women
with little money had. The prices seem humorous compared
to the prices you would pay for a pair of shoes today. The
cheapest pair of canvas shoes you could find would be
about $10, ranging from in