Friday, November 29, 2013

Sepia Saturday 205, 2013 November 30: 1930s Beach Attire: McPherson Aunties At The Beach

This Sepia Saturday's prompt brings us to the end of November or, so they say, has become known in much of the world, Movember. So it is time to celebrate bearded ladies, moustachioed men, trophies or silly swimming suits. 

No bearded ladies in my family and very few moustachioed men, however I do have a couple of pictures of 1930 beach attire, which might prove interesting for those that remember the 1930s or are fond of that era.

1930s Beach Attire:
McPherson Aunties At the Beach

In 1921 or so, my Aunt Bertha Clouse, the oldest of the McPherson aunties, arrived in Calipatria, California, with her husband Cecil and baby daughter Cleona.  The Clouse family had land in the area and quickly became involved in several other businesses.  Bertha and Cecil were part of  Calipatria's  young socialite set;   Cecil was involved in local politics and Bertha owned a fashionable dress shop.  The younger aunties were always impressed with Bertha's sense of style and the fact that her dress shop always had the latest designs -- for Calipatria, at least.

The two  pictures  below were taken between 1933 and 1935, judging by the age of Cleona who was born on 9 April 1920.  The beach might have been near San Diego, but I think it is more likely a beach on the Salton Sea which was a popular venue and relatively close to Calipatria.  In the first photo, I recognize my aunt Bertha (seated third from the left), cousin Cleona Clouse (the young girl perched on the abutment. Cleona was just a year younger than my mother), Bertha's cousin Jerry McPherson Rose(standing to the right of Cleona) and uncle Cecil Clouse(standing at the far right).  It is difficult to say with absolute certainty, but I believe the woman sitting to the left of Bertha is her sister Margie Bryant, my aunt Margie.  (Additional note:  A cousin of mine, contacted me to let me know that the woman seated at the far left, next to Margie, was her grandmother Helen Jansky, nee McPherson.)

1930s Beach Gathering in Southern California
Courtesy of JGHill and Roots'n'Leaves Archives
The photo has a great array of bathing fashions of the day.  The elegant, wide legged flowing pants were worn by all the stylish women when they went to the beach.  The pants, in bright colors and prints, evolved from pajamas that were worn by beach goers a few year before.   Jerry Rose and Bertha Clouse  both wore the popular flowing legged pants.  Jerry's pants were worn over her swim-suit, while Bertha's outfit was more of an ensemble which was very much in vogue at the time.  The big floppy hats as well as the wide hair bands and scarves were also popular.At the right, is a photo that was a typical outfit worn at the beach or pool side.

The swim suit worn by young Cleona was a style-setter of the day as her one-piece suit had shorter, more fitted legs, the top had cut outs which foretold the coming of the a two-piece bathing suit. Also the belted suit with it's striped top was very much a new style of the day.  Uncle Cecil Clouse's suit was also very fashionable with it's new shorter, more fitted trunks.  The two-piece swim suits for men were beginning to give way to just the shorter, fitted swim trunks, worn with or without a top.

1930s A Family Day at the Beach
Jerry Rose, Ray Rose, Bertha Clouse, Jack Bryant, Margie Bryant, Cleona Clouse
Courtesy of JGHill and Roots'n'Leaves Archives
The suit worn by my aunt Margie, in the above photo,  was more typical of  swim attire worn by women of the day, as the bathing suit had a skirt-look for modesty's sake.  A few years earlier some of the dress codes (or swim-suit wearing codes) required that suits for men and women not be shorter than 4 inches above the knee, and that the tops must end at least two inches below the genital region. The swim suit worn by Ray Rose shows the long top that was the norm a few years earlier, however by the 1930s many of the men's trunks were shorter and more fitted.

The picture at the left shows a variety of beach wear that was popular in the 1930s.  Magazines and doctors were telling of the benefits of exercise and sunshine, so folks on both sides of the Atlantic took to the beaches  --- and of course they had to be appropriately attired.

Below  is a 1929 photo of Gary Cooper in the newest of swimwear fashions.  The  swimsuit worn by Cooper looks very much like the one worn by the man sitting to the left of Cecil Clouse in the first photo of these beach festivities.
This just about brings to a close my ramblings about the 1930s beach attire of my McPherson aunties, friends and relatives --- except for one last thing.  Everytime I looked at the first photo, my eye went to the man kneeling at the lower left of the photo.  I don't know if he was a friend or stranger.  However to me, he almost has a time traveler look -- a man from the 21st century, wearing a wet suit and kneeling before a computer -- oblivious to the laughing folks enjoying their day at the beach.  What do you think?

Paddle on over to check out what's going on at Sepia Saturday

~ ~ 

 © Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications


  1. Everyone looked so much more fashionable then!!

  2. I too went with 1920s / 1930s swimming costumes but had none with those flowing pants - much more elegant than my offerings!

  3. I remember K. Hepburn in those wide, flowing pants (but I think she called them trousers); and then it all came back in the 60s when we flounced around in bell bottoms (remember those?). Great beach shots, Joan!

  4. The man at the bottom left looks as though he might have been with another group, Question - did wet suits exist back then and it's a bit too wrinkled.

    1. That must be because he's a time traveler. He probably lost a bit of weight from the fast trip through time and so the wet suit is a bit wrinkled.

  5. What gets me when I look at bathing suits of the 1920's & '30's is the fact that men were expected to cover up almost as much as the women. Boy, if they could see us now! Although actually, men's swim trunks now are as long as they were then - just baggier with bright colors & prints. Either way, a fellow with a nice physique in swim wear is always a nice sight. I may be old, but I'm not THAT old!!!

  6. What an elegant beach group - I love those loose trousers which still managed to look stylish and smart, especially worn with the scarf sash,

  7. I enjoyed the stroll through fashion history. Your family was quite stylish, I'd say.

  8. What a fun post! It's fun to see what beach attire looked like years ago.

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