A day at the beach
The girls-from left to right, Audrey Rutledge, Lena Pratt, Mureil Pratt, Barbara Rutledge and Beth Rutledge-are almost as bare as you dare - at least by 1922 standards, and perhaps even by the standards of Cranbrook, BC (not known to be a fashion cynosure).
A few years before this record of a cousins' day at the beach was snapped, they might well have been swaddled for their swimming pleasure in black, puffy-sleeved wool dresses with bloomers and black stockings- figures of Victorian modesty and propriety and, one might expect, miserable discomfort. But if twentieth-century swimwear is a progress toward the kind of dental-floss monokini of Rio's Ipanema beach, then these one-piece suits with thigh-length, tight-fitting shorts, deep oval necklines, and thin shoulder straps are a stop along the way. Though they reflected, as did the short skirts and bobbed hair of the day, women's sense of newfound freedom in the wake of World War I, you can likely bet somewhere behind this picture's photographer is some old duffer harrumphing about the indecent exposure of female flesh.
And what of the boys — left to right, Howard Pratt, Wilfred Rutledge and Wallace Rutledge? Male beach attire doesn't much capture the attention of social anthropologists, but the trend to shrinkage paralleled that of women. Tops through the late '20s and early '30s became tighter, tucked-in, and more abbreviated until finally, in 1937, the battle to liberate the male chest was won and the two-piece swimsuit was banished forever. And that's just about that for innovation in men's beachwear. For women, however, there's more to come-especially when someone names a bathing costume after a remote South Pacific reef.
Barbara Washbern, who submitted this photograph, lives in Maple Ridge, BC. She stands fifth from left, next to her father Wilfred Rutledge, who was a World War I pilot and an aviation instructor in Calgary in later civilian life. Her mother Audrey, an English war bride, adjusts her costume, second from left. Her younger sister Beth Calangis, the littlest figure in the photo, and the only other surviving member of this cheerful summer outing, lives in Vancouver.