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Bathing suits under fire, turning
the beach into a social battlefield
There was much controversy in 1921 over bathing suits, mostly those worn by women. The only points of reference I have are old photographs, such as the one I found online, and this one is merely a recreation, but the bathing suits pictured are the best fit for the stories below.

Odd as it seems today, it was the one-piece bathing suit that scandalized many people in 1921. That's because the two- or three-piece suits covered most of the female body. Bare legs were another hot issue. At some beaches women were required to wear stockings with their bathing suits. Most of the "acceptable" bathings suits made swimming downright dangerous.

Fashion was changing, however, and by 1921 most young women and girls wanted more exposure and more freedom in their swimming suits. A movement toward bare legs and briefer bathing suits was underway, and like most cultural changes from the 20th century until today, this movement started on the West Coast. Several of the self-appointed guardians of our morals complained about California-style bathing suits.

One New Jersey woman, who was president of a swimming club AND a Sunday school teacher, emerged as the champion of common sense. Ada Taylor would prove that something a simple as writing a letter could have far-reaching results – provided your message also reached newspapers.

Speaking of newspapers, what follows is a sampling of how the Great Bathing Suit Controversy of 1921 was covered. I begin with two accounts of the same announcement. The first is shorter, but, I think, more reliable. The writer of the second story was too busy being clever that he (and it had to be a he) sent the wrong message in the final paragraph, if you can make any sense of it (and the previous paragraph). On the other hand, the first story throws in the expression, "bald-headed 'beach lizards,' " which doesn't make sense, either. Nor is there an explanation of how police will determine if a man went to the beach simply to star. Anyway, enjoy.

 
New York
 
New York Evening Telegram

Long Beach Bars Lizard Baldheads
and Women Sans Socks
LONG BEACH, L.I., May 26 – One-piece bathing suits and bald-headed “beach lizards” have been positively ruled out of Long Beach for the coming season by Chief of Police Patrick Tracy.

Women absolutely “must” wear two-piece bathing suits, Police Captain Walter Barriscale said today, in making the announcement of the Chief’s new regulations, and men who come to the beach to stare will find themselves in trouble. Moreover, women must wear socks.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Long Beach to Bar “Beach Lizards” and 1-Piece Suits
LONG BEACH, May 27 – Beach lizards are bunny-huggers and will be barred from the silvery sands of this resort.

That’s the ruling of Capt. Frank Barriscale, acting in the absence of Chief Patrick Tracy.

“The police are in charge of the morals of the beach,” declared Captain Barriscale today. “They will supervise closely all beach lounging.

“Beach lizards travel in pairs. If they come here they must keep at least three inches apart – for the moral appearance of the beach.”

It is Captain Barriscale’s opinion that the bunny-hugging beach lizard will find it hard to become acclimated to a three-inch interval between him and his bunny-hugging beach lizard partner.

“All one-piece suits must go in bathing elsewhere,” also rules the captain. “They will not be tolerated here. Every bathing suit must be of the two-piece variety.”

However, the bald-headed policeman need not look for a job in another place, where the the bald-headed row is held in deeper veneration.

Dimpled knees and shimmering underpinning may flash up and down the beach in unstockinged abandon. Just the same no little unclad pinkie will be rescued from crab or lobster by any policeman.

The next article, about a different, very famous New York-area beach, is much more thorough. While other beaches had similar rules, Rockaway had more of them, particularly the one about automobiles. I believe the list was stretch just so the captain of the Women's Police Reseve could liken their rules to The Ten Commandments. There seems to be enough redundancy that they could have said everything they had to say in five or six rules.

New York Evening Telegram

Rockaway Beach Most Decorous
Ten Commandments of Woman Police Captain
Must Be Obeyed, She Says

MAY 30 – Policewomen at Rockaway Beach are going to keep an eye peeled for signs of immodesty by women and men bathers. And woe be to the male or female of the species who deigns to expose – well, who deigns to expose.

Pretty maidens contemplating donning one-piece creations of the California type in the torrid months had better keep away from Rockaway Beach. The sharp-eyed women police’ll get ‘em if they don’t watch out.

Bare legs are ab-so-lute-ly taboo. A woman can’t even show her shoulder blade. Those living at the beach are prohibited from donning their bathing garb in their homes and walking down to the beach without wearing clothes over the surf outfit.

And those who were in the habit of driving to the beach in their motor cars and slipping into their Annette Kellermanns in the sanctity of their limousing or ducking down in the tonneau will find the rigid arm of the law clasped about their shoulders if they try it this year.

Ten commandments for the benefit of bathers at Rockaway Beach were issued today by Mrs. Mary Morris, captain of the Women’s Police Reserve. They are:

1. Women and girls must wear bathing suits that are modest and men must do the same. No one-piece bathing suits allowed.

2. Bathers must sit around the beach like well-behaved persons.

3. No young women should walk along the boulevard in bathing suits and all dolled up with rouge and powder.

4. Women must wear skirts over their suits and men trousers over their suits while walking from their homes to the beach and back.

5. Bathers must not ride to the beach in automobiles and use them for bathhouse purposes.

6. Young couples should not entwine in each other’s arms while lying on the sands of the beach.

7. Women must not expose bare legs.

8. Women must not expose shoulder blades too much.

9. Bathers should not play ball on the beach.

10. Bathers must not hang out wet bathing suits from the front windows of their house.

Mrs. Morris has seventeen women policewomen to assist her in seeing that her ten commandments are obeyed. They will not be in uniform, but will wear a glistening badge of authority, b’gosh!

Coney Island was in danger of turning a trip to the beach into an exercise in cruel and unusual punishment. My favorite part of the next story is the statement from a lawyer about how many bathers are properly clad. Makes me wonder if he sat around one day and kept score.

New York Evening Telegram

Coney “Sand Fleas” Doomed
by City Ban on Bare Legs
Stockings Must Meet Bloomers, Says Resolution; Only
one in Fifteen Bathers Properly Clad, Declares Lawyer
JUNE 24 – The “sand fleas” at Coney Island are doomed, or at least will be doomed, if the resolution framed today at a public hearing in the Board of Aldermen’s rooms is passed by that august body in its next session.

A “sand flea” is another name for the maids and matrons and also the young men who parade Coney’s beaches in costumes little larger than the ones worn by Adam and Eve.

The room of the Board of Aldermen was crowded with Coney Island’s most representative men and women when the General Welfare Committee called the public meeting to order. It was the concensus that the young women and men bathers of Coney Island wore too abbreviated costumes, and one speaker, Patrick Loftus, a lawyer stated that only one of every fifteen bathers was properly clad.

The resolution states that all females above ten years of age shall wear bloomers or tights and stockings to meet them and also a blouse that covers the shoulder blades, throat and bosom, and the men shall wear trunks reaching the knees, with a skirt or blouse covering the entire trunks.

“Do away with the bare legs and there will be less immorality and more decency,” said a young woman who did not give her name, “and the fair name of Coney Island will be preserved to posterity.”

I was pleased to note that in Central New York – or "Upstate" as the geography-challenged call it – was more progressive than the yokels in New York City. Sylvan Beach is on the eastern end of Oneida Lake, a huge body of water in the middle of the state. It was a popular swimming destination in the 1920s, it's better known today for its fishing.

Syracuse Journal

Bare Legs and One-Piece Suits Get Official “O.K.”
SYLVAN BEACH, July 12 – Chief of Police Palms decreed that girls who go in bathing at the beach in one-piece bathing suits and minus stockings are keeping within the rules and regulations as set down by the Sylvan Beach authorities, and need have no fear that they will be reprimanded or jailed for such acts.

The announcement was made by Chief Palms following a visit made to the beach recently by Sheriff A. W. Pickard, who ordered young women on the beach front to cover up their nude limbs. Chief Palms stated that the village has rules and regulations of its own which permit the fair sex to wear one-piece bathing suits and no socks, providing they stay on the beach and keep off the streets and avenues unless covered from neck to ankle.

 
Chicago
 

The first story will make it appear that Chicago censors were more uptight than those in New York. Perhaps they were. But subsequent stories will show why it was Chicago that was called "a toddlin' town." Censors there weren't just fighting a losing battle. They were getting clobbered.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Seamstresses Stationed on Beaches to Cover Bare Legs
CHICAGO, June 18 – Seamstresses with pins, needles, thread and other paraphernalia of the ladies tailor were stationed at Chicago beaches today to censor the bathing suits worn by women, and sew in those wearers who violated prohibitions against the display of legs and shoulders which were made effective this year.

Last year the style of costumes worn at the beaches was left almost entirely, it was explained, to the conscience of the wearer. Hundreds of women who appeared today in last year’s “conscience” suits kept the beach tailoresses-censors busy.

Either the next bunch of women were afraid they'd be doused with water that was too cold – or they recognized this event for what it really was – the first wet T-shirt contest:

Syracuse Journal

Bathing Beauties Prefer Quitting to Wet Suits
AURORA, Ill., June 23 – Eight girls in a bathing suit contest withdrew when they were told that it was neccessary for them to get their bathing suits wet before they could participate.

The Chicago area also had one beach that had restrictions that were even crazier than those at Rockaway. I wonder how long this one lasted:

Syracuse Journal

Evanston Puts Lid on Bathing Girls
CHICAGO, June 24 – Saintly, sedate Evanston, home of the W.C.T.U., the Northwestern University and many other uplifting institutions and individuals, has taken the bathing proposition by the scruff of the neck.

The exclusive suburb has stood all it can in the way of abbreviated bathing suits. The last straw came when it was learned some of the co-eds had gone swimming with the lifeguards.

Now the fiat has gone forth. The girl bather is to have her own portable bathing house in which she will disrobe and don her bathing suit. After which the portable house will be driven down to the water and a small door in the rear will permit the fair bather to emerge practically unobserved. When she has completed her ablutions, she will re-enter the house, drive back and come out fully dressed.

Unfortunately for the censors, the summer of 1921 was hot hot, hot. Comfort became much more important that outmoded customs. And when it came to comfort, nothing could top the one-piece bathing suit.

Binghamton Press

One-Piece Suits Go in Chicago Miles From Wild Waves
CHICAGO, June 29.—(United Press)—Chicago has gone back to Eden. The style today in woman's dress is— no dress at all.

Bathing suits have taken the place of swishing and diaphanous skirts. Many women in the Wilson avenue, Hyde Park and Jackson Park districts within a radius of three miles of bathing beaches do their errands and visiting in one-piece splashing costumes during these sweltering days.

The wild waves didn't put the idea in the minds of the girls, say the plain, blunt men who have had midsummer zip added to their dull lives. Most of the suits have never been immersed, they say.

"I'm going to undress for dinner," is quite a usual expression, around the household these days.

Eating in restaurants, and good ones, too, is being done in seaside attire. To make it more clubby many husbands twist themselves into bathing suits to have dinner with their wives.

Some suits have neat fig leaves interwoven; others dashing exclamation points and some cute little question marks.

Actually, there was something more comfortable than the one-piece suit:

Syracuse Journal

Nude Bathing on Gain in Chicago
CHICAGO, July 1 – The epidemic of nude bathing, which broke out along the south shore beaches and along the classic Des Plaines River, has now spread to Glencoe, a haughty and aristocratic suburb, the inhabitants of which are all financially able to buy bathing suits.

Every night brings pseudo-bathers to the beach – all of them apparently well-dressed, nice-looking young people who dance, instead of swim. This would be all right, but they dance in the altogether. They divorce themselves of all clothing which is left in the costly cars – for this is not an aggregate of roughnecks – after which they deport themselves in Greek, Russian and other dances to the strains of ukeleles.

Indignant citizens of Glencoe complained to the police that this stuff is all right in light opera and the various “Follies” shows, but they object to have it delivered free at their doorsteps.

The police have made two attempts to raid the nude dancing bathers, but watchful sentinels have given the dancers warning in time to enable them to get away in high power cars, dressing as they flew over the boulevards.

 
Atlantic City
 

Swinging down to Atlantic City, New Jersey, we find the beach censors as diligent as those around New York City. However, there is one voice of reason, and it is being heard throughout the northeast. Ada Taylor is a swimmer and a Sunday school teacher. She also expresses a concern that cannot be dismissed in the name of morality. The two- or three-piece bathing suits and especially the stockings that are required make swimming unnecessarily dangerous. Also, the stockings have to be replaced so often that they become a burdensome expense. A community south of Atlantic City endorses Taylor's ideas. They see in them a chance to draw tourists away from their more famous neighbor.

New York Evening Telegram

Everything but Comfort on Atlantic City Beach as Dress Censorship Reigns
ATLANTIC CITY, N. J., June 12 – There arse women to watch the men and men to watch the women mingling with the Sunday beach crowds. “Copettes” went on duty as beach guardians today. Their advent was well heralded and, despite all their efforts, curious eyes were able to spot them here and txhere and pass the word to the throng.

The keenness of the public to locate the new style of protective service on the strand led to many embarrassments for it only needed a perfectly innocent bather to accost a friend in the surf or on its edge and exchang the gossip from home, for the crowd to whisper “there’s one of them.” Then the startled conversationalists would look up to see inquisitive persons ogling them from a respectful distance or some of the more adventuous gathered as near as possible to catch an earful of what the offense had been that required a verbal warning.

Want to Remain “Incog”
Only a fraction of the whole number of copettes was spotted throughout the bathing hours. The argus eyhed agents of the city have taken the precaution that they shall remain “incog” unless too glaring an infraction of the law requuires their interference. In bathing garb they are unknown, most of them, while the others who saunter along the sands are in plain clothes with no display of badges.

A wholesome fear their presence inspired, for uncertainty is a fine check on extreme display or lack of display in the way of bathing togs. Nothing out of the way on beach or boardwalk is the order of Beach Czar, Dr. Charles L. Bossert. Sand lizards being largely an imported product of excursions, the intense suns of July and August are necessary to their appearance and accordingly the copettes have had no trouble from that species. With new bathers eager to create a sensation, real work will begin. New recruits were added to the male force.

Signs hung along the beach today give the crowd full warning as to what will constitute the strand fashions for this season The type is large and there will be no excusing the offender who says he cannont read. Here are the specifications for the undisturbed patronage of the beach:

No one-piece suits for either sex.

Women: Suits must extend from the feet to neck. No socks or bare legs will be permitted.

Men: Bathing suits must extend at least halfway to the knee. All shirts must be of proper length.

Straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel is Miss Ada Taylor’s idea of the city’s new bathing suit regulations. Miss Taylor is president-secretary of the Ambassador Swimming Club and a Presbyterian Sunday School teacher, and is, therefore, qualified to speak with double knowledge as to what insures comfort to swimmers without sacrificing any modesty that Sunday school ethics require,

Threatens an Exodus
Miss Taylor has made her protest to Beach Surgean Bossert, and in doing so threatens to start a “hike” of surf lovers to the hitherto retiring city of Somers Point. It is her belief that women bathers will have to pout on so much testile covering that their safety in the sea will be endangered, and she clinched her contention with this statsements: “I have been bathing in Atlantic City since I was learning long division and I know whereof I speak.”

Let Dr. Bossert roll that under his tongue:

Miss Taylor is for bare legs because stockings become water soaked and laden with sand. And when the transparent silk variety of calf adornment meets the law but does not hide the shapely outline of a female’s underpinning, of what moral value is the stocking? Socrates couldn’t have put it better. Having established the material side of the argument, Mis Tayulor takes a deft rap at prevailing custome elsewhere, saying:

“In all candor, Doctor, who attracts the really unfavorable attention – the girl bather with bare legs or milady who rolles along the boardwalk with legs crossed, showing her costly silk stockings at least to the knee? You must agree with me that purity of mind is not insured by wearing stockings. Onkly the stocking manufacturers and bathing house proprietors profit by this rule, while bathing is made more expensive to many women to whom expense is a matter of vital concern. A pair of silk stockings will last but two days on the beach.”

Miss Taylor suggests the Ambassador Club’s costumes be adopted, since they are less extreme than those used on the Pacific coast and are near in appearance in or out of the surf. The bathing girl of ten years ago would be laughed off the beach today, she maintains, even by the most prudish.

And where does Somers Point fit in with all this? Well, they live near to nature at the Point and call their noonday meal a dinner without waiting six hours later to label and libel la hearty supper with the same title. Moreover, a leg is only a leg over there, no matter what superstructure may rest upon it. Mayor Crissy read Miss Taylor’s criticism and his heart took on two extra beats in approval.

“A right smart girl,” quoth the mayor, “and too intelligent to waste her time over in the city. Don’t doubt there are hundreds who think as she does. With over 2,000 residents here there has been no ocrruption of morals, and no objection to one-piece suits for ten years back. Residents of both sexes bathe in enjoyment and there are no restricitions except those that spring from common sense. What harm develops, we know how to stop it, but I have hyet to hear any one complain. This is the place for bathers who want real comfort and no rules. I have spoken.

“I’m going on seventy-three and reckon I’ve cut my eye teeth,” he concluded.

The above story went on the detail some of the measures being considered by officials in Somers Point not only to handle beach goers unhappy with Atlantic City rules, but to encourage more of them. These included construction of new a better facilities, starting with new bathhouses, and more frequent and thorough patrols to keep the beach clean of trash, particularly that which often washed up on shore.

The mayor of Somers Point, N.J., wasn't alone in seeing merit in Ada Taylor's statements about beach wear. Eight days earlier this editorial was published in a Central New York newspaper:

Syracuse Post-Standard

The Censor Censured
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J., June 3 – The Big Chief of the Department of Censorship of Swimming Togs at Atlantic City decrees and promulgates stockings for women. He maintains, after consultation withh his associate, assistant and deputy censors that bare legs are immoral.

Miss Ada Taylor, who qualifies as expert in two lines, for she is a swimmer and a Sunday school teacher, files oobjection. In her capacity as a Sunday school teacher she declares boldly for bare legs on the beach, and by her authority as a swimmer she is equally emphatic. Here in her own words is her case:

1. The issue in morals – stockings, particularly those sheer, transparent silk ones – and who wears wool on the beach? – fail to improve morals.

2. The issue of safety – stockings become water-soaked and filled with sand and are not only a nuisance, but a real source of danger. They make swimming hazardous.

We maintain that the lady makes her case on both counts. That stockings add to th difficulty of swimming admits no dispute. That they are the garment of a scrupulous modesty will hardly be maintained. The musical comedy stage, whose aim is the opposite of the beach censor, has been showing a preference for bare legs, to be sure, but it is getting back to stockings.

I like the next story because it's a good overall look at the beach season in Atlantic City. It also brings up, toward the end, a preview of a situation that eventually would become so widespread that it would be considered a nationwide problem – littering.

New York Evening Telegram

Guards Halt Beach Spooning
Turtle Doves Under Boardwalk Doused
with Water and Practice Wanes

ATLANTIC CITY, N. J., July 31– Economy in beach protection is as diligently observed here as in other places. For instance, it meant a lot of bother and argument to break up “petting parties” under the walk. Loving couples who want to coo instinctively hunt the shadows under the Boardwalk. Their intentions may be harmless enough, but their example is not a good one in the eyes of the city fathers, and orders are to permit no lovey-dovey practices.

Once the beach policemen had to approach the transgressors, order them away and sometimes argue for severall minutes and threaten arrest if the command was disputed. A labor saving guard solved that problem to perfection. Once a “petting party” is detected under the walk, a buket of water is carried to the spot and over their heas and then poured out. It always floods out the gushy pair and effectually cools their ardor, while the exertion required on the part of the guard is of the slightest.

Sash Going Out
Anything to avoid poking the hair under hot and unpleasant bathing caps seems to be in favor with the younger element among the sea nymphs. The popularity of ribbons to tie the hair is growing and the colors are of every description. Bathing caps with ears also are the vogue, making the maidens look like horned sea horses when their heads only are visible above the waves.

Knitted girdles likewise are pentiful, but the popularity of the sash seems to be waning. Those that are worn are board and tied in a big bow in the back. The most conspicuous bathing costume was seen today when a grim young damsel appeared wearing a complete outfit of royal purple edged with white. the skirt reached the knee and was edged with deep white fringe. To accentuate her garb, her escort was attired in a crimson jersey with blue trousers.

Toddle shoes have become a fancy among those aspiring to the latest in beach fashions. The new footwear is made of rubber in every imaginable shade and owes its prominence to Miss Ada Taylor, leader of the big swimming club, who worse the first pair when she appeared in a huge bowl of walt water which she sprinkled about at the opening of White Horse Pike in June.

The beach censors confess they are at a loss on what to decide about flelsh-tinted silk hosiery. At a distance there is no difference between it and the bare skin and many times the censors have started forward to caution an apparently stockingless maid only to turn away upon detecting a wrinkle lthat indicated the legs were covered. As the beach edict merely specifies no bare legs, a covering of any kind answers the law, and that makes the censors chafe at their impotence.

Three striking bath costumes were noticed in the surf today. One was wine colored, one a light green and another a combination blend that took on tints with each movement of the wearer, much as a soap bubble irradiates rainbow hues.

If there is one thing above another that the girls enjoy it is to perplex the beach censors. James Carmack was nearly afflicted with paralysis today when he saw a sweet-faced maid approach him clad apparently in a one-piece suit of dark blue. He cleared his throat preparatory to administering a warning when he detective evidence of a jacket. On closer inspection he found the maid was really attired in a two-piece garment, but so cunningly fitted it was equivalent to a single-piece suit. all he could do was stand silent as the vision passed and merged into the breakers.

Beach Censor Defied
Thie skirt was long enough to meet the beach regulations. the hosiery was black and the girl wore white sandals. Her male escort looked sideways at the censor and winked, as if to imply: “Butt in if you dare!” Carmack discreetly moved away, but confessed to Beach Surgeon Bossert later: “I never saw a rig that was so close to the wire. I thought I had seen them all, but there’s a new one designed every day.”

A young woman called to Policeman Craig, as he was on beach duty, and asked his advice concerning her beach garments, which she drew from a statchel. “I’m a visitor,” she observed, “and I understand the rules are strict. Will I be allowed to bathe in this?”

She held up a two-piece suit, blue striped, with low yoke. The stockings were black, the shoes the same.

“Nothing wrong with that,” said the policeman.

“Well, I wanted to be sure,” said the inquirer. “I’m from the South and they are a little more free down there.”

Mayor Edward L. Bader has under considertion two objections to local practices by E. A. McLaughlin, of Illinois, that may bear fruit in new orders next season. This summer being half over, it is doubtful if action will be taken this year. What the visitor from Illinois complains of is the massing of roller chairs along the seaward side of the Boardwalk rail so that the strollers in the most popular sections of the walk can get only distant glimpses of the sea. Also he complains of permitting bathers to don or doff their g arments in their automobiles. Speaking of one instance where he had observed a girl entirely disrobed in her car, while he was walking along an avenue with his wife and two children, Mr. McLaughlin observes inn a letter to the mayor:

“It is true that machine had curtains on, but the wind was high and she was entirely uncovered. I learned afterward she was changing her bathing suit for street dress, a very bad practice where children are around and surely should be put a stop to. I just thought I would drop this little note, as it would be too bad to spoil such a wonderful resort, and to my mind, considering the crowd I saw there yesterday, you and your force are to be congratulated. I never saw better order with the exceptions mentioned.”

Ice Cream Parties Fed
One by one the barriers go down that separate beach customs from those of the fully clad patrons of the ‘Walk. Now ice cream parties among the bathers are getting plentiful. After the dip in the sea the groups gather on the beach and one hosen emissary brings the frozen delicacy from a ‘walk store, accompanied as well by paper napkins, stiff paper spoons and box containers. There is nothing to return to the vendors, and txhe only objection to the pleasure is that made by the beach cleaners, who have to gather up the discarded utensils by the basketful, and who look in vain for sympathy.

 
Flo Ziegfeld fights back
 

Finally, some comic relief. Flo Ziegfeld was a show business legend. There may be a legitimate point in what he says here, but more likely it was his way of generating publicity in a clever way and doing it in the summertime when, traditionally, theater business tapers off a bit.

However, there apparently was some concern by producers of Broadway shows, burlesque and vaudeville that changes in fashion – particularly the trend toward one-piece bathing suits and bare legs – would lessen the sex appeal of showgirls in scanty costumes. But in New York City there's no such thing as an endless summer. And Flo Ziegfeld, especially, knew how to expose more skin that ever would be allowed on a public beach.

Schenectady Gazette

Jazzdom Joins in Attempting Ban
on Low Bathing Suits

NEW YORK, August 15 – This business of low-cut bathing suits has Flo Ziegfeld on the run.

The eminent impresario of the famous Follies disapproves most hearily of the latest modes in beach wear, which send a young girl out on the sand with her tender skin practically unprotected against the burning rays of the summer sun. He thinks it’s all wrong.

“Ziggy,” for once in his career, is in accord with the reformers. They are protesting against the too-ample display of the uncovered female body. So is he – when the display takes place on the beach.

For, be it understood, Mr. Ziegfeld’s objections proceed from no moral ground. Pray don’t take this to mean that the gentleman in question does not believe in morals. He does, but his ideas on morality are a trifle different from those of Dr. Wilbur Crafts or Rev. George Bowlby.

“Ziggy’s” objections are purely practical. Low-cut bathing buits and bare legs interfere seriously with the color scheme evolved by Joseph Urban for the latest Follies. The girls go down to Long Beach and Southampton over the weekend, acquire a healthy coat of tan and come bck with their necks, shoulders and other portions of their anatomy the best in coffee color.

And so, when they appear on the stage to regale the eyes of New York’s “men about town” – and there are plenty of girls in the audience, too – they present a spectacle that sometimes brings out smiles.

A peaches-and-cream complelxion, a dimpled Cupid’s-bow of a mouth, a lovely head of bobbed hair, a costume carefully designed to give gthe wearer a chance to show that the excellence of her complexion is not confined to her face alone but extends to her shoulders, neck and arms. And then, oh, horrors, a heavily-tanned neck and shoulders, with the thinnest of white stripes marking the position of the shoulder straps! Do you wonder that Flo Ziegfeld is willing, for this once, to align himself with the reformers?

“It’s tough,” moaned “Ziggy,” when the subject was broached. “It wouldn’t be so bad if only their faces got tanned – grease paint could take care of that. But when they get tanned all over, what, I ask you, is the use of having Joseph Urban to cook up a swell color scheme and spending a mint of money for costumes when the girls are all olive drab and don’t harmonize? There should be a law against these low-cut bathing suits.”

Here's one good reason not to take Florenz Ziegfeld's comments too seriously. He knew how to compete. Check out Madeline Janis in the 1927 edition of Ziegfeld's "Follies." You couldn't see anything like her at any beach, at least in the New York City area.

As for the Great Bathing Suit Battle ... well, even those formerly clumsy two-piece outfits became more comfortable and revealing. Stockings? Soon they'd be a thing of the past.

It's easy to poke fun at the way many religious leaders and their followers reacted to the America that emerged after World War I. Threats of eternal damnation often are made during drastic cultural change. For many reasons the world in 1921 was a far, far different place than it was a few years earlier. I can understand why a lot of people didn't want to accept the idea – no matter how obvious it was becoming.

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