Next time you visit the seaside, keep a lookout for one of those old coin operated telescopes on the seafront. Take a good look at the view and you may wonder why on earth anyone would pay good money to look up and down a featureless empty beach. If you wanted a closer look why not walk onto the sands? The picture below may give you a clue, its all related to decency.
At a time when working class people had little opportunity to wash at home and no concept of privacy, no undergarments to wear when swimming and no desire to restrict their freedom on the beach, the sexes were separated when in public view. Bathing machines were used by the better off and their attempts to hide themselves away became a great summer amusement.
Costumes were essential when mixed bathing later became the fashion. Bathing machines were retired to the back of the beach replaced by the beach huts of the present day. For a time beach tents became the place to get changed but windbreaks and towels have put the changing tents out of business.
Fashion and lifestyle now dictate a cover all approach for sea bathers, wetsuits and sun-suits are the latest craze. All of these changes have had a dramatic impact on swimmers and bathers.