cover image Making Waves

Making Waves

Chronicle Books, Lena Lencek, Bosker G. Lencek. Chronicle Books, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-87701-398-3

As this extensive pictorial history vividly chronicles, swimsuits have gauged the ``public undressing of America'' for over a century. More than a fashion statement or a seaworthy garment, the bathing suit has been the impetus behind the psychological dictum that strategic concealment of body parts arouses sexual curiosity. Bathing as sport and therapy had its origins in Greek civilization. The cumbersome European bathing machine made a brief U.S. appearance in the early 19th century. By the 1850s, coed swimming became the norm here, and by the 1900s swimming had developed into a sport. During WW I, beach life acquired a bawdy reputation. A 1913 Ladies' Home Journal editorial, surrounded by photos of bathers, pointedly asked parents, ``How Much of This Do You Want Your Daughter to Share?'' The authors effectively track American economic, social and cultural events through the gradual evolution of the bathing suit. Lencek is a professor of Russian literature at Reed College in Oregon and Bosker, a physician, is the author of Great Shakes. (Apr.)