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Photos of people being ticketed for ‘indecent exposure’ at Rockaway Beach of New York, 1946


In these vintage photos, LIFE magazine photographer Sam Scherre captures a 1946 "obscene exposure" event in Rockaway Beach, New York.

Beginning with a sign that reads "Wear clothing to and from the beach", the Lion series depicts women sunbathing in high-waisted two-pieces, men walking the boardwalk in their shorts. are, and writing them tickets for "obscene exposure" the way they are seen unstoppable by the police on the beach.

It was considered "obscene" in 1946, when people walked around in their swimsuits anywhere but the beach itself, and at Rockaway Beach in New York you were expected to wear a robe to and from the beach.

The question of where bathing suits can be worn says a lot about the changing ways in which people chose to present their bodies in public in the 20th century: police restricted bathing suits to the beach. What action to try, or even just water, and what do the controversies surrounding bathing suits in the city reveal about the attitude of the authorities towards the bodies of women and men in urban areas?


As early as the 1910s, most US seaside resorts had an ordinance stipulating that a bathing suit that covered the shoulders and stretched to the knees should be worn.

These outfits – a balloon dress for women and a close-fitting bathing suit for men – were designed for bathing only: once out of the water, bathers were expected to return to the bathing establishment. where they could wash and change.

From the mid-1910s, this situation began to change as a number of factors converged. Some of these disrupted the established system, as in the case of the one-piece swimsuit for women – a bathing dress made of dark material that was relatively close-fitting and extended to the hips, making it easier to swim Gone.

The arrest of Annette Kellerman, an "Australian mermaid" famous for her swimming achievements, who was caught wearing this new outfit on a beach near Boston in 1907, helped publicize it across America.

Second, the sunbathing fashion began to spread among the middle and upper classes, and it encouraged people to expose their bodies more than before.


Men had strict laws to follow; For example, he was not allowed to go to the beach or pool in Atlantic City, New Jersey without wearing a shirt.

The reason for this law is because they didn't want it to look like there are "gorillas on our beaches". It wasn't until 1937 that men would sport the infamous swim trunks and no shirts at summer beach events.

In 1922, if you wore a bathing suit that was too short, you could have received a warrant from the police. They even had "bathing suit" patrols that measured them to see if the bathing suit was of appropriate length standards. Bathing suit backs cannot exceed 6 inches above the knees.


In July 1946, a French mechanical engineer, Louis Rear introduced the bikini to the world. He noticed that women tend to roll up the sides of their swimsuits for a better tan, which inspired him to design the bikini.

However, sales of bikinis did not pick up as women got used to their traditional two-piece suits. Upper class European women, on the other hand, adopted the bikini look and helped the trend grow slowly.

By the 1960s, bikini popularity began to rise, mostly due to the scene of Bond girl, Ursula Andress emerging from the ocean in a white bikini by Dr. No. Due to the growing popularity of two-piece bathing suits, laws began to become more relaxed and less strict.

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