Unitard Spreads to Hollywood
Annette's Kellerman's introduction of the unitard to Hollywood in the late oughts is quickly imitated.
A unitard one layer thick tightly hugs the full contours of the figure; it is akin to a flesh-colored burlesque leotard which has been dyed black and is now worn outdoors on the beach. So the dare is on.
In 1912, fashion model Mabel Normand, recruited as "The Keystone Girl," wears a unitard in Water Nymph (MN1250). A young Ruth Rolland follows suit (RR1350). Unitard bathers adorn collectable cards for Pan Handle Scrap Chewing Tobacco (PS1350). And in Paris, Musidora vamps in a unitard that also covers her head (MV1510).
Combinations of leotards (or in modern parlance, tank maillots) and tights are also seen in this decade, which is not surprising considering that their coverage is equivalent to the unitard. They also share a form-fitting nature and sleeve play.
But Kellerman is not to be outdone. In 1914 she introduces Hollywood's first true one-piece, baring her legs in Neptune's Daughter, another of her many aquatic one-reelers (AK1410). We are not sure if the single-shouldered swimdress is a minidress or a maillot skirted. A pinup postcard of Kellerman from the period calls her the "Champion Lady Swimmer and Diver of the World" and provides a clear view of the what we now call a maillot pantaloon (AK1E60). Kellerman never abandons her trademark unitard, and she will also find it useful to wear even less in the late 1910s.
And she is successful. In 1913 Carl Jantzen and his partners John and Roy Zehntbauer institutionalize Kellerman's daring ideas and began marketing skirtless one-piece bathing suits for women.
Topless Damcers and Nude Painting
In Paris and on postcards the funnel of the future suggests topless dancers and skinny dippin'. Surfing is introduced into California. White slavery, kidnap, and déshabillè sparkle into films in Europe and America. Max Sennett's beauties wear string halters (OA1410), but in Paris chorus girls in the music theater shed their tops entirely (BM191210). The Mata Hara models both topless (MH191110) and bottomless (MH191010) but no photos are know to exist of her fully nude. Hollywood depicts topless slave girls in Biblical Epics like D. W. Griffith's Intolerance, while the French Director Able Gance shows victorious society woman swirling with open blouses.
Topless presentation in media has always been a battleground. National Geographic is one of the first (after 1896) and few magazines to publish pictures of topless women, and only then in the context of dark-skinned "primitive" peoples (NG189601). The cinematic crop of bare-breasted white women shocked people, and reactionist movements emerged demanding censor boards. The battle focused not only on breast exposures, but also love scenes, swimming and bathing, prolonged kissing, and general moral values. The Vamp, Theda Bara, emerges as the silver screen's first sex symbol, playing a character who craves man's vital juices (TB1510). There are controversies over the skinny-dippin' September Morn painting (SM1310).
The Public Picture
For much of the public during these years the bathing dress remains a primary costume for ladies on the real beach. The postcard pinups is trending toward an alternative, however, the more revealing maillot pantaloon, now sometimes with a skirt attached. About 1915 this new silhouette--the maillot skirted pantaloon--reduces the bathing dress to a bathing maillot (PC1E57). This silhouette will come to dominate the late 1910s and go public in a more wider venue as the 1920s progress.
1911--Hawaiian Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku popularizes surfing in California. In 1915 he introduces the sport to Australia.
1911--Jockey introduces the first national ad in America for underwear, inserting it into The Saturday Evening Post.
1911--France bans the execution shot in the cinema.
1911--In the film Vampire's Dance, the Danish invent the Vamp, a female type later popularized in Hollywood by Theda Bara.
1911--Photoplay is launched as the first movie fan magazine.
1912--The Carlton Hotel is constructed at Cannes.
1912--Australia's "Fanny" Durack captures the Gold Medal in the 100-meter freestyle at Olympics in Stockholm.
1912--United States bans the green liquor Absinthe eight years before Prohibition, responding to claims that its active ingredient, wormwood, is poisonous.
1912--Under pressure from Anthony Comstock, New York nurse Margaret Sanger is censored by the Post Office and forbidden to publish information about sexually transmitted diseases.
1912--The Olympics sanctions swimming as a sport for women.
1913--Anthony Comstock prosecutes Margaret Sanger for her writings on sexuality and birth control.
1913--Gideon Sundback perfects the zipper.
1913--Carl Jantzen and John and Roy Zehntbauer begin marketing a skirtless one-piece bathing suit for women.
1913--The painting "September Morn," which depicts a youthful female nude bather in a serene pastoral scene, attracts the attention of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and is censored. Overnight it becomes a cause célèbre and is bootlegged onto millions of calendars. The nude pin-up calendar is born.
1913--Pauline Trestle is bound to a railroad trestle in the silent screen serial, Perils of Pauline.
1913--The film Traffic in Souls perfects the docudrama, a "Sensational motional picture dramatization based at the Rockefeller While Slavery Report."
1913--The Americans introduce the keyhole matte shot during a déshabillè sequence in the film Suspense.
1913--Skirts rise above the ankle.
1913--The British Board of Film Censors create a list of forbidden scenes, including profuse bleeding, nudes, excessive passionate love, bathing, and women and men in bed together.
1913--American George White invents the Charleston and the Black Bottom, the only two popular American dance forms to rival Florenz Ziegfeld's the Grizzly Bear, the Turkey Trot, the Glide, and the Dip.
1914--German film star Meg Gehrts plays the White Goddess wearing a sarong with bare shoulders and bare legs. African native girls appear naked except for a waistband of shells.
1914--Caresse Crosby, a.k.a. Mary Phelps Jacob, patents a center-seamed backless brassire made out of two lace handkerchiefs, a pink satin ribbon and thread. She then sells the patent rights to Warner Brothers Corset Co. for $1500.
1914--The beginning of the flat look for American women. The flat look, which seeks to minimize the curvature of the bosom, lasts until 1918.
1914--Annette Kellerman brings what is now a one-piece swimsuit to the Hollywood screen in the movie Neptune's Daughter.
1914--Motion picture trade magazines Motion Picture World and Variety refuse to advertise or review white slave pictures stating they are "injurious to the public health."
1914--The French ban the Danish film Opium Dream due to extensive and prolonged kissing.
1914--Nude extras adorn Belshazzar's Feast in D.W. Griffith's film Intolerance.
1915--Audrey Munson, "the girl with the ideal figure," is chosen to pose for the figure on the San Francisco World's Fair memorial coin. As a results signs a film contract with the American Film Company, and appears nude in the film Purity. Church critics attack, and the resultant publicity earns the company over $500,000.
1915--Theodosia Goodman is transformed into Theda Bara and is fashioned as the screen's first sex symbol. In her first movie A Fool There Was, she plays the Vampire Woman, a character who craves man's vital juices.
1915--The Supreme Court rules that movies are not protected speech under the First Amendment. One of the first films later banned under this ruling will be Margaret Sanger's Birth Control, in 1917.