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In the 1800s, swimsuits were invented to preserve people's modesty. Before that, people probably just swam in their undies. Women had to put on their ruffly full-body suits in wheeled little houses called "bathing machines." The machines would be pulled into the ocean by horses, and then the women would get out to swim before being pulled back ashore.
At ocean resorts people undressed in little houses on wheels, which were drawn out into deep water by horses and hauled back to the shore when the bath was finished. This allowed a modest Victorian woman to spend the day at the beach in complete privacy. After the horse would haul the cabana into the ocean, she would change from her layers of petticoats and dress into another layer of swimwear.