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From the Archives: Swimsuit coverups required in 1931

In June of 1931 residents of La Jolla petitioned the city council to repeal a city ordinance prohibiting the wearing of bathing suits in streets and public places.

The 1917 ordinance prohibited persons from wearing swimsuits in public in parts of La Jolla unless they were covered from neck to ankles by an outer garment.

Business owners said visitors had left after being warned against appearing on the streets in bathing suits without covering up.

The local Parent-Teacher association in La Jolla weighed in on the subject. They recommended that the bathing suit ordinance not be repealed outright, but simply be amended to allow higher hemlines. The PTA recommended at bathers be permitted to show their knees and up to six inches of legs above the knees in public places other than the beach.

On Aug. 21, the San Diego city council voted to resend the law.

The following summer a new bathing suit ordinance was adopted — this one primarily aimed at men. The 1932 ordinance barred anyone over the age of 10 from appearing in public wearing too-brief swimming trunks or trunks without a belt “to preclude and provide against the exposure of the body from above the waist line to below the crotch.”

From The San Diego Union, Saturday, June 6, 1931:

BAN ON BATHING SUIT PARADE BAD FOR BUSINESS, AND IRKS VISITORS, LA JOLLANS ASSERT, URGING ORDINANCE REPEAL

Contending that enforcement of a city ordinance, which i designed to prohibit persons from appearing in bathing suits on streets and in public places, is hurting business and creating dissatisfaction among visitors, 160 residents of La Jolla yesterday filed a petition with the city council asking for repeal of the offending regulation.

Front page of The San Diego Union published June 6, 1931.

(U-T)

The ordinance in question was adopted June 25, 1917. It provides that a person may wear a bathing or swimming suit on the street and in public places, but it stipulates that a coat or other garment must be worn over the suit so that only the hands, feet and head of the wearer are visible.

“Bathing at the cove and other beaches at La Jolla is the principal attraction and diversion of our summer visitors,” the petition states.

“Many have been subjected to excessive embarrassment through the enforcement of the ordinance and some to the extent that they have canceled their leases and returned to their homes, to La Jolla’s loss of income and prestige.”

The ordinance does not apply to children under 10 years of age. It carries a fine for conviction of not less than $10 and a jail sentence of not less than five days, either or both.

According to report at the city hall, a woman recently visited the library at La Jolla in her bathing suit and a coolie-coat. She was asked by an officer if she did not know that her attire was against the law. Indignant, the woman returned to he hotel, packed her trunks and left the city.

It also was said that the bathing-suit ordinance has been enforced more at La Jolla than in other parts of San Diego.



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