Bathing Beauties

   Palm Beach County’s landscape and personality are forever influenced by its miles of shoreline. For generations, the rich, beautiful and influential have flocked to the Atlantic Ocean, shaping the history of South Florida along the way. The Boca Raton Historical Society and Museum explores these ever-evolving beaches and the fashions that have populated them in the new exhibition “Life’s a Beach.”

   Beginning with pre-Columbian settlers, the exhibit traces generational shifts in structure and style through historical photos, beach-related artifacts and 13 vintage swimsuits. Notable eras include the glamorous run of the Cabana Club, the Boca Raton Resort and Club’s original beachfront access area located at what is now the site of the Addison Condominiums. Vivid postcards depict bikini-clad babes basking in the same sun we savor today, while waiting for drinks delivered by cabana boys dressed in crisp white uniforms. Luxury and Boca have always gone hand in hand.

Postcard for the Cabana Club from the early 1950s.

   Beyond the glam, the exhibit also touches upon hardships faced on the waterfront, including the fight against German U Boats and segregated beaches. The residential and commercial development of the area is also a prominent theme. Images—many in black and white—depict the establishment of such high rises as San Remo and Sabal Point, as well as a few of the area’s original structures, including Palmetto Park Road’s lacy pavilion. 

   Fashion lovers in particular will adore “Life’s a Beach” for its comprehensive look at twentieth-century bathing suits. Thirteen vintage swimsuits, borrowed from the collection of historian Patsy West, illustrate different swimsuit trends throughout the ages, from the wool suits and bloomers of the early 1900s through the Lastex—a precursor to spandex—looks of the 1930s and the emergence of two pieces for women and trunks for men in the 1940s.

   The Boca Raton Historical Society and Museum displays “Life’s a Beach” until September 1. During your visit, also check out “Mizner Industries/Mizner Style” and “The Mizner Apartment Collection.” The former features items produced by Mizner Industries that reflect the quintessential Palm Beach Style popularized by Addison Mizner in the 1920s. The latter includes pieces from Mizner’s own Worth Avenue home.

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