My own contribution for this theme consists of two tintypes, mounted in flimsy paper sleeves the size of cartes de visite. They are part of a larger collection of 73 loose photographs which I purchased as a single lot on eBay last year. The vendor told me that they had originally been acquired together, and my own research has given me reason to believe that they do indeed belong together. Although these tin types are not inscribed, I've been able to determine, by comparison with others in the collection in which the subjects are identified, and by some additional research, who is depicted and approximately when it was taken.
Measuring roughly 69 x 82 mm, they are an odd size, somewhere between quarter-plate and sixth-plate. Both show a woman seated on the beach with two young children. She is Emily Minns née Carr (1840-1927), wife of Stoke Newington draper Charles Thomas Minns (1838-1900), and the two children with her are most likely her two eldest sons Charles Walter Marston Minns (1874-1951) and Frederick Thomas Minns (1875-1956).
Her third son was born in late 1877, which suggests to me that these two photographs were taken in the summer of 1877, probably by an itinerant beach photographer. The second image, taken from a slightly different angle, includes what may be a large spoked wheel of a bathing machine, similar to that shown in an early 20th Century photograph which I posted two weeks ago as a submission for the 105th Carnival of Genealogy (Swimsuit Edition).
Ladies' and Children's Bathing Suits
Harper's Bazaar, 15 July 1876
I assumed initially that they were dressed for outdoor activities. However, now that I've looked at Stella Blum's Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper's Bazaar 1867-1898, I think they could well be wearing bathing suits. Although not identical - that would be so "last year" wouldn't it - the clothes are similar to those depicted in the engraving shown from July 1876, reproduced above. Perhaps someone more familiar with Victorian fashions can confirm - or refute - this. While they belong firmly in the "What were they thinking?" category in the present day, I feel they were at the height of fashion back then.
I'm looking forward to a suitably eclectic selection of swimsuits among the other Sepia Saturday contributions this week.