A First Lady’s burden: Martha Washington’s bathing suit

Martha Washington\'s bathing suit covered her whole body and included lead weights sewn in to prevent improper floating. (Courtesy Mount Vernon)

WASHINGTON – Summer is here and so is the heat, and that means bathing suit season.

So how about sporting the same beach fashion as the first lady?

No, not that first lady.

Martha Washington wore a blue and white checkered bathing gown made of a heavy linen that probably felt a little like lead when wading into the water.

“There are weights sewn into the bottom of the hem of the gown so that it did not float up improperly,” says Melissa Wood from Mount Vernon.

The piece is rare. In fact, very few articles of clothing that belonged to the original first lady were preserved.

This particular item was handed down to Washington’s granddaughter, Eliza Parke Custis Law.

It was primarily worn at the hot springs in Berkeley, W. Va., a regular getaway for the Washingtons.

WTOP’s Kathy Stewart contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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