spruce bathing suit
The lumber industry is a well known part of Grays Harbor County, Washington. Cities like Aberdeen and Hoquiam owe their existence to the lumber industry. During the first quarter of the 20th century, Grays Harbor was considered as the biggest lumber-producing and lumber-shipping region in the world. It would be great if timber came in perfect sizes and shapes, but it doesn’t. It comes in forms from huge logs to tiny planks, from thick wooden beams to thin spruce veneer. When it comes to the construction industry, bits and pieces are worthless. They want specific sizes and shapes, and in order to get those perfect pieces of lumber for the construction industry, there is always waste. It might come in the form of small blocks to super thin veneer pieces.
Wood has long been used in the fashion industry too. Everything from shoes, to decorations on purses, belts, hats and more, but that was about the extent of it, or so you might think. Apparently, somebody back in 1929 thought that wood veneer sheets could be used as a bathing suit material!! What!! That makes no sense at all. It was totally impractical, but that didn’t stop people from the Gray Harbor Lumber industry from starting an advertising campaign featuring the “Spruce Girls.” The main goal of the campaign was to promote the various products of the wood industry and to make the whole region more popular to visitors.
Spruce veneer bathing suits were described as simple, cheap, and easy to make, yet fashionable and modern. Supposedly they were promoting them as a do it yourself bathing suit. All you needed was a pattern and the leftover thing strips of wood from that construction project. Of course, it was an advertising gimmick, but they did actually made four suits, held a photo session, and ran an advertising campaign to promote wood products.
According to one Popular Science magazine article, the suits were quite trendy and durable: “[Wooden bathing suits] are the latest novelty for use on the bathing beaches. Fashioned of thin spruce, they are said to be practical as costumes and also are sufficiently buoyant to encourage a timid swimmer to take a plunge. So far, none of them has warped or cracked.” The girls in the pictures look happy with their flimsy wooden suits, but only they know if they were really comfortable. My guess is don’t bend at the waist, and watch out for splinters.