When streetwear and swimming costumes were both awkward to get into and out of, dressing sheds were essential for preserving respectability.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, dressing sheds offered a respectable venue not only for dressing and undressing, but also for indulging in sun bathing, a practice not tolerated in the more public areas of many public pools.
The splendour of the dressing sheds at their ocean baths was a point of contention between rival nineteenth century Australian seaside resorts, even before they began to compare the size of their ocean pools and their facilities for competitive swimming. While few of the dressing sheds were architecturally distinguished, facilities at dressing shed could include freshwater showers, a concrete foot bath at the entrance and copies of the baths regulations.
The state of the dressing sheds at the ocean baths was thus a concern for pool patrons, tourism businesses and councils. At some ocean baths, Honorary Baths Inspectors helped prevent pilfering of clothing and personal articles left in the dressing sheds. Lockers offered another form of security for personal items.
While storms routinely damage or destroyed dressing sheds at ocean pools, any unexpected demolition of dressing sheds or failure to maintain dressing sheds in good order provoked community protests.
The demand for dressing sheds at ocean pools and ocean beaches was markedly reduced with the advent of quick-drying swimwear, more readily removed clothing and by greater public acceptance of men and women changing in and out of clothes in or beside their cars, on the beach and at the pools.
Although dressing shed have now disappeared at some ocean pools, older pool patrons still strongly favour the provision of dressing sheds and contend that changing behind a towel involves them in unnecessary gymnastic manoeuvres.