100 Years Of Fashion: Women’s Bathing Suits
1920-1929: Modesty Matters
The 1920s saw practical bathing suits that consisted of a long top and shorts; wearing stockings was required, but eventually more of the leg was revealed and necklines started to plunge. Short lengths were heavily regulated, and police forces patrolled certain beaches to measure any swimsuits that appeared to be breaking the rules.
1930-1939: More Streamline
One-pieces still reigned supreme, but they were made from lighter, rubber-based materials that were much more comfortable than the woolen garments of the past. Bathing suits of the ‘30s revealed women’s backs and were much higher above the knee, and the increase in exposed skin led to tanning becoming more popular.
1940-1949: The Bikini
Along with the classic one-piece being reinvented to look more feminine and fitted, the ‘40s would be remembered for the invention of the very first bikini by French designer Louis Reard in 1946. The first bikini included a halterneck top paired with cheeky shorts, and while it was still fairly modest, it set the stage for later, more revealing designs.
1950-1959: More Change
This decade saw the arrival of swimwear that was more structured and geared towards offering support, with some swimsuits even mimicking the style of the corset. These swimsuits featured removable straps, adjustable flaps at the bustline, and experimental fabrics like nylon; accessories like sun hats and sunglasses also became popular.
1960-1969: Break The Rules
In the ‘60s, swimsuits started to become less taboo, thanks in large part to the film industry and actresses like Ursula Andress and Brigitte Bardot. One-piece swimsuits were still in, but now many of them had round cutouts around the midriff to show off skin; string bikinis were also popular, as well as the new monokini.