Evolution of Bathing Suits
History of Swimsuits
Bathing suits have run the gamut from the most conservative styles to the ones that leave little to the imagination. There are attractive suits for the thinnest men and women to the plus-sized swimwear.
In classical antiquity, bathing was done in the nude. There are Roman murals which showed a woman wearing something similar to a two-piece suit playing sports and exercising, but there is no evidence of swimming.
Japanese men swam in something like a loincloth. There were some areas of England where woman swam in the nude, and there were other areas where that was against the law around the 1600s.
This hub will focus primarily on the western culture.
Edwardian and Victorian Swimsuits
Once the railway arrived in Britain the masses visited the seaside regularly, and it spawned a need for new fashions. In the early Victorian era, women had worn serge or dark flannel bathing dresses, but by the 1860s two pieces belted costumes replaced the earlier styles.
Edwardian Swimsuits were very similar to Victorian styles. They were still made of wool and now consisted of bloomers and a wool dress.
The dress was now a sleeveless version, and the outfit was worn with black stockings and laced footwear.
Movie Star About 1940 in Bathing Suit
Early 1900's Bathing Suits
In the early 1900s, women wore "bathing gowns" in the water; these were long dresses of fabrics that would not become transparent when wet, with weights sewed into the hems so that they would not rise up in the water.
I have a small photo of my grandparents in bathing suits approximately in 1920. I have many treasured memories of times spent with them when I was a child.
The men's swimsuit, a rather form-fitting wool garment with long sleeves and legs, similar to long underwear, was developed and would change little for many years.
In the 1900s, once labor laws were enforced, people became interested in spending time at the beach. From the 1900s, through the 1920s, is when swimming really started becoming popular. In the 1900s swimsuits didn’t show legs and the ladies wore tights or stockings.
During the Depression of the 1930s, swimming was something people could do for fun that was very inexpensive. Synchronized swimming also started becoming popular in the 1930s.
1930 Bathing Suits - Love Those Prices!
1940 one Piece Bathing Suit
Changes in the 1940s
By the 1940s styles were changing again, becoming more like what we've seen in recent years with primarily one-piece bathing suits. Hollywood added glamor to swimsuits for the first time.
Esther Williams and Dorothy Lamour, with films featuring synchronized aqua swimming, caught people’s attention. Suits became more figure-hugging revealing every contour of the with higher cut legs.
In the 1940s, manufacturers realized there was a market for bathing suits for women with various figure flaws. The new more revealing swimsuits required experts to design a better suit, and they achieved this by adding stretch tummy control panels and bra cups were added, so suits could be also worn strapless that buttoned on the inside.
By 1950, women continued to wear one-piece swimsuits and took care to cover their hair with swimming caps. Bikinis were thought to be too risqué at this time and best suited for film stars and exotic dancers
Esther Williams: Princess Mermaid
From One Piece Bathing Suit to Thongs
By the mid-60s the fabrics were mainly nylon or Lycra or a mix of both materials. They started using plastic rings and mesh midriffs.
In 1946, swimsuits were patented by Louis Read. His design was more akin to the skimpy string 1970s bikinis. Bikinis made the news, and as versions have become skimpier, they have always attracted attention.
Along came the more radical styles like the G string, and then the thong, also called the Brazilan tanga. This trend started in the 1980s, became the norm for the young women by the 1990s.
Designer swimwear has a large variety of styles from which to choose. One piece suits are still popular for many women, and there are many styles of suits in plus sized swimwear.
Bathing Suit History of Fabrics
Lyrica initially promoted in England by Marks & Spenser meant that bikinis became more flexible and molded to the contour of the body, which provides a better fit.
Legs are now cut even higher frequently exposing both cheeks so you quite often see a young woman in an oversized T-shirt or a sarong that can be removed for a timed sunbathing season.
The most recent innovation for swimwear in the 1990s was the tan through fabrics used for swimwear. These fabrics allow you to tan through the fabric without showing the nude body.
Bathing Suit of Today
- Front lined, UV 50+ protection, 4-way stretch technology provides excellent memory retention & prevents bag and sag
- Fully lined, front and back. Made in the USA and imported from Antron/Lycra
- TYR Sport Women's Solid Diamondback Swim Suit
- The fabric of this set is super soft on your skin and has great luxurious quality. The deep V halter triangle top features removable padding and adjustable halter back ties. The band below the bust is meant to flatter any figure, instantly slimming down the waist and flattering your silhouette. The boy shorts feature a low cut waist and are fully lined for extra support and a great fit, and include a removable belt.
- This star-studded string bikini will have you feeling like a rock star! We have taken our Blue Stars fabric and added a flash of silver metallic braiding on the top and bottom. You will show off your proud spirit in this very hip and cool bikini. MADE IN THE USA!
- Hawaiian Banded Thong. The perfect vacation thong. Tropical print and solid yellow combined with our Triangle Top and fold over Banded Thong Bottom make for the perfect bikini. Great for tanning or for those who want to show off a little. Even if you are not on vacation in this sexy number, you will sure feel like it! ***MADE IN USA
Men's Swimsuits in Western Culture
In western culture, men's swimsuit styles include board shorts, jammers, swim trunks, briefs or "speedos", thongs, and g-strings, in order of decreasing lower body coverage.
Speedo developed the Fastskin FS-PRO high-performance swimsuit and made it available in 2007. It was there lightest, fastest swimsuit to help the champion swimmers and it has a low absorption rate and athletics swim faster.
It is a sleeveless all bodysuit from ankle to neck with only the arms free. It is primarily used for competitive swimming and it is expensive.
- Speedo equals better fit, performance, quality and innovation! Great fitting Jammer styling offers the technical advantage of compression as well as greater comfort and modesty. Premium type 247B Lycra/Spandex
- This classic swim trunk offers endless hours of casual comfort whether you're heading to the beach or a nearby pool.
- Classic swim shorts with great style and fit. Excellent quality and cool colors
- Borat Suspender Thong. One Size Fits All. Neon Green, Officially Licensed. In retail packaging.
“A recent innovation is the burqini, favored by Muslim women, which covers the whole body and head (but not face) in a manner similar to a diver's wetsuit. These are an updated version of full-body swimwear, which has been available for centuries but conforms to Islam's traditional emphasis on modest dress. In Egypt, the term "Shari” is used to describe full-body swimwear.”
Stylish Summer Fashion Style - for Curvy Women
The trend in swimsuits over the last century is to make swimwear more attractive, more comfortable and more revealing, but I have notices some more conservative styles available this year.
If you have a good figure and can wear the skinny bikinis or thongs, then more power to you. I would hate to have to swim in a burquini, as you wouldn't even feel the water glide across your skin as you swam.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.