Early women’s fashions were often influenced by social rules and standards. During certain periods in history, dresses, undergarments, and pants favored modesty over comfortability. This was also true with swimsuits!
Can you imagine what women’s bathing suits looked like in the 1800s? Surely you know not to expect bikinis, but once you see the fashion timeline in this video spread, your annual hunt for a swimsuit may not seem so bad.
Over a century’s worth of swimwear styles for ladies are chronicled here, with some of them being considered so risqué that women were punished with jail time. Yup. Take a look at how much things have changed. The struggle was real.
This style was not meant for swimming freely. Notice how women still wore bloomers (a trend left over from the 1800s) and laced shoes. While it may look like those suits were meant for walking sandy beaches, most were made of wool and called “bathing dresses”. Advertisements for the beachwear beckoned women to step into the water fully clothed in one.
Renowned synchronized swimmer and native Australian Annette Kellerman was placed under arrest for wearing a one-piece suit that showed her arms. Boston police charged her with indecency.
Even though music, cities, and incomes and were booming, showing too much leg on the beach was not the move. Ladies had their suits measured to ensure they weren’t too short. If they didn’t pass the test, they got in trouble and were fined.
1946: Skin is Not In But Out
Can we get a two-piece? Why, yes! This was the year that the bikini was introduced to the world by French designer Louis Reard, who named his creation after Bikini Atoll. It gained popularity in Europe first but took years to become an acceptable form of swimwear in the states. Why? Its skimpy, navel-baring design was just too much.
Fast forward to the disco era where wearing tiny suits were soon the norm. One-piece styles with low-cut tops and string bikinis allowed women to frolic freely at the pool. Tank tops, halter tops, and midriffs were marketed by pinup girls and movie stars in this era.
In Brazil and other parts of Latin America, the thong was a hit on beach bottoms, but Americans still weren’t ready for the stringy style.
Have things evolved or what? The fabric, the cut, and the fit of bathing suits today allow for women to be as revealing or reserved as they want. Sizes are even more accommodating to the range of women who embrace their bodies as they are.
Keep watching to catch ten different periods of style and how things have shifted. Some styles of yesteryear have made a comeback, recapturing the feel of the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s.
If you find yourself loving any of these silhouettes, you might be lucky enough to stumble upon a vintage version, but skip the flannel bloomers.
Did you live through any of these swimsuit eras? What styles do you love or hate? Which of these style changes have you happily accepted?