At the beginning of the 20th century, when men and women went to the beach, splashing about in the surf was called bathing rather than swimming. According to swimwear collector Pam Fierro, “Swimming didn’t come into vogue until the 1920s.” Part of the problem was that many people simply didn't know how to swim, but early-1900s bathing costumes, as they were called, were also to blame—it’s tough to do the Australian crawl when you are covered from head to toe in heavy, water-absorbing wool.

That changed in the 1920s, when it became acceptable for men and women alike to show a little bit of skin at the beach or by the pool. Sunbathing came into vogue, as did actual swimming, although logic tells us there were probably more people enjoying the former than the latter. Swimwear of that period was often paired with fashion accessories like hats and parasols, and still is today.

One company to capitalize on these two coincidences of history was Jantzen, which proclaimed the new free spirit for female swimmers with its classic diving-girl logo, which was stitched on the outside of their suit’s left thigh. Catalina put its logo, a flying fish, in the same spot. Jantzen and Catalina suits of the 1920s and ’30s, including Jantzen’s Shouldaire, were still made of wool, but there was less material to drag the swimmer down, as the arms, legs, neck, and back were now bare.

Wool suits from this period are quite collectible today, but wool was not the only material used by swimwear manufacturers. Stretch satin was also employed, and by the 1940s, when the first two-piece suits began to appear, nylon and Celanese rayon were also popular. The obvious benefit these materials had over wool was their weight, which made them more comfortable to wear and faster to dry.

By the 1950s, swimwear designers were sprinkling the outsides of their one-piece swimsuits with rhinestones and elaborate appliqué designs. Clothing and costume designer Rudi Gerhreich, who’s best know today for inventing the topless monokini in 1964, first gained acclaim in 1956 when his pink, wool, one-piece swimsuit, with buttons down the front, was featured on the cover of “Collier’s” magazine.

But the biggest news of the 1950s and ’60s was the widespread acceptance of the smallest swimsuit ever, the bikini. As usual, Hollywood paved the way for its acceptance. Ava Gardner and Lana Turner had donned two-piece suits in the 1940s, but their outfits were tame compared to the bikini worn by Bridget Bardot in the 1956 film “And God Created Woman.”

In 1960, pop singer Brian Hyland made a hit of "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," and in 1962 the original “Bond girl,” Ursula Andress, wore a white bikini in the first film of that series, “Dr. No.” Still, not all women were confident enough to swim or sunbathe wearing so little, as evidenced by the Sears catalog of 1964, which promised its customers “swimsuit glamour” when wearing its latest one-piece Lycra and nylon suits.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)



The history of 20th-century women’s fashion largely played out in the pages of magazines such as “Harper’s Ba… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]

1960s Fashion and Textiles

1960s Fashion and Textiles

Put on your go-go boots and check out this wavy, groovy tribute to 1960s fashion and textiles, courtesy of the Vict… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Fashion Guild

Vintage Fashion Guild

While primarily designed to steer buyers to online vintage clothing shops, this blog is chock full of interesting, … [read review or visit site]



Bursting at the seams with content, this site contains hundreds of pages of fashion and costume history, including … [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

40s Wwii Era Catalina Pineapple Print Rayon 3pc Swimsuit Sz 36 As IsVintage 50's 60's Deweese Black Swimsuit Playsuit 16/381950s True Vintage Black Satin Gold Lame Pinup One-piece Bathing Swim Suit Vlv!Vintage 1950s Womans Cotton Swimsuit Bathing Play Suit By LeeVintage 1950s Jantzen Womans Swimsuit Red Plaid Ruched Wiggle Bombshell Vtg 1920's 30's 40's Wool Lime Green Bombshell Glam Swimsuit W/bakeline CircleVintage 1920s Wool Bathing Swim Suit Girls Red Art Deco As IsVintage 1960s Orange Plaid Bikini 2 Pc Swim Suit Cotton Bathing Hippie EraVintage 1920s Red Wool Swim Suit Bathing SuitVintage 1950s Elisabeth Stewart Womans Swimsuit Black Wool Wiggle Bombshell Vintage Wool Bathing Suit Green With Blue Guaranteed Service Pure Wool 1920s Jantzen Women's Swimsuit / Bathing Suit W/ Embroidered Logo Patch Vintage 1920s Wool Bathing Swim Suit Baby Toddler Child Size As IsVintage Women's One Piece 1920's SwimsuitVintage 1950s Royal Blue Bathing SuitVtg Jantzen Red White Striped W Blue Wool One Pc America Bathing Suit 1920'sStunning Vintage Estate Gold Tone Signed Nemo Bath Tub Bathing Dog Brooch!! 140kVintage 1950s Womans Cotton Swimsuit Bathing Suit80's 70's Vintage Bathing Swim Suit One Piece Yellow Neon Mesh Exercise LeotardVintage Abercrombie & Fitch All Wool Women's Bathing Suit By Forma BelgiumVintage 1950s Womans Cotton Plaid Swimsuit Bathing Play SuitVintage Little Girl's Swim Suit Wool Blue With Red & Wht" It Is A Grand Product"Vintage 1940s/1950s Ladies One Piece Bathing Suit Lastex Miracle YarnAntique/vtg Woman's Green Wool Red Blk Stripe 1 Pc-1 Button Bathing/swimsuit Vintage 60s Cole Of California Skirted Swimsuit Playsuit Pinup Bathing Suit MVintage 90s Bright White Plunging Neck Sheer Lace Swim Cover Up Beach Tunic Sz SVtg Antique Edwardian/victorian Ladies Beach Swim Suit Swimsuit Bathing Dress Vintage 1950s Womans Polka Dot Swimsuit Ruched Bodice As IsVintage High Waisted Push Up Bandeau 2 Piece Set Bathing Suit Size M Polka DotsVtg Sirena Size 16 Mid Century Modern Style Ivory Camel And Navy Stripe SwimsuitNos Vtg 60s Swimsuit Bathing Play Suit Pinup Spring Floral Ruffled SkirtedWomens Vtg. Robby Len Size 22w, One Piece Swimsuit SwimwearVintage Swim Brief Tyr Red Nylon Med-3640s Multi Plaid Cotton Halter Swimsuit/sunsuit S/m 34 Bust As IsAcacia Swimwear Vintage Aloha Mumbai Bottoms SVintage 70s 80s Bill Blass Purple Umbrella One-piece Bathing Suit Swimsuit M/lVintage Women's Bathing Swim Bikini Suit SwimsuitVintage 1940's Womens' Swimsuit W/tulip Applique-great CollectableVtg Roxanne Bra Sized 12/34d "pristine" One Piece Swimsuit Bathing SuitPink Striped Vintage 50s Playsuit Bathing Suit Romper Perfect Condition!Vintage Sand Castle Full Nylon Yellow Bathing Suit Size 16 Vintage High Waisted Blue White Swim Bikini Stripe Nautical Medium Vtg Terrycloth Beach Cover Up Dress Sheath Vtg Rose Marie Reid Novelty Print Watering Can Bathing Suit Skirted Front Sz 18Victoria's Secret Womens Size 8 Swimsuit VintageVintage Catalina Swimsuit Hot Pink Stretch One Piece Low Back High Thigh SElla Moss Vintage Maillot Swimsuit One Piece Size LVintage Swim Bali '81 Ladies Bathing Suit Never Used, With Original Tags, RedVintage Swim Bali '81 Ladies Bathing Suit Never Used, With Original Tags, GreenVintage Bathing Beauty Style Hat Stretchy White Organza Flowers Esther WilliamsWomen's Vintage Bikini Top Mesh Triangle Cut Out Swimsuit Swimwear Black MWomen's High Waist Bikini Bandeau Flounce Tops Cropped Vintage Swimwear BodysuitLight Brown Tan Vintage Floral Sheer Sarong Beach Coverup Shawl Scarf Dress WrapVintage Hot Pink Skimpy Lightening Brazilian String Tie Side Bikini 2pc Large L

Recent News: Womens Swimwear

Source: Google News

This Year's Pin Show to Strut Down Its Biggest Runway Yet
Dallas Observer (blog), March 26th

the show, will showcase vintage high-waist bikini looks and "one of a kind magical galaxy prints designed in house." Elle Luxx is not the only swimwear being featured this year. Mahogany Blues Swimwear by Whitney Bracey will also be taking center...Read more

10 upstart fashion brands in Toronto for spring 2015
blogTO (blog), March 25th

fashion brands toronto New fashion brands in Toronto aren't terribly hard to come by. We're a city made up of creative entrepreneurs in all respects, and while we're most often known for being a destination for food trends, Toronto's name in the...Read more

Trina Turk, Lucky Brand CEO, and PacSun Receive 2015 Creative Awards
Broadway World, March 25th

The experienced CEO has noted that the "four pillars" that have inspired Lucky Brand for the last 25 years still define its personality today - vintage Americana, moto, rock 'n' roll and a casual Southern California lifestyle. ... a women's...Read more

Making local habits a priority
The Source Weekly, March 25th

Sometimes things like convenience and ignorance stand in our way of making sound retail choices. But when I saw the huge scope of items for sale in the Old Ironworks District—everything from vintage-inspired swimwear at Stuart Breidenstein's shop...Read more

Emerging Design: Edge of Urge connecting designers to community
News & Observer, March 25th

Her Edge of Urge label is made up of a line of leggings called “junkies,” swimwear and reversible dresses that go beyond trend pieces and are driven by her need to fulfill what she considers an undervalued market. “My weight has gone up and down...Read more

Dippin' Daisy's Swimwear's New Blog Reveals Top 5 Swimwear Trends of 2015
PR Web (press release), March 25th

Teens, tweens and ladies, as well as swimwear retailers and manufactures, can browse a large selection of Vintage 80s Swimsuits, Bow Bottom Bikinis, High-waist Bottoms, Strappy Bikinis, and Two Piece Blouson -- as well as several other selections and ...Read more

Fashion Week El Paseo 2015: El Paseo Rocks
Palm Springs Life, March 24th

The atmosphere livened up with the beat as a diverse mix of El Paseo's stores presented an array of exciting stylish looks: swimwear celebrating island style by Tommy Bahama; beautiful upscale sundress silhouettes by BB*one; and a tasteful vintage mix...Read more

Spotted: Miranda Lambert Wears ModCloth Swimsuit In New "Little Red Wagon ...
Bustle, March 15th

Speaking of swimsuits, wasn't that retro-inspired one-piece just everything? Really, it stole the show. And this just in: it's Esther Williams for ModCloth. Otherwise known as the vintage loving, body positive retailer that holds a boundless spot in...Read more