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”)

MyVintageVogue

MyVintageVogue

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]

Fashion-Era

Fashion-Era

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    

Vtg Pinup Nautical 50s 60s Bombshell Swim Suit Bathing Suit Play Suit VlvVintage Pinup Bikini 50s 60s Bombshell Swim Suit Bathing Suit Play Suit VlvVintage Pinup Bikini 50s 60s Bombshell Swim Suit Bathing Suit Play Suit Vintage Swimsuit 1950s Rose Marie Reid Never Worn With Tags Size 14Retro Vtg Catalina Womans One Piece Bathing Suit Black Size 14/36 Working ZipperLot 3 Vtg Pinup Bikini 50s 60s Bombshell Swim Suit Bathing Suit Play Suit VlvGucci Tom Ford Era G String Thong Swimsuit Rare Vtg W/ Bra Gold G Hardware 1997 1950's Deweese Design Gold Lame Swimwear 1pc Rhinestones Sz 10-32 Sta-cup Bra 50's Vintage Pinup Deweese Cotton Swimsuit Playsuit Romper Mid-centuryVtg 50s Hawaiian Swimsuit Bullocks Wilshire Pin Up Romper Bathing Suit BombshellVtg 50s 60's 70's Floral Boho Hawaiian Pin Up Romper Playsuit Allen-a SwimsuitMelita By Liberty Floral Print Vintage Cotton Elastic Ruched Bathers SwimsuitVintage Swimsuit 1950s Rose Marie Reid Never Worn With Tags Size 14Vintage 60's 70's Swimsuit Bathingsuit Playsuit Lot 20 PiecesVtg 50s Hawaiian Swimsuit Kay O Kauai Pin Up Romper Bathing Suit BombshellVintage 40s 30s Bathing Suit Swimsuit M 2 Pc Bikini Lace Tie 40's Swimwear Org GVtg Pinup Bikini 50s 60s Bombshell Swim Suit Bathing Suit Play Suit Vlv1950s/1960s White Beige Floral Lace Rhinestones Bow Swimsuit Lot Pin Up GirlWomen Lace Crochet Sleeveless Swimwear Bikini Cover Up Beach Dress Vintage BlackVintagegirls Swimsuit Nalii Fashions Made In Honolulu, HawaiiVintage 1960s Peplum Floral Burst Dipped Back Swimsuit Playsuit Sz Xs True Vintage Ladies 1950's Ruffled Bikini 2 Piece Swimsuit By Lanz Size SmallVintage Grunge 80s 90s Disney Mickey Minnie Mouse Hawaiian Beach Swim Cover Up !Women's Vintage Bikini Top Mesh Triangle Cut Out Swimsuit Swimwear Royal Blue MVtg Women Fringed 70s Hippie Beach Cover Up Robe Spring Swimwear Hand CraftedVintage Floral Womens One-piece Strapless Bathing Swimsuit Sz 4 Poppy By InsightVintage 1950's Sea Siren Pretty Products White Rubber Swim Cap With Chin StrapVintage Us American Flag Patriotic Sarong Bikini Coverup Scarf Wrap Skirt DressVintage California Creations Womans One Piece Swimsuit 1960s Unused With TagVintage 1960's Ladies Carol Brent 2 Piece SwimsuitVintage Cream CoverupVintage Made In Italy Swimsuit Blk Metallic W/ Bullet Bra Sm Free ShippingVintage 60s Pink White Check Gingham Button Down Shirt Deweese Beach Coverup MedAntique/vtg Woman's Green Wool Red Blk Stripe 1 Pc-1 Button Bathing/swimsuit Vintage Robby Len Swim Fashions One Piece Swimsuit Bathingsuit Blue & White 14Vintage Swimming SuitVintage Turquoise Swim Suit

Recent News: Womens Swimwear

Source: Google News

ModCloth Employees Rock Swimsuits for Body Diversity
Social News Daily, March 1st

ModCloth is best known for its indie, vintage and vintage-inspired apparel, accessories and home furnishings. It's become a household name in its own right, and is always on the up-and-up in the name of fun classiness. Their employees decided to kick...Read more

J.Crew x Lacoste Collaboration Debuts
The Los Angeles Fashion, February 26th

Frank Muytjens, head of men's design J. Crew shares, “I've always loved the rich history of Lacoste, and I especially love wearing my vintage Lacoste polos, the softer the better. They let us go through their archives to bring back an old crocodile...Read more

Spend spring break in style
Kansas State Collegian, February 24th

For those spring breakers vacationing to the beach, purchasing the latest swimwear can become a necessity. Vintage lovers might want to sport the 1950s modernized look of the high-waisted bottoms matched with a long-line triangle top. Someone going for ...Read more

LIME sponsored Ms BLACK SAN' Swimsuit pageant to launch contestants on ...
SKNVibes.com, February 24th

The locally renowned event has become a haven for fashionistas throughout the federation, and while the Ms BLACK SAN' Swimsuit pageant is a competition that has traditionally focused on the physical beauty of its contestants, the contest has evolved to...Read more

Kleenex Brand and Betsey Johnson Collaborate on Bold New Line of Facial ...
PR Newswire (press release), February 24th

Kiss Me: This design is sprinkled with vintage floral and sealed with a kiss from Betsey. I Heart Betsey: If you're mad for mod, channel your inner flower child with this ... Starting in 2004, the Betsey Johnson label expanded as a lifestyle brand with...Read more

Link Buzz: Kanye West Calls Out Fern Mallis, ModCloth's Swimwear Campaign ...
The Fashion Spot, February 20th

Kanye West calls Fern Mallis out on Twitter for not feeling his attitude, Fern remains unbothered. [NYP] …but at least Steven Kolb is cool with him. [Racked]; Revolve Clothing plans to add a bridal category. [WWD]; Here's a naked Jamie Dornan in a...Read more

Bikini Designer Gets a Sales Boost After Landing Cover of Sports Illustrated's ...
Fashionista (blog), February 17th

The creative director of Miami-based swimwear brand Indie Soul, founded in 2013, is a regular viewer of the show. So when cover model Hannah Davis ... "They wanted a vintage '30s, '40s theme," he said about the cover bikini. "It's always a twist when...Read more

Designer creates vintage swimwear for women of all sizes
Indianapolis Star, July 3rd

Swimsuit season can be a dreaded time for women looking to find a suit that perfectly fits their body type. But one local designer is looking to make the experience as easy as a few clicks of a mouse. "Collective Hearts Swimwear is for women of all...Read more