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]

The Antique Corset Gallery

The Antique Corset Gallery

Take a deep breath, and check out this sparse, simple, and beautifully designed site showcasing 250 years of corset… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Wonderful Vintage 1950s Swimsuit-catalina Brand-gathered Elastic,adorable W/idVintage Silver Womens Bathing SuitVintage Rare 20s 30s Catalina Bathing Swimsuit Flying Fish LabelVintage Howland-us Rubber Woman's Royal Blue Floral Swim Cap Size L New Old Stock Vintage Black & White Striped Ocean Mermaid Bathing Suit Size 38Vintage Super Cute Jantzen Infant Girl's SwimsuitVintage Rose Marie Reid Of California Magic Lengths SwimsuitVintage Ladies 1 Piece Bathing Suit Circa 1950'sWomen Lace Crochet Sleeveless Swimwear Bikini Cover Up Beach Dress Vintage BlackWomen Lace Crochet Sleeveless Swimwear Bikini Cover Up Beach Dress Vintage BeigeVintage Neon Colored Aerobics Leotard Swimsuit Size 8Swimsuit 1950's Pinup Bombshell Royal Blue W/ Great Detailing - Near Mint Cond.Two Blue Vintage Howland-us Rubber Woman's Floral Swim Caps Size M Two Vintage Howland-us Rubber Woman's Floral Swim Caps Size M Women Lace Crochet Sleeveless Swimwear Bikini Cover Up Beach Dress Vintage HotGirlhowdy Pin Up Pink Black Swimsuit Ruched Nwt Girl Howdy Esther Williams 4Vintage Bathing SuitVintage 80s 90s Bright Funky Maxine Of Hollywood One-piece Skirt L 12/141940's Bathing SuitCarabella One Piece Size Medium Bathing Suit Neon Vintage 80s Jazzercise SwimWomen Swimsuit Dot Vintage High Waisted Swim Bikini Sz Xl Clearance Y129#2 XlLane Bryant Size 46 Vintage 50s 60s Bathing Swim Suit Apron Coverup Pants FloralVintage 1940s Pinup Swimsuit Ruched Sides By Sea Lure Of California UnwornVintage Bathing Suit One Piece Womans Vintage 60s Romper Play Suit Pinup Floral Spring Bathing Suit One Piece SVintage ? Deweese California Black Embellished Jeweled Swimsuit Size 14 Bra 362-vintage White Aqua Pro Bathing Swim Cap Strapped Air Bubble DesignWomen's Vintage Black Slimming One-piece Swim Bathing Suit From SammydressVintage High Waisted Swim Suite Juniors Size Large Polka Dot Top And BlackbottomVintage Pinup High Waist Swimsuit Womens Onepiece Swimsuit Shorts With Front Pockets Tanki Sz 12 Vtg GabarAntique Vtg 1930 Nova With Swim Bathing Movie Stars Josephine Baker With Voisin Venus Bikini Swim Suit Size Medium Brazil Cut Vintage 80s Bathing Two PieceAwesome ~~~~ 1960's Uniroyal *blue* Rubber Bathing Cap Swim Cap Catalina Bathing Swim Suit Pin-up Size Lg Bottoms Top 2x Swimwear NewVintage Jantzen Red White Blue Competition Swimsuit Euc 34" BustClearance Women Vintage Navy Blue Stripe High Waist Bikini Set Swimwear Y102 L

Recent News: Womens Swimwear

Source: Google News

Fashion Talk with Letty Tennant: Exclusive Interview with Queen Of Heartz, October 1st

(Q) You offer everything from stylish pinup dresses to vintage wedding gowns to classic swimwear and much more. You even offer an extensive collection just for men. I have to ask, what are your most popular pieces right now? Tell me a little more about...Read more

Robert Graham
Retail Merchandiser, September 28th

It is a full men's lifestyle brand from head to toe, encompassing a collection of woven shirts, sport jackets, polos, sweaters, t-shirts, jeans, non-denim bottoms, shorts, swimwear and outerwear. In addition, Robert Graham continues to ... From...Read more

BBQ, bikinis, birthdays at Mission Beach
U-T San Diego, September 27th

Model Justin Welfeld reacts to model Andrea Rehm's 1960s swimsuit, from Pilar's Beachwear in Mission Beach, during a fashion show that showcased styles from each decade for the last hundred years, as part of the Centennial Celebration for Mission Beach ...Read more

Packed house for Pittsburgh Fashion Week's final day at Highmark Stadium
Pittsburgh Post Gazette (blog), September 26th

Few seats were left empty while a few dozen people squeezed in to stand behind the rows of chairs to view the work of five designers: DebrAnn Weiss & Co., Allison Elizabeth Designs, Bradford Mumpower, Zeina Lou Designs: High & Tight Swimwear and Xalter...Read more

Sugar Island Rum
The Dieline (blog), September 25th

Inspired by stories of rums colonial past, Sugar Island Rum Co. and San Francisco design studio Swig positioned the brand as an alluring oasis for today's rum drinkers. "In 1731, in accordance with the regulations, British sailors were given a daily...Read more

New Wildfox store on Sunset Strip evokes a girls' slumber party
Los Angeles Times, September 23rd

Since the label's 2007 debut, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez and a slew of other young trendsetters have been snapped sporting Wildfox shirts, sweatshirts and swimwear on their days off. According to company Chief Executive Jimmy Sommers, the...Read more

Pittsburgh Fashion Week aims to make history in fifth year
Pittsburgh Post Gazette, September 21st

7 p.m. designer showcase with Sommer Bernard: Sommer Creations; Marylloyd Claytor: Capricorn II; Cary D. Heard: CDH Label Clothing; Tameka Reed: Urban Stitches by Tameka Matae; and Brittany Williams: Brittany Alexis, The New Vintage. ... 7 p.m...Read more

It's a wrap: Beach bikini showcase went swimmingly, September 18th

SwimShow, the simultaneous trade show at the Miami Beach Convention Center and, a few satellite presentations rolled out a mesmerizing pastiche of swimsuits — both daring and modest — breezy maxi dresses and caftans, cover-ups and shorts, and a...Read more