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    

Vintage 1950s Cotton Bathing Suit Aqua Floral W Shirring Real Vintage 1940s 1950s Emerald Green Knitted Swimsuit, Retro PinupVintage 50's Pin-up Rockabilly Bikini Swimsuit W/ Floral Pattern By Kona Kai Vintage 50's 60's Geometric Swimsuit, Bullet Bra Firm Material 12-14 38"Antique 1914 Water Sprite Womans Edwardian Bathing Suit Costume 1pc & SkirtWomen Lace Crochet Sleeveless Swimwear Bikini Cover Up Beach Dress Vintage HotVintage 50's 60's Ruched Floral Swimsuit Shirred Back,cole Of California 14-16 Sexy Lime Green Shiny Lycra Thong Leotard Bodysuit Swimsuit 1 Pc Suit L Xl60s 70s Womens Vintage Clothing 8 Pc Lot Dresses Suits Rose Marie Reid Swimsuit Vintage 60's Mod Tiny Flowers Swimsuit Black/orange Low Back Bullet Cups 10Vintage Jantzen Burgundy Wool One Piece Bathing Suit 1920's-30'sVintage Maxine Of Hollywood Made In California Swim Suit Size 16 BlackRetro Mid Century Modern Kleinerts Swim Cap White With Flowers 60's Vintage ModVintage 60s Bathing Suit Dress Blue Tropical Formed Cups Empire Waist Smocked XlVtg 40s Wool Bathing Suit Orlon Knit Red Blue Swim Costume Sportswear 34Vtg. Peter Max Ladies Swimwear, 1 Piece W/ Psychedelic Art Print, Amazing!!Vintage 1950s Swimsuit, Original New Condition.Vtg The Slim Suit 1pc Tummy Slimming Girdle Swimsuit Women Size 8 Black WhiteAcacia Swimwear Vintage Aloha Kauai Bottom LargeVintage Wool / Cotton Swimming Bathing Suit New Old Stock With Tags SwimwearTrue Vintage Floral Playsuit 1960's Style Bullet Bra Swim Pin Up Retro Vtg 70s/80s Catalina Patriotic Stars Stripes American Flag Bathing Swim Suit 12Vtg 80s Body Glove Bikini High Cut Nwt Bathing Suit Swim Suit 11 / 12Vintage Ladies Swimsuit W/ Skirt, Size 4 Or 6Vintage One Piece Swim SuitWomen Lace Crochet Sleeveless Swimwear Bikini Cover Up Beach Dress Vintage BlackWomen Lace Crochet Sleeveless Swimwear Bikini Cover Up Beach Dress Vintage BeigeVtg - Kleinert's Sava-wave Rubber Swim Cap - 1950-1960's - White - W/ PackageVtg Mainstream Black White Polka Dot Skirted One Piece Belted Bathing Suit 14Womens Vintage Push Up High Waist Tiger Bikini Set Bandage Swimwear Swimsuit LVtg Hot Pink Ruffle Swim Cap Swimming Beach Mermaid Millinery W/packaging RubberSwimwear Photos - 1932 - Lot Of 4 - Beach - Life Guard?Size 38 Union Made True Vintage Pin-up Girl Swimsuit Navy Blue & White Nice!!!

Recent News: Womens Swimwear

Source: Google News

Hong Kong Fashion Week Fills the Runway With Dozens of Shows
Apparel News, January 29th

There were Australian designers, such as contemporary label Weave, knitwear designer Danielle Chiel and vintage swimwear designer Bettina McLeod of Sirens Swimwear Collective, who were warmly received for their collections. Indonesia was heavily ...Read more

New boutique reviving fashion for all
BCLocalNews, January 29th

The boutique specializes in a pinup style collection of clothing, as well as other women's fashion, swimwear, footwear, bags, home decor and professional body piercing. ... Julie describes a lot of the clothing they carry as vintage inspired and pinup...Read more

Wildfox Swim Cruise 15 Collection Hits Stores
Papierdoll, January 19th

Swim is a collaborative design effort between Wildfox Swim & Intimates Designer, Leilani Shimoda, and Creative Director, Kimberley Gordon. Together the girls create timeless collections of both vintage-inspired classics and more daring Brazilian cuts...Read more

Wildfox Swim Shows Off Cruise '15 Collection
Apparel News, January 16th

Now the Cruise '15 collection of Wildfox Swim is in stores with a lot of looks coming from the late '80s and early '90s, from vintage Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues and vintage Barbie, that very California doll. The collection is a collaboration...Read more

How People of 2Morrow Made Buy-Sell-Trade Exciting Again
Racked NY, January 12th

But Greenpoint's People of 2Morrow is a different kind of buy-sell-trade destination—peaceful (there's always a stick of incense going), organized (items are neatly arranged by color and style), and with a distinctly global bent (textiles from...Read more

Summer's Key Trends
Apparel News, January 9th

Many brands—including Mikoh, Kushcush, Lee + Lani and Acacia Swimwear—have expanded their coverup collections this season. Ponchos ... “I looked through vintage photographs from the Studio 54 era, the 1970s early disco days and dancing nights...Read more

$20 Ticket to Paradise
Glenwood Springs Post Independent, January 8th

The theme is “$20 Ticket to Paradise,” and skiers are encouraged to wear their best tropical attire, including bikinis, swim trunks and tropical shirts. A great outfit could win you a Sunlight season pass for 2015-16. Vintage swimwear and creativity...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