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 ...
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.
Interviews & Articles
Good news: The hottest look on the beach this summer is vintage. Retro pin-up style swimsuits that cover more flesh and flatter th… [more]
I started collecting swimwear in 2000 or 2001. I really like how vintage swimwear looks on people. It accentuates the body as oppo… [more]
I’ve pretty much always been a little bit fashion-nutty, ever since I was about 16 years old and I discovered Vogue. I started lik… [more]
Jayne Mansfield is buried in my hometown. You could drive past the cemetery and see her heart-shaped headstone from the road. We h… [more]
Tziporah Salamon is used to being photographed—by everyone from New York City tourists to famous "New York Times" street-fashion p… [more]
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Fashion Columbia Study Collection
1960s Fashion and Textiles
Vintage Fashion Guild
The Antique Corset Gallery
Clubs & Associations: Womens Clothing
Top eBay Auctions
Recent News: Swimwear
Source: Google News
Perry Ellis International Announces Licensing Agreement With Delta Galil for ...GlobeNewswire (press release), May 21st
Original Penguin, one of the most recognizable brands in the PEI power portfolio, is known for its modern vintage-inspired designs and the iconic Penguin logo. The brand is sold internationally through company-owned retail stores, major The Company...Read more
Before you hit the beach, see what's hot this summerStarNewsOnline.com, May 21st
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 3:05 p.m.. Retro. In the spirit of beauties Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, swimsuits are getting a 1950s bombshell makeover. Instead of the itsy bitsy bikini bottoms of late, less skin is in. High-waisted...Read more
FATSHION: A TRULY RIDICULOUS Number Of Cute Plus-Size Swimsuits To ...xoJane, May 21st
And, yes, I know most people on earth hate swimdresses BUT I LIKE THEM, especially when they're adorable and retro-y like this one. WHICH I have already ordered as my swimwear for this year, so as to not repeat the cartoon-print heartbreak of my last...Read more
Go back in time with these Bathing Beauties!abc13.com, May 20th
Honoring our service men and women, as well as the history of Galveston Island, 40 contestants graced the beach in their vintage swimwear. The annual event highlighted the weekend-long Galveston Island Beach Revue activities, celebrating the history of...Read more
Growing Popularity of Swimming as a Healthy Exercise Drives the Swimwear ...PR Web (press release), May 20th
The market is also witnessing the resurgence of retro and vintage styles. Halter neck tops, flowing tops, triangular necktie top, tops with fuller cups, high-waist bikini bottoms, hipster style bottoms and twisted rope straps are some of the few retro...Read more
Poolside chic in the hottest bathing suitsE Kantipur, May 16th
This classic combination—whether organised into logical stripes, girls or figure-flattering vertical planes—looks modern, cool and assertive on your swimwear. The look is modern, sleek, streamlined and chic, and has an alluring retro-feel to it that...Read more
Vintage-styled bathing suits, personality are big for island's annual Beach RevueDaily News - Galveston County, May 4th
GALVESTON — As the 2013 Galveston Island Beach Revue celebrates its fifth year, women from across the nation are searching for the perfect retro, vintage and vintage-inspired swimsuits for the annual Bathing Beauties Contest. The event replicates the...Read more
Before the Bikini: Rare Vintage Beach PhotosThe Weather Channel, May 2nd
But water activities such as swimming and diving were a burden due to the bulky Victorian-style swimsuits, especially for the women, the magazine reports. Thus, by the 1920s, fitted swimwear that modestly conformed to the body became a part of beach...Read more