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    

Vintage 1950's Swimsuit + Cover-up Hawaiian Casuals By Stan Hicks HonoluluVintage 50s Kerrybrooke Black/whi Knit Bathing Suit Vlv Boho S Butterflies CuteVtg Boho Hippie Wedding 2pc Hand Crochet Maxi Dress Skirt Sheer Batwing Top S/mVintage 1950s Floral Swimsuit Pinup Bathing Suit Size 10Vintage 60s Original Cole Of California Brown Polka Dot Swimsuit Bathing CostumeVintage Jantzen 1950's Ruched One Piece Bathing Suit SwimsuitVintage 80s Swimsuit Bikini 2 Piece Wet Swimwear Deadstock Prototype S 8 10Vtg 70s Hippie Rainbow Stripe Skimpy 2 Pc String Hip Hugger Boho Bikini SwimsuitRed & White Catalina Wool Bathing Suit W/printed DesignVintage 1950's Jantzen Swimsuit Bathing Suit - Ocean Blue W/ Diver - Sz MWomens Vintage Orange Patagonia Swim Water Shorts Trunks Size MRose Marie Reid Vtg Bathing Swim Suit Mod Pinup 50s 60s Vlv Blue Sailor Suit Vintage 60s Original Swimsuit 20s Bather Style Stripe Nautical Sears 8 10 SSwimwear Bikini Neoprene Swimsuits Bathing Suit Push Up Bikini Brazilian VintageVintage Pink Velvet 1950s 60s Pin Up Girl Bathing Swim Suit Bikini Rockabilly SmCatalina Vtg 60s 70s Orange Velour 3pc Pinup Bikini Swimsuit +hot Pants Cover UpTrue Vintage 1980's Rare Designer Oscar De La Renta Caftan Swim Suit Cover UpCircus Print Vintage Girls Swim Suit Romper Sundress Animal People FiguralsAuthentic Vintage 50's 60's Catalina Black One Piece Swimsuit Boy Cut LegSwimwear Bikini Summer Swimsuits Bathing Suit Push Up Bikini Brazilian VintageVtg 70s Floral Print 36" Palazzo Wide Leg Bell Bottom Pants Swimsuit Cover UpSwimwear Bikini 2015 Swimsuits Bathing Suit Push Up Bikini Brazilian VintageVintage Polka Dot One Piece Swimsuit1950s 50s Red Hibiscus Hawaiian Romper Sunsuit Bathing Suit VintageSwimwear Bikini Swimsuits Bathingsuit Push Up Bikini Brazilian Vintage Sz SVtg Type Bathing Suit Sz. 50 Or 4x 5xBrazilian Vintage Swimwear Bikini Neoprene Swimsuits Beach Suit Bikini Size M OsVintage Budweiser One Piece Bathing Suit Size 71950 Bathing Suit Swimsuit 2 Pc Nautical Anchor 34 Polyester Tank True VintageOne Piece Red & White Cotton Jersey Bathing Suit Vtg Pierre Cardin Shiny Yellow One Piece Swimsuit Med Suspender 80s RunwaySwimwear Bikini Neoprene Swimsuits Bathing Suit Push Up Bikini Brazilian VintageSwimwear Bikini Neoprene Swimsuits Bathing Suit Push Up Bikini Brazilian VintageWomen's Vintage Bikini Top Mesh Triangle Cut Out Swimsuit Swimwear Navy Blue MVintage Speedo Metallic Silver One Piece Swimsuit Sz 12Ln Vintage 80s 80's Norma Kamali Omo Swim Leggings - S - Space Age Fun!!!Gilda Marx Vintage Bathing Suit Leotard Shimmery Blue Size M New Without TagsVintage Swimsuit S - M Nani Honolulu PinupSwimwear Bikini Blue Swimsuits Bathing Suit Push Up Bikini Brazilian VintageVintage ** Vanta Wool Child ** Swim Suit / Bathing Suit / Sun SuitVintage 50s 60s Catalina Swimsuit Sz 12 Bathing Suit Playsuit Green Daisies MintVtg Women's J Crew Red/white One Piece Swimsuit Boy Shorts Nautical S Small Tourquoise Blue Wool Bathing SuitSwimwear Vintage Bikini Flower Swimsuits Bathing Suit Push Up Bikini Brazilian MVintage 1960s All Nylon Bestform Red White And Blue Print High Waist Bikini Sz LVintage 1970's Womens Bikini Bathing Suit Sears Yellow Jr Bazaar Sz 9/10 NylonVtg 50's Pinup Blue Floral Roxanne Perfection Fit 1 Pc Romper Bathingsuit 14/36bSwimwear Bikini Blue Swimsuits Bathing Suit Push Up Bikini Brazilian VintageSwimwear Bikini Multi Swimsuits Bathing Suit Push Up Bikini Brazilian VintageVintage Kaftan Ethnic 1970's Maternity Tribal Swimwear Cover Green MaxiVintage Swimsuit 80s Shimmer Spandex Lycra Stretch Rose Marie Reid SwimwearVintage Vtg Swimsuit Swimdress Size 12 M L Pink Blue RoxanneFrench 1960s Bikini Swimsuit -liberty Floral Print -made In France- New Vtg- MVtg 60s 70s Ethnic Hippie Slouch Hooded Scooter Dress Caftan Swimsuit Cover-upVintage Sexy Bikini Pinup 50s 60s Swim Suit Bombshell Play Suit FloralSwimwear Bikini Neoprene Swimsuits Bathing Suit Push Up Bikini Brazilian VintageVintage Swimsuit 1960 1970 Vtg! Classic Charlotte Russe Cut Out Bathing Suit!One-piece Swimsuit High Waisted Vintage Monokini Bandeau Swimwear Bikini Size LRainbow Skull Polka Dot High Waisted Bikini Bottoms Only Pinup Vintage L

Recent News: Womens Swimwear

Source: Google News

Not your mama's swimsuit: Rock a retro look
Delmarva Daily Times, May 24th

Hot mama or you look like my mama? Retro-inspired swimsuits will be everywhere this summer, from high-waisted bikini bottoms with ruffles that mask yesterday's crab cake to halter-neck one-pieces in quirky prints. Growing up, I remember my grandmother ...Read more

Fashion show at Green Park Station in Bath makes a big splash for Cleveland ...
Bath Chronicle, May 24th

There was none of your itsy-bitsy, teenie-weenie bikinis at a fashion show of vintage swimwear in aid of the Cleveland Pools. The costumes on show on the catwalk at Green Park Station were a much more modest affair, with a lot less flesh on view, and...Read more

Hooray! Swimsuits you'll want to wear
The Courier-Journal, May 22nd

Retro glam is in. Vintage chic has to be the most welcome trend to hit swimwear in eons. There's no more universally flattering swimwear silhouette than these uber-feminine, super-supportive glamazon looks. Marilyn Monroe inspired halters, bustier...Read more

PHOTOS: Bathing Beauties rock vintage swimwear on Galveston Island
KTRK-TV, May 17th

The Galveston Island Beach Revue, presented by Hotel Galvez & Spa, celebrating Galveston's connection to the days of bathing beauty pageants and classic summer fun hosted "Retro-Active" games for the kids, a charcoal championship cook-off, and classic ...Read more

Guess who designed the swimwear for 'Bombay Velvet'
VOGUE India, May 15th

The project came following our work on vintage swimwear for Life of Pi which we had undertaken back in 2010. Since Bombay Velvet required the recreation of an era in its costumes—especially the signature swimwear of the '60s—we came on board with ...Read more

Perry Ellis International Announces Men's Sportswear License Agreement for ...
MarketWatch, May 13th

"We are genuinely excited to be able to bring the hugely successful Farah vintage label to our shores direct from the UK and be part of its incredible heritage and phenomenal growth story," commented South Pacific Apparel's Chief Executive Officer Andy...Read more

BuzzFeed's "Women's Swimsuits Throughout History" Video Will Make You Glad ...
Bustle, May 11th

Unlike decades past, almost anything goes when it comes to swimwear. In fact, a lot of those vintage suits have actually come back into style, alongside itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikinis of all colors. I mean, Taylor Swift pretty much exclusively wears...Read more

7 Body Positive Shopping Tips For Buying A Swimsuit — Because Apples And ...
Bustle, May 3rd

Some good places that you may have overlooked: Specialty swimwear shops outside the mall, online independent companies like Nettle's Tale's body-positive swimwear, vintage shops (have a seamstress or tailor replace the lining), and sporting goods ...Read more