So it’s chucking it down outside and I’m sat here in a jumper, what’s more appropriate to write about at a time like this than vintage swimwear?…
Before the early 1900’s swimwear kept ladies very covered. Normal beach attire included a swim dress, stockings and laced slippers that protected the feet from stones and shells. The material was very loose and baggy but was often pulled in at the waist.
By 1910 swimwear became more streamlined and figure hugging. Wearing stockings to the beach was no longer an essential but laced slippers were still the norm.
Between 1910 and 1920 two-piece suits became available for both men and women and were made up of shorts with a long vest over the top. This was the first time that swimwear became sleeveless.
The beaches were policed to make sure that all women were wearing the legal length of swimsuit. Any woman caught not abiding by the law would be shamed and escorted off the beach. While this was the most flesh that had ever been legally allowed on a beach, it still was incredibly restrictive and unbalanced.
Wool swimsuits sagged and lost shape the moment they touched water. The 30’s solved this problem by making Lastex the fabric of choice for swimwear. One-pieces came back into fashion but with a more feminine shape. Suits also now had built-in bra and girdle support. Wider fabric and colour options became available making swimwear more fashionable and individual.
When the 1940’s rolled around so did the string bikini – this was instantly banned on most beaches! Instead, the mainstream two piece consisted of a full coverage bra top and high-waisted girdle briefs that covered the navel right up to the waist. This was the shortest that swimwear had ever legally been.
Strapless tops gained in popularity by the end of the 1940’s as swimwear became more about lounging around on a beach or by a pool rather than actually swimming…
The one-piece made its second comeback in the 1950’s with the focus being on shape. Padded cups (alongside padded hips), sweetheart necklines and boning around the waist gave ladies the perfect 50’s silhouette. To keep the suit streamline it was often zipped rather than tied. It wasn’t particularly comfortable, but it was very much style over comfort at this point!
I think the 40’s might be my favourite for swimwear. What about you?