Fashion has certainly gone through its changes over time, and bathing suits are no exception. Trends come and go, and it seems as if they are leading to one thing: fewer clothes! What brought the bathing suit to its modern state of skin reveal and promiscuity? And where did all the modesty go? We searched through fashion history and figured out how the evolution of bathing suit fashion has led to the scant ensembles we call “bathing suits” today.
Number Eight: The 1800s Bloomers and Dresses. During the 19th Century, bathing suits were just as modest as the garb of the time. Women donned their heavy swimwear called “bathing dresses”, and large carts would carry them straight to the shore so as to preserve their modesty. It was also common for flotation devices to be built right into the clothing, to help prevent drowning from being pulled down by such burdensome weight. Towards the end of the century, bathing suits lightened up by evolving into a simple dress-like tunic, with mid-calf to ankle-length bloomers beneath.
Number Seven: Early 1900s Streamline Suits. At the dawn of the 1900’s, swimming entered the world of sports in the Olympic Games. By necessity, bathing suits had to become more streamlined to enhance mobility and speed. Thus, beginning the new era of form-fitting bathing suits because “all the cool people are wearing them.” However, even though the bathing suit style was revolutionized, modesty was strictly enforced with officials who set the standard for what was acceptable coverage in public.
Number Six: The 1930s Bombshell. In the 1930s, the “Bombshell” bathing suit emerged. Media took its place in the spotlight, and modesty became a thing of the past. Magazines began showcasing beautiful women as items to be admired, and what better way to objectify women than in bathing suits? Even though the “Bombshell” revealed much less than is showcased today, it was scandalous at the time. Men tingled and women cringed with jealousy, and the downward spiral of bathing suit trends began.
Number Five: The 1950s Pin-Up Style. Media technology progressed and gained deference, and the “pin-up” style reigned over the 1950s. Women posed in bathing suits according to the pin-up style and showing some skin became more acceptable in this fashion. This led to the emergence of the bikini.
Number Four: The 1960s “Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”. While the bikini first hit media in the mid-forties, it was not considered appropriate beach wear until the sixties. Bathing suits were influenced largely by California style, giving us swim trunks and many acceptable styles of bikinis. Beach parties became an icon of the 1960s, especially after the “Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” hit topped charts.
Number Three: The 1990s “Tankini” Revives Modesty. Respectable women in the nineties wanted swimsuits with more coverage for their comfort when taking a trip to the beach. Let’s face it, not everyone wants to call so much attention to their bodies. Thus, the suit coined “tankini” was born. It featured all the cute style of the bikini, in a tummy-covering one-piece. Media found a way to make this popular look as sexy as possible, too. This bathing suit became a token of the series “Baywatch”.
Number Two: Retro Revival with 2000s High-Waisted Bikinis. When retro fashion took flight in the early 2000s, the high-waisted bikini was plucked from the 1950s and once again became all the rage. Fashion always comes back around, and this trend came back hard. Women everywhere appreciated the extra coverage from this style, with the comfort and sex appeal of a two-piece bikini. It was ideal for curvier women and helped encourage ladies of all sizes to love their bodies.
Number One: The 2010s Seduce Us with “Less is More”. In the modern day, there is certainly a grey area for beach wear when considering what is acceptable and what is not. Officials no longer roam public beaches telling us how much skin is too much to show, and media is at its height in objectifying women. While many feel that bathing suits are too skimpy, we are shown much more of women in television and magazine ads. The influence of the media has emerged a new trend for bathing suits: thong bikinis. After this “less is more” style, there isn’t much more fabric to take off next decade. Which leads us to the question, how much skin is too much? Have we already crossed the line?