History of Beachwear

Posted by Flora Collins on

Ever wondered what you would have worn with your Sea Stars if you'd been born, say, 200 years ago? Swimwear (or lack thereof) has been around since the beginning of time. From swimming naked to burkinis, appropriate bathing suits have grown and changed as our world has grown and changed. Here’s a quick timeline outlining its illustrious history!  

Classical Age:
Swimming was mostly done in the nude, though there is evidence that certain cultures used a loin-cloth like garment specifically for the water.

17th Century:
Swimming and public baths gained popularity again. Men wore waistcoats and drawers while women donned long-sleeved dresses.

18th and 19th Centuries:
Men swam nude until the late 1800s, when the practice was banned. Men then opted to swim in their underwear or in shorts (similar to what we see today) and striped shirts. Women, on the other hand, wore chemise-like gowns made of thick material to preserve modesty. As beachside getaways became more popular, women chose trousers and blouses over these long dresses.

20th and 21st Centuries:
In 1907 the swimmer Annette Kellerman introduced a shapely suit that covered arms and legs. From there, suits were shortened and by the '30s, women began wearing two-pieces and men left their shirts on the shore. The '50s fully launched bikinis as sexy-wear, with Brigitte Bardot in And God Created Woman solidifying the contemporary style for years to come. It wasn’t until the ‘90s that the tankini was established, adding a new style after decades of consistent bathing suit design.

The 2000s onward brought tinier bikinis and more creative one-pieces--cut outs are still the rage. This era has also emphasized "beauty at every size," positing that everyone, no matter their body shape or weight, can wear a bathing suit to the beach. In that vein, burkinis were introduced in 2005 as a response to the lack of swimwear options for Muslim women. This century has not only been a hallmark for diversity in beachwear, but has also highlighted inclusivity!

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