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The Evolution of Women's Swimwear

Swimsuits, they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They can be mass produced or designer made, full coverage or barely there and at times can cost a small fortune. Whether you live near a beach, pool or any other body of water you probably have one. Seeing all these different styles and patterns means nothing to us today but it wasnít always like this.



There have been ups, downs, leaps forward and steps back in what is considered acceptable womenís swimwear through the years. There are classic styles that have stood the test of time like the one piece, and others like more radical monokini, (a bikini minus the top) which havenít quite caught on. Though the styles differ greatly they all share a common history, but what is that history? How did we get to where we are today?



The Early Years



There is evidence of women bathing for recreation as early as 200 AD. The swimwear used at this time was similar to the modern bikini in that it consisted of two separate pieces of fabric and left the midriff, shoulders, and legs exposed. After the fall of the Roman Empire recreational bathing lost its popularity and it was no longer acceptable for women to do so. Over time women were again allowed to bathe in public but only to rejuvenate themselves. During the 18th century women began wearing bathing gowns which were wool dresses that often had weights sewn into the hems. The weights were used to prevent the material from floating and exposing the womenís legs. Along with these dresses they wore stockings and shoes to ensure modesty. These multi-piece suits stayed in fashion until the late 1800ís.



The One Piece



As the idea of actually swimming became more popular than simply bathing, suits had to be modified to allow for a freer range of motion. Though the first one piece suit made an appearance in 1880 as a blouse and trouser all in one, the real one piece revolution began in the 1920ís. Women in the twenties wore one piece wool tank suits with built in modesty shorts which stopped above the knee. These swimsuits exposed the neckline and shoulders while allowing the legs to be bare. In addition the suits were form fitting, some even went as far as leaving open spaces in the midriff area allowing stomach or side to be exposed. In the 1930ís the one piece trend continued but with more of a feminine flare. The suits were now made of cotton and were decorated with print. The suits often came with a matching over skirt. The suits of the thirties were even tighter than those of the twenties and some left the back exposed.



The Anti Bikini



Though the bikini was patented in 1946 it was thought to be too risquť for the average woman to wear until the 1960ís. From the 1940ís to the 1960ís the one piece swimming suit was the popular choice for most women, though it went through quite a few changes. In the forties corset companies decided to produce swimsuits that would flatter a womanís figure. The new suits had a panel to reduce tummy bulge, bra cups and boning for bust support. This corset style suit was popular throughout the forties and fifties. In the sixties companies started using Nylon and Lycra for swimming suits, giving them the texture that we are familiar with today. As time went on bikinis started to gain popularity so companies modified the one piece to compete. One new style included a mesh midriff area with clear plastic rings. These suits were thought to be more modest than the bikini but equally fun and flirty. One piece suits continue to be fashionable today even with the popularity of the bikini.



The Teeny-Weenie Bikini



The bikini was designed by Louis Reard in the 1940ís but failed to gain popularity until the 60ís. Throughout the 1950ís it was only acceptable for movie stars and strippers to wear. It is said the name for bikini came from the nuclear testing on Bikini Atoll; the suit was to have the same impact on society. Since the sixties the bikini has become increasingly popular, with each generation modifying it to fit their style. These new bikini styles include the tankini, string, g-string and thong bikinis. Designers continue to create new ways to fashion the bikini and who knows when the next trend will hit.


About the Author:

Heather Edden is a client account specialist at 10x Marketing. For great deals on swimsuits and other summer accessories visit Overstock Auctions.




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