When it comes to swimwear, there has been a dramatic advancement over the years leading to a huge range of companies being able to explore different styles of swimwear for their customers. Over time, there has been a change from bathing gowns in the 1800s, all the way to bikinis and thongs in the 1980s-2000s era. Here, we’re taking a look at the evolution of swimwear and how it has changed in line with cultural standards.


As mentioned above, in the Victorian era, women would wear bathing gowns in order to keep their dignity, purity and modesty. The frocks would be buttoned up to the neck, with plenty of long hems, ruffled bloomers and more. Some would even wear stockings to swim in!


The 1900s saw a new era and the billowy, heavy layers of the 1800s disappeared into a light dress instead. While the swim suits still resembled dresses and were made from heavy flannel or wool to protect a woman’s modesty, the smaller silhouette signalled that times were changing.

Annette Kellerman
Annette Kellerman

Annette Kellerman

Kellerman was the first woman to swim across the English Channel. While she was arrested in Boston for wearing a one piece suit, similar to the wet suits used for surfing that you can find at the WetSuitCentre. However, her bold move triggered a change in swimwear fashion.


The flapper era led to women becoming bored with the modest Victorian female ideal and people were generally seen as reckless, sexual and pleasure-seeking. The swimsuits of this era rid the swimwear of sleeves, raised the hemlines and very quickly became tight around the bust and middle, revealing that there was a female body underneath.


Romper suits became ever more popular, and the last of the knee-length bathing suits were eradicated. Flashing legs and shoulders was very much the norm and this led to even more of a radical change. In the 1940s, hems were up and bathing suits became spaghetti-strap tops and this was the norm.


The days of the bikinis were inputted in the 1950s, and belly baring became the norm. With mainstream icons like Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot, sexuality was an important part of culture, and while swimsuits were still high waisted and generally resembled skirts and halter necks to keep the modesty, they were still exceptionally beautiful.


New Wave Feminism led to the hippie era and free-love philosophy, helping to edge the bikini into its iconic style. Simply at this point, the more skin shown the better. In fact, the first women’s topless swimsuit, designed by Rudi Gernreich was invented.


The 1980s saw high line bikinis, highlighting the hips and elongating the legs, along with smaller bikini bottoms that flashed more cheek than ever. In fact, the women’s thong bikini began to blow up in popularity on beaches in Brazil, Spain, Germany and more during this time.


Today, more or less anything goes whether you want to cover yourself up in a wetsuit or you’re looking to show it all. No matter what you’re searching for you can be certain to find some form of history within the swimsuit of your choosing.


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