Until the end of 18th century, people bathed either in their underwear or naked, and they had no idea that they even needed a specific item of clothing for it. But things changed a lot when people began to travel as tourists. Since the moment the first swimsuits appeared, they had to withstand the real test of time. In this article, you will see the process of emancipation of women and how it affected changes in swimwear.

Since beach season has already started, Enlighten decided to make a brief historical overview of this important piece of beachwear.



With the emergence of railway transport, people could easily cover thousands of miles and this helped tourism and the development of popular resorts. But the representatives of higher classes were not used to undressing in public. So, there was a need for clothing items that they could spend time on the beach in. The first swimsuit for women consisted of a dress and wide pants, while men bathed in knee-long trunks and a top that covered their hairy chests.

Another interesting detail of the beach lifestyle from the beginning of the 20th century was a bathing machine which was a place where people could change out of their normal clothes and into their swimsuits. People entered the bathing machine, changed their clothes there, and then waded into the ocean. Machines were moved along the rails with the help of horses.


Underwood Archives / EAST NEWS

In later years, the swimwear fashion was influenced by the Olympics. When swimming became an official sport of the games, it was obvious that big swimsuits prevented athletes from achieving the best results. In 1912, female swimmers surprised the public with their revealing swimsuits showing their arms and legs. Of course, after that many women wanted to follow their example, and swimwear became more revealing.


Underwood Archives / EAST NEWS

In the 1930s, the appearance of swimsuits was similar to those from the previous decade but they started to be made in a variety of different colors. Also, thanks to Coco Chanel, tanned skin became trendy and women began to add different accessories to underline their tan. Men were now allowed to show their chest and wear shorts.


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World War II transformed all areas of life, including swimwear. It was necessary to reduce the quantity of fabric for clothing production. That was how 2-piece swimsuits came to be.

Louis Réard, who ran an underwear family business, noticed that women often rolled up their swimsuits for a better tan. That inspired him to create the bikini. In 1946, he introduced this new model of a swimsuit for women. The reaction of the public was controversial because people were not ready for such a revealing item of clothing.



But the movie industry adopted the bikini immediately because girls in revealing swimsuits attracted audiences and provided a good box office return. The first woman who dared to show up in a revealing swimsuit was the charming Brigitte Bardot.



In the 1960s, fashionistas chose different models of swimsuits, but the main thing was that swimwear was now made of new elastic and a fast-drying material called Lycra.