Posted Jul 15, 2010 in For Her | 0 Comments

A tale of the swimwear

“Sun is shining, the weather is sweet” – These are celebrated lyrics dedicated to the rhythm of summer in the city. The heat has waved over Montreal and we should all refrain from the chorus of melodramatic whining that is bound to happen when the mercury rises! Instead, let’s make the most out of this sweltering weather and bask our bods on a lavish beach, splish-splash in a pool or even dangle our toes in a breezy lake. Besides, I can’t think of a better reason to purchase another itsy-bitsy bikini (this season, I’m up to 3 in counting!). Throughout the years, swim attire has rapidly evolved from modest bloomers to barely-there Brazilian bottoms. Like everything, societal values are mirrored in our attitude, outlook and the style in which we dress.

Here is a trip down memory lane on swim fashions throughout the decades.

BC era

Without a doubt, the original swimsuit was the birthday suit. The emergence of actual swim apparel has been spotted by a surviving Minoan painting from 1600 BC where women are shown in a two-piece suit similar to a modern-day bikini. Talk about being avant-garde!

Swimwear went out of fashion after the fall of the Roman Empire when water sports were no longer encouraged and the prudish European societies regarded the sea more as a source of physical therapy than recreation.

18th Century

During the 1700s spas where men and women engaged in public bathing began appearing in Europe. As modesty was the rule and style not really a consideration, the bathing suit was an old smock that looked like a bathing gown. Preventing from indecent exposure, ladies were known to sew metal weights into the hem of the bathing gown, ensuring their legs not being exposed.

Victorian Age

Once the railway arrived in Britain the masses visited the seaside regularly and it created a need for new swimwear fashions. In the early Victorian era women had worn dark flannel bathing dresses, but by the 1860s, two piece belted costumes replaced the earlier styles.

Women needed assistance to drop into the water from the infamous “bathing machine“. This was a room where ladies would dress into their bathing suits, providing them with the privacy of indoor bathing.

The later Victorian swimsuit outfit was still cumbersome, but practicality and attractiveness were more in demand. Women, however, still refrained from swimming too much, as the remaining belief was that only men should engage in this recreational activity.

Edwardian Swimsuits

Similar to Victorian styles, they were still made of wool, and now consisted of bloomers and a wool over dress. The dress was now a sleeveless version and the outfit was worn with black stockings and laced footwear.

The Modern Bikini

The turn of the century saw women getting frustrated with cumbersome beach wear. In 1907 Australian Annette Kellerman caused a stir in Boston when she appeared on the beach in a one-piece form fitting costume. She was arrested. But by 1910 this sort of costume was allowed on the beaches.

In the 1920s ladies swimwear consisted of a knitted suit that went to mid-thigh.

The 1930’s had a new generation of designers turning out swimwear garments that were functional, sleek, and streamlined. The famous Bauhaus style was void of all decoration and left beauty up to form and function itself. By the end of this decade, molded-fit suits were introduced, featuring the “nude look.”

In the 1940′s underwear manufacturers turned their attention to swimwear to boost falling sales in the corsetry department. Swimwear became more fitting with stretch tummy support and bra cups to improve shape. Wartime rationing meant that there was less fabric available for swimwear, so swimming costumes became smaller. This era gave way to the bathing beauties: Pin-up girls and glamour girls wearing high heels and jewellery to accessorize their bathing attire. The most exciting, and shocking, was a two piece creation call the “bikini” created by Louis Reard.

In the 1950s Brigitte Bardot frolics in “And God Created Woman,” creating a hot market for the swimwear.

In the 1960s Brian Hyland sings “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” triggering a bikini buying spree among Americans. Finally, the bikini has caught on.

In the 1970s, Rio and St. Tropez produce the Tanga suit—also called the Thong. Bo Derek, although not in a bikini, parades in the movie 10 in a nude one-piece and becomes an instant sex-symbol.

In 1983, Carrie Fisher, as Princess Leia, wears an ornate version of the bikini in “Return of the Jedi.” This is later discussed on “Friends” as the ultimate male fantasy.

In the 1990s, swimwear in general is given an increased focus with the TV show Baywatch, which proved that bikini or not, it’s still fun watching Pamela Anderson run.

The 2000 Thong Song by Sisqó boosted thong sales and revitalized the thong swimwear industry

And finally in 2007, Muslim women can now choose to wear a burqini and get in on all that great style!

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