Here in the States, we sure do like our bodies of water! In college, we used to swing off of ropes into the old mining pits that have filled with rainwater over the years. Country kids playing in ponds, coastal folks frolicking on ocean beaches, and the majority of us, being stuck inland, head to the lake when we need a recreational getaway. Oh, and let’s not forget the pools and waterparks! We need swimsuits! How fortunate we are to have so much selection in style and color; truly, allowing for personal expression. This wasn’t the case for our predecessors.
Sea Bathing in Bathing Gowns
In the 18th century, “sea bathing” had become popular because it was believed to have provided health benefits, but women did not fully immerse themselves in the water because society didn’t view that as “feminine”. Those first bathing suits, called “bathing gowns”, looked like what we, today, might describe as a long nightgown. They were unfitted with weights sewn into them to keep them from floating up in the water; after all, modesty ruled supreme back then!
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!
In the 19th century, open water activities had taken more of a “recreation” than “bathing” function. Swimming had emerged as a competitive sport for men, but vigorous exercise was not “ladylike”, so women “dog paddled” at most. Shapeless bathing gowns became fancier and more fitted, still while maintaining propriety as demanded by society. These bathing outfits consisted of a knee-length bathing dress and a full-leg trouser made out of wool! Can you imagine how heavy those were?!
By the late 19th century, the “Princess Suit” was all the rage. These were dark flannel blouses and trousers attached at the waist, “Voila!”…the first one piece! But, as society demanded, women would wear a skirt over top to disguise her figure. It didn’t take too long for women to shorten the trousers to be shorter than the skirt and to swap flannel for knitted fabric.
In the early 20th century, bathing suit skirts became shorter and the suits themselves more form-fitting. As you might imagine, given the times, the wearers were admonished for “indecency”. Future Olympic swimmer, Annette Kellerman, was arrested on a Boston beach in 1907 for wearing, what we now call, a knee-length unitard. Her crime? Showing her arms, legs, and neck!
Police officers even patrolled some local beaches, measuring ladies’ bathing suits. Those who showed too much skin went to jail! Novelist Louise Rosine refused, in protest, to wear stockings underneath her bathing suit as mandated by Atlantic City. She was arrested and jailed.
We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!
By the 1930’s it had become acceptable for women to maintain their figures via fitness, provided they did it “ladylike”. Swimming was considered “ladylike”. Bathing suits were starting to be cut higher in the leg, lower in the back, with thinner straps, and lighter, more pliable fabric.
By the 1940’s women were seen sporting modest two-piece bathing suits, not much tummy peeking through. But French designer Louis Re’ard turned swimwear fashion onto its head in July 1946 when he introduced the “bikini” to the shocked pool-goers at the iconic Piscine Molitor in Paris. He named his daring creation the “bikini” after the atomic bomb site called “Bikini Atoll”, explaining “Like the atom bomb, the bikini is small and devastating.”
Re’ard couldn’t find a model willing to wear his bikini, so he hired an exotic dancer for its debut. The fashion world was shocked, one magazine printing, “It is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would wear such a thing”. And the conservative public sector was aghast; some women were being ordered to leave beaches for wearing bikinis.
I guess those who found the bikini indecent, probably had a stroke in 1964 when American designer Rudi Gerneich introduced the monokini! Breaking all modesty barriers, Gerneich predicted that “The bosom will be uncovered within 5 years.” While the Piscine Molitor in Paris welcomed the monokini, it didn’t catch on in the United States; in fact, the model who debuted it received death threats!
Thank You, Bridget!
Bridget Bardot is credited for liberating swimwear into everyday fashion after twice appearing bikini-clad onscreen. Swimwear now is bold, colorful, and skin baring.
Whatever your swimsuit of choice – one piece, 2-piece, bikini, tankini, skirted, whatever – I can help you look good and turn some heads out there this summer! Come in for a quick series of Endermologie to smooth cellulite, tone loose skin, and slim down fat pockets non-invasively, painlessly, with FDA-cleared technology!
What are you waiting for?
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