350 B.C - Like many other things, the Greeks were the first to use a bathing costume for leisure swimming. They later used togas.
1800 - A new form of transportation exploded in the travel industry: the railroad. This new innovation offered the ability to explore more territory and with exploring came adventure and leisure swimming.
The trick was how to swim yet still remain a modest woman. Swimsuits of this era were more like long gowns; some with weights in the bottom hem to prevent upward rising. Bloomers, stockings and bonnets were worn to protect skin from harmful rays. A pale complexion was highly prized, as was modesty. Some of these suits were made of a heavy flannel that would most certainly stay down, but also weighed down the swimmer.
At this time, the bathing machine was popular; a house-like structure on wheels. More like a mobile dressing room than a machine, these allowed for private bathing as well as a private dressing room. Those who didn’t have this luxury, or were not staying at a prestigious resort, would have an all-covering swim costume complete with a privacy hood.
1880 - Swim attire was mainly black or navy, knee length, and constructed of wool. Most resembled a sailor’s uniform worn over baggy bloomers.
1900 - Confidence was born. People of all ages began flocking to the seaside for outdoor recreational activities such as; swimming, sunbathing, surfing and even diving. With the demand for more outdoor water sports, and increasing participation, came the need for an overhaul of swimwear to allow free mobility without sacrificing modesty.
1910 - A shapelier look is desired and the contoured suit emerges. Now the female body shape was no longer hidden by yards of cumbersome, weighted fabrics. Allowing the sun to kiss more limbs was becoming increasingly popular. Still a full outfit by today’s standards.
1915 - Swimming was now an allowable sport for athletic women. Since competing was eminent, the suit needed more conturing to increase speed and decrease drag.
1920 - Vogue magazine was informing its readers about new bathing suits that pushed the law of the times. It was previously common for arrests to be made for indecency on the seashores. It soon seemed like the reprimands encouraged the smaller the suit; a sort of rebellion.
1930 & 1940 - Women still enjoyed the ever contouring, more flattering suits that enabled them free movement while sunbathing or swimming. Less fabric was becoming common place.
1946 - The rebirth of the bikini occurred. Though women wore this two piece cloth covering in Crete thousands of years ago, after a series of monumental historical events, the bikini went into dormancy until Louis Reard patented its existence and gave it a new look.
1950 - Women still preferred their one-piece suits coupled with a decorated swim cap, while the younger, Hollywood sorts were turning toward racier strips of even smaller fabric pieces.
1960 - Freedom, peace and love, as well as many other not so tasteful things, were running rampant at this time. The swimsuit, or lack thereof, was in the mix; challenging people to accept its new facade.
From the 60’s until today, the suit has had multiple modifications. One thing stays the same though, the battle for modesty. Whatever you prefer, one thing is true and common; sun protection is smart. So whether you are in your full coverage suit or you’re sporting a high fashion bikini, be aware of your exposed skin and its vulnerability. And remember, fashion isn’t always function.