The history of swim wear – be it menswear or women's wear – makes fascinating study. Women's swim wears have always been a heated topic in the fashion industry and there has been several changes in women's swim wear according to the trends of the passing eras. Women's swim wears were initially introduced with the purpose of covering up certain essential body parts of those women who were daring enough to bathe publicly. Since then, there have been several changing styles and functions of the female bathing suit. It is indeed amazing to know that so much has been achieved in the swim wear with such scant material.
The first known use of a bathing costume was in Greece during 350 B.C. The fourth century mosaic wall was discovered depicting girls dressed in what resembles the modern-day bikinis. But, swim wear went out of fashion after the fall of the Roman Empire when water sports were no longer encouraged and the prudish Europeans regarded the sea more as a source of physical therapy than recreation.
Evolution and Changing Swimwear Trends
Spas where men and women together engaged in public bathing began in France and England during the 18th century. The typical swim was nothing more than a brief symbolic dip in the water with ladies on one side of the beach and men on the other. The earliest bathing suit was an old smock more in the nature of a bathing gown. Thus these suits were far from comfortable and ladies started sewing lead weights into the hem of the bathing gown to prevent any indecent exposure. The early 1800's were presumably the starting point of a revolution in swim wear when Americans openly and publicly flocked to the beaches for seaside sports and recreation.
When public swimming, sun bathing and water sports became increasingly popular, the time was ripe for change in women's swim wear. The necessity arose for a specially designed swim wear that not only protected one's modesty but also convenient enough to engage in swimming and sports activities. By the end of the 19th century, swimming had come to be recognized as an acceptable form of water activity and as well as an intercollegiate and Olympic sport. By the 1880's the women's swim wear was introduced, consisting of a blouse and trousers in one piece. There was also a separate skirt that extended below the knee with buttons at the waist to conceal the figure.
Then we had the swimsuits that started gradually exposing more and more skin. The beginning of the twentieth century signaled a bold era in swim wear for women. After that swimsuits began the trend of becoming more transparent and briefer. This was followed by a bikini or two-piece women's swimwear consisting of two separate items— one covering the breasts and another covering the groin or the entire buttocks region. The rest of the torso was left uncovered.
As the women's swim wears witnessed a gradual evolutionary process, men's swim wear also underwent many changes over time. From the beginning men's swim wear was distinctly different from the female's suit, with pronounced characteristics of boxiness and solidity contrasted with the exaggerated curves of the women's wear. Though men were beginning to look sexier, there was still some controversy regarding baring the chest. However, men continued to fight for their right to expose their chest and by the early 1933, we had a convertible-style suit that allowed the top to be removed. With women's suits becoming more and more daring and flamboyant during the 1950's and beyond, the male bathing costume saw an explosion of color patterns and fancy artwork.