Although the practice of swimming has been around for a very long time, the concept of a swimsuit as fashion is relatively new. Early bathing costumes had more to do with modesty than with looks or function. And although Victorian women wore bathing costumes at the beach, a woman could certainly not swim in one comfortably.
The swimsuit as a fashionable garment that provides enough freedom of movement be be worn in the water, is a 20th century conception.
By the 1930s, women’s swim suits began to resemble modern swimming attire. Many swimsuits of the 1930s would not look out of place today.
In the 1940s, corset manufacturers created bathing suits with built-in tummy control panels. Bra cups accentuated the female figure. Bathing suits became glamorous and were featured in popular film extravaganzas called aquamusicals. Large groups of women performed synchronized swimming and diving routines routines against beautiful backdrops of lights and fountains.
In the early part of the 1960’s swimwear was still pretty conservative, much like the decade earlier in the 1950’s. However fashion ideals began to change rather quickly in the mid 60’s with the introduction of the bikini and low cut bathing suit bottoms.
While women’s suits retained their modesty aprons well into the late 20th century, swimsuits became more revealing. Even one piece maillots show skin with plunging necklines and high cut leg openings.
Today, many styles are available, including longline unitard type suits for competitive swimming, one piece swimsuits that feature small skirts, two pieces with skirts, wrap style swim suits, and, of course, the bikini.