Monday, July 5, 2021

Who's Your Beachbunny? by Nancy Fraser


Silly me. I thought doing a column on the history of swimsuits would be fun ... and easy. Boy was I wrong! I discovered far more weird facts than this brain can hold. Here are just a few:

Through the "classical" and "middle" ages ... swimming was done in the nude. No shame or embarrassment allowed. However, if sports were involved, women were expected to wear suits that held their bouncing assest in place and looked very similar to today's styles.

It was close to the end of the 17th century when the "bathing gown" was created, a floor-length chemise style dress that covered the wearer from neck to ankle with full sleeves. However, these gowns were only required of women. Men still got to swim in buff, if they so chose.

It wasn't until the beginning of the 19th century that men were required to wear clothing when appearing in public. Fortunately for women, by the middle of the century, designers in Paris had shortened the length of the gown, removed the sleeves, and even added pantaloons for comfort.

Sunbathing, whether you swam or not, became popular in the 1920s, with far more revealing swimwear and the first commercial production of what is now known as sunscreen. By the 1930s, men started taking it off again and swimming bare chested with tighter swim trunks.

Also by the 1930s, two-piece swimsuits--the precursor to the bikini--were the norm for women, especially among the models and actresses in Hollywood.

The first bikinis appears shortly after the end of World War II. The name "bikini" came from "Bikini Atol" (the site of several nuclear tests) because of their explosive effect on the viewer.

The first Speedo (heaven help us) came about in the 1950s, but were made of wool. They changed to nylon in the 1960s. Then, in 1970, elastane was added to standard suits to create a more efficient garment for the Olympics.

**Weird Alert** In 1985, a designer by the name of Gernreich invented the 'pubikini' to--you guessed it--show off pubic hair. Gross!

**More Weird** In 2005, there was backlash against designer Ondade Mar and Victoria's Secret for decorating their tankinis with Buddhist iconography.

Thankfully, by the end of the first decade of the 21st century most designs had returned to some semblance of normal (as long as you don't count that gosh awful sling-looking thing men are wearing). I mean ... really ... where is the loose end attached anyway???

Personally, I'm quite attached to my one piece swimsuit and terry cover up, thank you. And, of course a good book to entertain me!

Speak of which...

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Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy the rest of your summer! Bathing suit or not.


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  1. That's interesting stuff. I never heard about the old-time nude times, especially for women.

  2. Very interesting! Amazing what a bit of research can uncover. Yippee for the Internet!

  3. Fascinating read. I learned a lot. My good old one piece that covers the essentials works for me.

  4. Ok, it blows me away that people swam in the nude during times when everything had to be completely covered up. Amazing! Never would've guessed that. And I had no idea what a sling bathing suit was so I looked it up, and oh my gosh. That is AWFUL! Thank you for the laughs and the shock!

  5. Hahaha...FUN share, Nancy! I learned a bunch. I always wondered about the name Bikini. And, I'm with Kara on being blown away by swimming nude during certain periods in history. The dudes have had it pretty easy all along though. It's fun to imagine scenarios where people from the past would encounter modern day things, such as our current bathing suits. One of the many reasons I write time travel. :D

  6. Very interesting! Wool swimming suit? Ouch! Thanks for sharing, Nancy!

  7. Love the fun facts! I personally have a two piece but it covers up more than most one piece suits.

  8. As others said, swimming nude in times when women wore such complicated clothing shocked me. Remember those old romances where the hero suddenly comes upon the heroine bathing?


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