History of Swim wear
Of course, the original swimsuit was the body itself. However, bathing suits, in one shape or another, has been around for over 2000 years. Women's swim wear has come quite a way since the first recorded use of bathing suits in Greece around 300 B.C. People wore togas when swimming and bathing reached its highest popularity in the ancient world. In fact, mosaic tiles that formed a picture were found in Sicily that showed women dressed in what looks like the modern day bikini.
But swim wear fashion was to experience a dry spell following the fall of the Roman Empire when water sports went out of style and Europeans regarded the sea only as a source of physical therapy instead of recreation.
During the 1700's spas where men and women engaged in public bathing began appearing in Europe, most particularly in and around France and England. Men and women still bathed infrequently however, and your typical swim was a quick dip in the water with ladies on one portion of the beach and men on the other. It appears that the earliest bathing suit may have been an old smock that kind of looked somewhat like a bathing gown. Modesty was the rule, with style not really a consideration. Swim suits were far from practical or comfortable. Ladies were known to sew metal weights into the hem of the bathing gown, which was done so the dress would not float up and expose a lady's legs.
By the mid 1800's bathing was pretty much considered a recreational activity. You see, previous to the 1840's/50's, swimming (bathing) was considered by most people as a therapeutic function.
However, the very early 1800's marked the beginning of a real change in swim wear when North Americans came to the beaches for seaside recreation. Technological innovations like railroads made public beaches much more accessible for vacations and water front activities. With increased recreation time, and improved economic conditions, the time was right for change in women's swim wear.
The first swimsuits consisted of bloomers and black stockings. Around 1860, drawers were added to prevent the problem of exposure. Women still refrained from swimming too much; most people felt that only men should swim. By the end of the 1800's, swimming had become an inter-collegiate and Olympic sport. It was finally becoming acceptable for women to swim. Now women's bathing suits really had an opportunity to change and became part of a lady's wardrobe. By the 1880's the "Princess" cut was introduced, consisting of a blouse and pants all in one piece. The skirts were traded in for cotton like pants. There was also a separate skirt that fell below the knee and buttoned at the waist to conceal the figure. A ruffled, frilly brimmed, cap generally completed the set.
The 20th Century began the swim wear revolution, brought about by: the major increase in recreational sports. The new swim wear relied on the form of the body, gradually showing more skin. The turn of the twentieth century marked a new era in swim wear for women. In 1907, Australian Annette Kellerman caused quite a stir, when she was arrested in the United States for wearing a loose, one piece suit that became the generally accepted as the swimsuit for women by the end of 1910. Then swimsuits began the trend of becoming briefer, lighter and more stylish. The skirt disappeared by the early 1920's, leaving a top that covered the shorts. Though matching stockings were still worn, bare legs were shown from the bottom of the trunks to the top of the shorts. During the "The Roaring 20's" an appreciation for recreation and leisure time was increasing dramatically. This manifested itself during the first annual "Bathing Suit Day" held in May of 1916 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The 1930's had a new generation of designers turning out swim wear garments that were functional, sleek, and streamlined.
Now, in the late 1990's
and in 2000, 2001, and 2002 we wear anything and everything from bikinis
to one piece suits.
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