If there is one piece of clothing that has evolved more than any other through the decades, it’s the swimsuit. The changes in the styles of swimwear over time differed between cultures and came about with the changes in social, religious and legal attitudes towards swimming and swimwear.
In the classical era, swimming and outdoor bathing was either done in the nude or in one’s underwear. However, in the Middle Ages, swimming and outdoor bathing was discouraged. It would appear that until the 1670s nude female bathing in the spas was the norm and that after that time women bathed clothed.
The bathing gown in the 18th and 19th century was a loose ankle-length full-sleeve chemise-type gown made of wool or flannel that would not become transparent when wet, with weights sewn into the hems so that they would not rise up in the water. This was not only cumbersome, but very dangerous.
In the Victorian era, Western cultures deplored nudity of any degree, and people took great pains to cover themselves. In the first half of the 19th century, the woman’s double suit was common, comprising a gown from shoulder to knees plus a set of trousers with leggings going down to the ankles. By the second half of the 19th century, in France, the sleeves started to vanish, the bottom became shorter to reach only the knees and the top became hip-length and both became more form fitting.
It was not long before swimwear started to shrink further. At first arms were exposed and then legs up to mid-thigh. Necklines receded from around the neck down to around the top of the bosom. The development of new fabrics allowed for new varieties of more comfortable and practical swimwear.
The 1960s is still regarded as one of the most vital turning points in fashion. In this hippie movement, women were encouraged to wear whatever they wanted to without feeling ashamed or embarrassed.
The high bikini lines of the 1980s flashed more flesh than ever before. During this period women’s independence was only growing and swimsuits and bikinis became even more risqué and fashion forward. Swimsuits plunged deeper in front and revealed more in the back. Colourful prints and neon swimsuits were in trend.
Nowadays, swimwear and beachwear are completely varied in terms of style. There are no rules or regulations when it comes to swimwear anymore and a woman can choose to wear whatever she feels most comfortable in. From daring to conservative, take your pick this summer. (Sun 14)
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