Saturday, September 11, 2021

Evolution of the Bathing Suit

 We've Come a Long Way

by Martha Rogers

By the end of the 1930's, swimsuits had changed even more with the development of new fabrics such as latex and nylon. Swimsuits now hugged the body and were designed with shoulder straps that could be lowered to allow even tanning.

This is what your choices would be from a catalog in the 1930's. More colors, clingy stretch fabric, less fabric and more skin. Companies like Cole of California, Catalina and Jantzen really took off. By the end of the decade, an even more revealing swim suit came into fashion--the two-piece.


Although many men still preferred the tank top with
shorts for their choice of swimwear, others preferred to
swim bare chested. Those involved in competitive
swimming chose smaller trunks to give them more freedom of movement.

Women's swimwear for competition also became more form-fitting for the same reason. They could swim faster with more freedom in the new suits.

Still, these were not the shorter versions revealing more skin that came into popularity in the 1940's when Hollywood got involved and started making motion pictures featuring swimming sensation Esther Williams. The pin-up girl in a swimsuit became popular during WWII with movie stars such as Betty Grable, Ava Gardner, Esther Williams, and Hedy Lamarr posing for photographs for our GI's. Here is a picture of Claudette Colbert photographed at the beach in the popular two piece suit.

Beautiful girls in swimsuits became known as "bathing beauties" and posed for magazines and other photographs both on the beach and at the swimming pool. Glamour photography featuring girls in swimsuits became so popular that magazines even began having swimsuit issues. 


Because of the war, suits began to conserve with even less fabric as more and more midriff was exposed and swimsuits were cut higher on the legs. The end of the war did not change that style and the bikini swimsuit grew in popularity although most women preferred the more modest one piece or two piece suit. 

Swimwear began to be used in advertising and beauty contests became even more popular with their swimsuit competitions. Movies featured swimmers in movies like Million Dollar Mermaid  based on the life of Annette Kellerman. The word swimsuit was actually coined by Cole of California and became almost synonymous with bathing beauties. Contests such as Miss America and Miss Universe featured the contestants wearing swimsuits.

As the swimsuits shrank, pin-up pictures became more popular. Games like beach volleyball became more popular as the smaller suits gave the body better and quicker movement. Because of its "explosive effect" on the viewer, the bikini got its name from Bikini Atoll where several nuclear tests were performed.

Through the last sixty years, swimsuits have evolved even more and it seems that the less fabric they can use, the better the suit is. Styles like the Speedo and the thong are examples of the this. Some of them expose such a large portion of the body that it's almost as though we're heading back to the days of nude bathing. We even have nude beaches in some parts of the world.

Whatever the preference for swimming may be, both men and women want comfort and style. We've come a long way in what many find that to be.


Which type swimsuit do you prefer? One or Two-piece? Do you prefer beach or pool swimming?

Christmas is around the corner and time for Christmas reading begins. My newest release is The Christmas Secret.

Many stories abound concerning the old Farnsworth Manor Estate with a witch or a ghost being the occupant sometimes seen as a shadow in the window. Penelope Carlson, a reporter for the town newspaper, has always been interested in the Farnsworth house because of Nathan Farnsworth and her love for him so many years ago. A week before Christmas, a news story dug up by another reporter paints a dark picture of Olivia Farnsworth, Nathan's grandmother, and leaves many questions unanswered. Because his grandmother gave Penelope the true story to reveal at Christmas instead earlier, Nathan believes Penelope has betrayed his trust. Penny must make amends and make sure the true story is told. Will she be able to win back Nathan’s love and trust and help him to carry on the Farnsworth legacy?  

Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to six. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years teaching Freshman English at the college level. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and serves as President of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive. 


  1. Me, the more fabric the better. I even wear a t-shirt over my suit in the water. Both to help protect my skin from the sun and to feel more modest. I am not a beach person and the near nudity makes me less so. The men's bathing suit has evolved to knee length shorts. Only athletes and it appears men from Europe are wearing the skimpy trunks. At least that is my observation in my travels this year.
    Funny your setting is Farnsworth Manor,there is a Farnsworth manor where I live. It was moved from it's original site then subdivided into apartments. Your story sounds intriguing.

    1. I need a tee now because I'm so sensitive to the sun. Which is probably why I haven't been swimming in years. Used to spend three or four days a week at our neighborhood pool. That is funny about the Farnsworth Manor. I grabbed the name out of thin air because the lady of the manor didn't like the name I'd given it. I had named it Worthington. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Great article, Martha. I researched swimsuit history for my novel that was set during WWI and have a somewhat comical scene where my heroine ditches the swim dress for the skimpier athletic one piece so she can have freedom to really swim. Her dad was horrified while her more adventurous mother cheered her on. I wore two piece suits when I was in my 20s, much more modest than the styles many wear today. I stopped wearing them and returned to the one piece style in my late 30s and preferred a more modest style after I became a believer. I haven't visited my condo complex's pool in a long while, but if and when I do it will be in a modest one-piece.

  3. Sounds like a fun scene to write in your novel. I can imagine my own parents having the same opinions back in the early 40's. I haven't been swimming in a long time even though our son has a pool and keeps wanting us to come spend time with them. I like a two piece that's a tank style top with briefs that are not so brief. Thanks for dropping by.

    1. Yes, that's usually what I wear too, Martha. They are called a tankini. Two separate pieces that look like a one piece.

  4. I had to get mine from the cancer place that provides all kinds of things for cancer patients. It has special pockets to hold my prosthesis. It really is more comfortable than a lot of other suits.

  5. Thanks for the post. I prefer shorts and a tshirt for swimming and I prefer being at the ocean to a pool but really on hot days if a pool were available, I'd go for a dunk! Honestly I think that some people, men and women alike, wear more modest underwear than swimsuits!

  6. I love the beach! I prefer the more modest swimsuits but would hate to go back in time to 1886. Thank you for this wonderful post!