The mosaic wall depiction of Greek ladies wearing a two piece bikini-like outfit as early as 300 BC has proven that history repeats itself. Romans also had communal baths where most socializing occurred, however, these became less popular until European towns came in the scene. Swimming then became popular with ladies wearing special skirts sewn with weights into their hems, stockings or bloomers to prevent accidental exposure.
Earlier, swimming wasn’t much appreciated as a public activity, however, mid 1800’s saw seaside swimming as an acceptable activity. Victorian era had families going to seaside for a picnic and swimming was a recreational activity. However, decency was the keyword and ladies wore woollen swimwear that covered them fully. Unfortunately, wool did not offer much cover when soaked and made swimming more challenging.
Mixed bathing was allowed during the Edwardian period (19th-20th Century) and a single piece swimsuit then became popular around 1907. The famous Jantzen Knitting Mills capitalised on sporty side of swimsuits with the incorporation of elastic material to produce a more streamlined swimwear. The swimsuits covered from neck to knee by 1920’s. Wool reigned as the primary swimsuits material for the next 15 years.
The 30’s brought a change and synthetic Lastex began to be used for the swimsuit manufacturing. In 1946, designer Louis Reard introduced the sensational two piece bikini. This received a quite controversial response initially, however, it was accepted in 1956.
The swimsuits thereafter focused mainly of redesigning and experimenting with various materials. In the mid 60’s, a tan swimsuit was introduced which had a net in front and sides but couldn’t gain much popularity as there was a concern of the skin exposure to dangerous UV light.
The world practically gasped in 1964, when Rudi Greinreich introduced the first monokini. The dare to go bare was a bit too much and religious societies put up a prohibition for its use. However, this did not discourage Greinreich and he went on to introduce the first derriere revealing thong in 1974 that left very little to imagination! Of course the young crowd was a fan and made sure it stayed in business till date.
The flat-chested women celebrated the 1990’s Top Secret collection of pump-in-air bikini that gave them the advantage to enhance their cleavages along with staying afloat in water for those whose swimming skills weren’t very strong.
The swimsuit industry thereafter has not seen many changes except for the invention of Tankini that is considered as a more modest swimwear option.