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Bathing suits in the 1940s

One piece bathing suits vs. New trends

There were times when revealing too much skin in public was considered indecent. In the beginning of the 20th century, Swimwear for women was more like a really tight dress with no cleavage. A new trend was to cut out fabric in a shape of a triangle just above the belly button. But when that same tight dress was cut in half in the 1930s, first two piece swimsuit was born.

Not many people were interested in going to the beach during the war years. As a result demand for swimwear declined and designs did not change a lot. In 1942, when the U.S. government reduced the amount of fabric to be used in women’s swimwear, swimsuit manufacturers increased production of the two-piece swimsuit with bare midriffs which required 10% less fabric. Bathing suits gradually became more revealing. The new swimsuits consisted of a simple halter top with V neckline and a short, tight skirt. The midriff fashion was still stated as only for beaches and informal events. But many conservative women preferred one piece bathing suits anyway.

Scoop Neck Mesh Splicing Ruffled One Piece Swimsuit For Women

The bathing suits in those days were usually solid color or with typical 1940s patterns like stripes, polka dots and florals. Some of them look really appealing in the photographs, but taking into account that many of the modern elastic materials used in swimwear production were not available those days, they were probably not very comfortable. Yet, swimwear designers tried to keep the wearer’s figure as flattering as they could.

Invention of the high waisted bikini

In June 1946, a French designer Jacques Heim launched his modern kind of two-piece swimwear. He called it the Atome, after the smallest known unit of ordinary matter and advertised it as “the world’s smallest bathing suit”. Just a couple of weeks later, on July 5th, another French designer Louis Reard presented the Bikini – “smaller than the smallest bathing suit” – named after Bikini coral reef in the Marshall Islands, where testing on the atomic bomb was taking place.

Reard’s high waisted bikini was, indeed, so small that it exposed the belly button (for the first time in the female swimwear history). While many men thought of Reard as a hero, the 1940s society in general was reluctant to adopt his controversial and revealing designs. Some countries even banned bikini from public places. Reard created big buzz but Heim sold more swimsuits.

When people saw film stars wearing stylish cotton and jersey bikinis in movies and on public beaches, the new swimsuit finally started to gain popularity. Any swimwear that was similar to Reard’s design was now called a bikini and became a style itself.

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Bathing suits in the 1940s


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