History of swimwear traces the changes in the styles of men's and women's swimwear over time and between cultures, and touches on the social, religious and legal attitudes to swimming and swimwear. In classical antiquity and in most cultures, swimming was either in the nude or the swimmer would merely strip to their underwear. In the Renaissance , swimming was strongly discouraged, and into the 18th century swimming was regarded as of doubtful morality, and had to be justified on health grounds. In the Victorian era swimwear was of a style of outer clothing of the time, which were cumbersome and even dangerous in the water, especially in the case of dress-style swimwear for women. Since the early 20th century, swimming came to be regarded as a legitimate leisure activity or pastime and clothing made specifically for swimming became the norm.
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Its origin dates back to when the first bikini was found on Roman mosaics in Piazza Armerina, Sicilia. Before long, bold young women in bikinis were causing a sensation along the Mediterranean coast. Some European countries such as Spain, Portugal or Italy prohibited bikinis on public beaches in The bikini was later also banned from worldwide beauty pageants after the first Miss World Contests in London in , and it was even declared sinful by the Vatican.
Think the bikini is a 20th-century phenomenon? Women in Roman and Greek bathhouses often went naked or wore bandeau-style tops and briefs very much like the modern bikini. Note: Bathhouses had yet to become co-ed.
The bathing suit is reflective of the era in more ways than style—were women expected to be more covered up? Was the economy booming or busting? A simple one piece or flashy bikini can tell the tale. From Bond girls to Blue Crush and non-cinematic moments in between, see which swimsuits were having a moment the year you were born.