Swimming costumes of the '60s were conservative, yet flattering. Swimmers in the '60s viewed swimming costumes and accessories as fashion statements. Swimming suits were about colours, designs and fabrics that would bring out the eyes, cheek bones or swimming make-up of the swimmer. Suits were not about sexuality -- at first. When the sexual revolution of the '60s occurred, it rocked swimwear fashion, causing swimming costumes in the '60s to change.
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One-piece bathing or swimming suits in the 1960s featured skirted bottoms. Suits in the mid-60s were generally made of Lycra or nylon or a mix of the two, according to Fashion-Era Online. The suits often featured decorative buttons, bows, ruffles, plastic rings, decorative zippers or piping. Suits conformed to the conservative feel of the era, yet as the '60s moved forward, necklines scooped lower and skirts grew shorter until the skirts disappeared completely. One-pieces continued with their flattering tummy control and the stretchy, comfortable fit.
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Enter the bikini, with much credit given to "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," the No. 1 hit in America released on Aug. 8,1960. The song topped the charts in other countries, changing how females in the 1960s viewed swimwear fashion. The song was written about the songwriter's little daughter who was too shy to wear her bikini, but the bikini fire had already been lit. By the end of the '60s, bikinis were dropping skirts -- and tops, in the case of the monokini -- and were becoming more risque. Within the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the monokini, which was simply a bottom half of a bikini only, with no covering over the bustline. The monokinis sold in record numbers. Few women wore them in public parks, pools or beaches, mostly because monokinis were illegal in the '60s.
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Accessories were necessary for the female swimmer in the 1960s. Swimming caps were decorated with plastic flower petals or designed with colourful stripes, seashells, seahorses, butterflies or flower blossoms. The caps were worn not only to help protect the hair from the elements, such as sun and chlorine. They were worn to coordinate with the other swimwear accessories, such as terry cloth onesies, beach cover-ups, beach bags, beach dresses and shorts. The hippie-movement in 1968 marked the end of the swimming cap as a fashion statement. The caps were viewed as conservative, old-fashioned and to be used only for swimming lessons or competitions.
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In the 1960s, bikinis took centre stage when females began wearing them in competition. Swimming costume competitions reached a peak of popularity in the '60s, according to New Zealand History Online. Women and girls competed individually, and mothers and daughters competed in teams for titles including, Mother and Daughter and Junior Miss. Competitions involving swimming costumes only virtually dissipated through the era of feminist criticism and by the end of the 20th century, according to New Zealand History Online.