1920s Bathing Suits

Written by nancy lee bethea
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  • Introduction

    1920s Bathing Suits

    Fashion of the 1920s represented liberation from Victorianism and a new democratisation of women. Clothes for women echoed the boldness and moxie of the decade's economic boom. While Henry Ford applied mass production to the making of automobiles, access to electricity changed the division of labour. Women felt more freedom from duties at home, and it showed in their clothing, particularly in swimming costumes.

    In the 1920s, women's swimming costumes reflected some of the freedom women enjoyed. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

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    The 1920s welcomed more revealing swimwear in which more of the arms and legs were exposed. One-piece suits for women often fit like sleeveless body suits covering the torso completely and concealing the upper thigh. Two-piece suits for women were sporty with T-shirt style tops and matching shorts. While the swimming costumes of the 1920s might be hard to swim in today, they were often creative masterpieces of design.

    While the swimwear of the 1920s was considered revealing for the time, it is modest by today's standards. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

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    Most 1920s fashions contrasted in colour, texture and silhouette to the Victorian fashions which preceded them. Swimming costumes were designed for function and elegance. Fabrics such as jersey, wool and sometimes silk were used. Women were still considered dressed in swimming costumes at the beach because their bodies remained covered.

    Fabrics such as silk, jersey and wool were used to make women's swimwear in the 1920s. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

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    The baring of arms and legs was new for swimwear in the 1920s. While the design of women's dresses hid the torso to create a more unisex look for females, swim fashions were somewhat shapelier. The new freedom in fashion echoed the liberation women felt during the decade.

    Women's swimwear in the 1920s highlighted feminine curves. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

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    In the 1920s, suntanned skin was no longer shunned. If a woman had a healthy tan, it meant she had an abundance of wealth or leisure time. Of course, with swimming costumes baring more skin, suntans were more prevalent. As the decade ended in economic turmoil, fashions became more structured and conservative.

    Suntanned arms and legs became fashionable for women in the 1920s. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

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