Swimwear has evolved greatly over the years. Swimsuit fashion often reflects society's views of morality and standards of decency. In the 1940s modesty was key, and the one piece swimsuit was the most popular choice. As the decade progressed cultural views began to shift and the one piece suit became shorter and tighter, eventually giving way to the bikini, for women, and the swim trunk, for men. However, the classic style of the one-piece popularised in the 1940s is still popular to this day.
Women's One-Piece Suits
The one-piece swimming costume was the most popular style of women's swimwear in the 1940s. The suit was close fitting and had a modest neckline. The one-piece was designed to show off a woman's body shape and minimise her flaws without showing too much skin.
Short and Skirt Style One-Piece Suits
The short-style one piece suit was tight fitting and featured an attached short that fell several inches above the mid thigh. The skirted swimsuit, also called panel style, featured a dress-style bottom with the skirt attached to the outer portion of the suit. It was a more modest alternative to the short style suit.
One-Piece Swimsuit Construction
The silhouette created by swimsuits in the 1940s emphasised a woman's curves and helped create an hourglass shape. Materials used in the construction of one-piece swimsuits included cotton, nylon and stretch latex. This style of suit often included a bra top to lift and emphasise the bust. Tummy shaping panels were inserted into the design to make the waist appear smaller.
In the early 1900s men's swimsuits came in one or two pieces. The men's suit began as a loose fitting garment made to cover or hide the body and evolved to show more and more skin. By 1940 men's swimwear consisted of close fitting shorts with or without a shirt. The waistline of the shorts got lower as time progressed, and the bare-chested look became the preferred style.
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