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Swimsuit: A Nude Story
Swimsuit: A Nude Story

The swimsuit did not exist as a wardrobe item until the 17th century. And in 18th century suits, you can hardly see the features of modern beachwear.

Ancient swimmers

Bathing has been known as a leisure activity since ancient times. Neolithic pictograms show people swimming; plots of Babylonian and Assyrian wall paintings contain scenes with water procedures.

Babylonian drawing, depicting people at water procedures

The prototypes of the swimsuit were in ancient Rome, where a similar suit was used both during sports training (including by women) and in public baths.

Mosaic depicting sportswomen

Swimming in the ancient world as a discipline was considered a privilege of men, since athletes competed in the nude. In ancient Japan, men used to swim in fundoshi loincloths, which were also worn on land in normal times.

The inhabitants of Japan in the fundoshi Participants of the Japanese Hadaka Matsuri festival wearing fundoshi headbands

Medieval bathing

Religious dogma and medieval morality have wiped out the interest in sailing in the Christian West. Interest in water treatments as a leisure activity gradually returns towards the end of the 17th century. Mineral baths and natural springs are especially popular. True, there were no bathing suits as such - for example, in England, they were played by hard canvas robes with massive sleeves.

Victorian revival

The birth of the swimsuit as a wardrobe item dates back to the middle of the 19th century. During the reign of Queen Victoria, various modes of transport were actively developed, people began to travel more often, including to the south for sunbathing and swimming. Beachwear has been identified as an indispensable outfit.

Bathing suits of the second half of the 19th century

In the Victorian era, the main task of a women's swimsuit was not to attract interest, but, on the contrary, to protect the body from prying eyes. Therefore, beachwear was a dress or baggy pants.

Girls in bathing suits during the reign of Queen Victoria

To preserve the privacy of such intimate procedures as bathing and sunbathing, bathing machines were invented - small carts with walls of tarpaulin or wood. The first examples date back to the 18th century.

A clothed man entered a bathing machine on the beach and changed his clothes there. Then the car was lowered into the water with the help of horses or along rails and was installed in such a way that the swimmer was not visible from the shore. Convinced of privacy, the bather descended the steps into the water. After completing the procedures and ready to return to the shore, the bather raised a special flag.

Bather, 1893 Bathing vans in Sestroretsk, early 20th century Girls sunbathe in bathing machines

This invention lasted until the early 20th century, when mixed public beaches were allowed. Changes in the rules spurred fashion, people began to walk on the beaches in shorter skirts and pantaloons, and knitted swimsuits with short sleeves appeared.

Show everything that is hidden

Athlete Annette Kellerman is one of the first women to dare to appear on the beach in a jumpsuit of skinny shorts and a tank top. Despite severe punishment and public censure, the trend to reduce the material used for sewing a swimsuit continued. Bathing suits began to be cropped to reveal the legs above the knee. Guardians of morality worked on the beaches, they strictly monitored how many centimeters above the norm the swimsuit ended. For violation, they were threatened with a fine and expulsion from the beach.

Beach patrol checking the length of a swimsuit, 1920s

By the 1930s, new synthetic materials - lycra and nylon - had emerged that simplified the cut and design of beachwear. Another reduction in the material used for swimwear occurred after the Second World War and was caused by the goals of economy. The new minimalist models almost bare the bathers' belly.

A milestone in swimsuit history is the bikini. His appearance shocked the public and shattered morale. The name of the accessory is associated with the nuclear tests in the Bikini Attol. As predicted by the creator of the model, Louis Rear, his creation had an explosive effect.Thanks to cinema and screen stars such as Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot, bikinis have consolidated their position in the wardrobe of fashionistas.

Girl in a swimsuit, 1940s

From the 1960s until the end of the 20th century, the kini family of accessories developed in the fashion industry. So, there were monokini (swimsuit with cutouts on the sides), trikini (swimsuit that consisted of four triangles of fabric) and tankini (swimsuit, the top of which was a shirt or top). By the 21st century, the swimsuit has become an accessory that reveals much more than it hides.

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