By the end of the 19th century people were flocking to the oceanside beaches for popular seaside activities such as swimming, surf bathing, and diving. The clumsy Victorian-style bathing costumes were becoming burdensome. A need for a new style bathing suits that retained modesty but was free enough to allow the young lady to engage in swimming was obvious.
By 1910 bathing suits no longer camouflaged the contours of the female body. The yards of fabric used in Victorian bathing skirts and bloomers were reduced to show a little more of the figure and to allow for exposure to the sun.
Up until the first decades of the 20th century, the only activity for women in the ocean involved jumping through the waves while holding on to a rope attached to an off-shore buoy. By 1915, women athletes started to share the actual sport of swimming with men and thus began to reduce the amount of heavy fabric used in their billowing swimsuits.
By the early 1920s women’s bathing suits were reduced to a one piece garment with a long top that covered shorts. Though matching stockings were still worn, vintage swimwear began to shrink and more and more flesh was exposed from the bottom of the trunks to the tops of the stockings. By the mid-1920s Vogue magazine was telling its readers that “the newest thing for the sea is a jersey bathing suit as near a maillot as the unwritten law will permit.”