35 Vintage Photos Show What Bikinis & Beaches Looked Like in the 1940s

The 1920s had begun to loosen swimwear rules for women as well, where it became more acceptable for women to expose themselves somewhat more than they could publicly in the 1800s. However, arrests were still common through the 1920s and early 1930s for indecency even when women and men wore long, by modern standards, single-piece swimsuits.

People in the 1930s, particularly as the Depression made other activities more expensive, began to see the beach as a pleasurable and affordable place to visit, with movements against any more socially conservative attempts to prohibit the mixing of sexes in using the beach.

Given the relatively lax attitudes in mainland Europe towards public swimming and particularly women swimming and having relatively less clothing, it might not be surprising that in 1946 the bikini made its public debut in France, with Micheline Bernardini modeling the first bikini with the design developed by Jacques Heim.

Throughout the 1950s, continental Europe began to embrace the bikini, although there was resistance by the Catholic church, with the Pope calling the bikini and some other swimwear as sinful.


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