23 Fascinating Vintage Photos That Show How Swimsuits Evolved From the Victorian Era to the Bikini Age

Think it’s hot at the beach these days? Imagine wearing wool, which is what the first garments we’d recognize as swimsuits were made of.

But maybe wool had its charms. Just check out these interesting vintage photographs below and see how swimsuits evolved from Victorian times to the bikini Age.

A woman wearing a fashionable bathing costume, circa 1870.
Holidaymakers posing in bathing suits in the ocean surf at Santa Monica, Calif., circa 1890.
Woman in one-piece bathing suit and cap reclining on a beach in France, circa 1900.
A Girl in A Bathing Costume, circa 1909.
Annette Kellermann, circa 1910.
Four young women in matching beach wear run out of the surf, Los Angeles, California, circa 1910.
Actress Elsie Marson in a red silk swimsuit with white embroidered spots, circa 1918.
A woman in a bathing suit poses in front of a studio ocean scene, Paris, France, circa 1920.
Woman having her swimsuit measured for length violations on a Washington DC beach, circa 1922.
Five women walking arm-in-arm on the beach wearing wool bathing suits, circa 1925.
A bathing dress, circa 1926.
Alice Nikitina, well known Russian ballet dancer, teacher, and opera singer wearing one of her striking bathing suits at the beach in Italy, Alassio, Italy, circa 1929. Some called it a ‘bizarre bathing suit’.
Two men wearing bathing suits (jersey tank tops and belted trunks) climbing up ladder toward two models (the one standing on the left is Georgia Graves) wearing belted one-piece jersey bathing suits (Ondine) with stripes on the bottom; designed by Lucien Lelong; bathing caps.
A model walks the runway during a swimsuit fashion show at the Molitor swimming pool, circa 1930 in Paris, France.
Woman wearing cut-out swimming suit at the Aquatic gala at Molitor swimming pool, on June 23, 1931 in Paris.
Verna Lee Fisher sporting her newly created crossword swimsuit with matching bathing hat, at Palm Beach, Fla., circa 1933.
The Latest In swimwear on a beach In California, circa 1934.
circa 1935: Actresses Ida Lupino (1918 – 1995), and Kathleen Burke (1913 – 1980), model the latest swimwear.
Actress Alexis Smith in a swimming costume running along the beach in southern California, USA circa 1940.
Bathing suit clad female members of the British Imperial Censorship Staff, who call themselves the censorettes, standing poolside at the Princess Hotel, which also serves as their offices on the island. Circa 1941.
Model posing in bathing suit in Florida, circa 1945.
Two models wearing bathing suits and bathing caps, circa 1946.
The new ‘Bikini’ swimming costume caused a sensation at a beauty contest at the Molitor swimming pool in Paris. Designer Louis Reard was unable to find a ‘respectable’ model for his costume and the job of displaying it went to 19-year-old Micheline Bernardini, a nude dancer from the Casino de Paris. She is holding a small box into which the entire costume can be packed. Celebrated as the first bikini, Luard’s design came a few months after a similar two-piece design was produced by French designer Jacques Heim.

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