Florida-Towel Bathing Suit of the 1950s

A prominent fashion photographer in the 1940s and 1950s, Nina Leen was one of the first female photographers to work for LIFE magazine. She grew up in Europe (Russian born) and her first camera was a Rolleiflex which she used to primarily photograph animals. Nina Leen is mostly known for her animal photography, but in the fashion world, she is well known for her classic and timeless fashion photography.

Here, a series photo taken by Nina Leen in the 1950s. The photographs show some models posing with creative and beautiful towel bathing suit on a beach of Florida.

Bathing suits in the 1950s had a slightly knitted feel to them and considerable weight compared to today’s thin fabrics. An effort was made to make smoother fabrics that hugged a woman’s curves but didn’t show any lumps and bumps. Bra tops were usually lined and many also had Pellon firmed bra cups. Some swimsuits were also boned in the chest area or on the torso (like a longline bra). Separate rubber swimming panties were worn under swimsuits to provide even more smoothing and shaping. Needless to say, the swimsuit was less about swimming and more about looking like a pinup.

(Photos by Nina Leen, via LIFE photos archive)


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