It wasn’t until the 18th century when manners changed and modesty suddenly took hold that we get the first true swimsuit, with European ladies wading into the water in long dresses, known as “bathing costumes,” which were often made from wool and frequently featured sleeves—sometimes even being worn with long socks.
In the Victorian era swimwear was of a style of outer clothing of the time, which were cumbersome and even dangerous in the water, especially in the case of dress-style swimwear for women.
Since the early 20th century, swimming came to be regarded as a legitimate leisure activity or pastime and clothing made specifically for swimming became the norm. Since then, swimwear for women has become increasingly more scanty and form-fitting, and the use of high-tech materials has become more common.
Take a look at these vintage photos to see what bathing suits looked like from Victorian and early Edwardian eras.