A trip to the origins of the origins of beachwear!
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With today's article, I decided to dive into the origins of swimwear! Let's travel through the history of beachwear and understand how everything started and why, how the first pieces were made, the habits and customs of our ancestors, the fabrics, the shapes, how those pieces have evolved till the present time!
The history of swimsuits is intricately linked to the history of peoples' culture, their habits, customs, religions, beliefs. The morality surrounding nudity played a decisive role in the evolution of beachwear culture till now.
The History of Swimsuits in Antiquity
In classical antiquity, we have images that show people swimming and bathing naked. However, there are records showing women also used tops bandeau and briefs to compete in sports activities, as you can see in the picture featured in this article. It is an image of a mosaic found in Villa Romana del Casale. This is the outfit most similar to what would become the bikini that we know nowadays.
Nudity in classical antiquity was a constant and fundamental theme in the art of these cultures, because the artists wanted to reveal the divine through the representation of the nude. Culturally, at this time, nudity was experienced in gyms and when exercising, particularly at the Olympic Games.
Swimsuits since the 18th century
The history of swimsuits begun to be relevant again in the 18th century, where women wore dresses, when they bathed, and these dresses would not get transparent, after getting wet. The men's attire had long sleeves, also covering part of the legs.
Interestingly, other cultures would use a thong (incredible, in the same era!!) as the "fundoshi ", for example. The "fundoshi " is an original Japanese costume and it is a kind of thong that leaves the thighs and the buttocks bare-naked. It is used in fights, namely in Sumo and to go to the pool. Public nudity was quite normal and common in Japan until the Meiji Restoration, wich tried to suppress this habit.
During the Enlightenment period, taboos against nudity began to grow and, in the Victorian era, public nudity was considered obscene. Beaches were separated by gender, with bathing cabins equipped with wheels, allowing people to change into swimsuits and enter directly in the water.
Although the first swimsuit appeared in the 19th century – a dress that went from the shoulder to the knee, with pants that went down to the ankle –, it was during this century that, for example, naked swimming became a public offense in Britain. As you can see, the favorite piece that our closets 😊 have, over the centuries, had considerable cultural, social, religious and legal obstacles!
The Swimsuit Boom in the 20th Century
In the early 20th century, exposure of the man's chest was not accepted. During this period, women's swimsuits had to cover at least the thighs and, exposing more than this, could lead to being arrested for public prostitution. As a matter of fact, for the Olympic Games of 1912, in Stockholm, an official poster was created showing several naked male athletes and it was considered too daring for distribution in certain countries.
It was in this point in history that the swimsuits started to get smaller, first uncovering the arms and then from the ankle to the thighs. This allowed new varieties of more comfortable beachwear to be created.
In the 1930’s, swimsuits started with two pieces, with the bottom covering part of the legs and the belly button. In Hollywood, actor Johnny Weissmuller – the most iconic Tarzan in the history of cinema and simultaneously one of the greatest swimmers of all time, with five Olympic Games’ gold medals – started going to the beach in shorts and, with him having a great social impact at the time, this habit started to widespread.
The Invention of Bikini
After World War II, the bikini was first invented in France and, despite the initial scandal around it, it was widespread and considered normal in the 1960’s.
In the summer of 1946, two designers, separately, tried to create swimsuits different from those more common at the time. Thus, Jacques Heim's “Atome” and Louis Réard's “Le Bikini” were born. The latter was shown several days after the US first detonated a nuclear device over Bikini Atoll.
In the 1950’s, bikinis started to decrease in size and the belly button started to show, which was not very well seen at the time.
The bikini continued its evolution and became more popular, after the 60’s, and several versions have appeared until then, from the monokini, in which the bottom part of the bikini is supported by two straps, leaving the breasts exposed, to the tankini – the top is a t-shirt (1990) – and to the burkini, invented in the 2000’s, very popular in the Middle East, where the body is covered, except for the hands, feet and head. Once again, different culture beliefs having an impact on beachwear culture.
Male beachwear also evolves in parallel to women's swimwear during this time, with shorts getting smaller and smaller. Trunks became really popular in more tropical regions. In the 90’s, bermudas - shorts that reach the knee - also became normal.
We are in favor of this historical opening of consciousness, that led to the creation of the beachwear pieces we have at your disposal in our online store and to the creation of our brand Maria Martinez Beachwear. Customized pieces, with excellent cuts, unique colors, exclusive details, styles adaptable to a variety of bodies, materials with the best quality, avant-garde design, with the possibility to be used beyond the beach .
I hope that we will always continue to celebrate this evolution together!
Always be true to yourself and to your style,