The past 100 years has seen its ups and downs, but nothing quite like the currents of swim style has ever gone down with such finesse. We certainly are not wearing the same navy blue pantaloons and bibs that our grandmothers begrudgingly admit that they did, nor do we still consider the bare midriff to be offensive and indecent (though for some it still is). Advances in water technology and purification systems have made swimming more accessible to the masses and open up a cleaner environment, ultimately rendering the stagnant, backyard “swimmin’ hole” obsolete.
A time when bathing caps, bootlegging and basically anything illegal were all the rage, swimming clothes took a racy turn. No longer restricted to covered arms and necks, young ladies of the time sported sleeveless and crew neck (as opposed to the beloved turtlenecks of yesteryear). These rebellious young people, in the meantime, began bearing ankles, smoking and spending time in the company of young men. Though the more traditional ladies held on to their stockings and pinned skirts, they would eventually hop on the bandwagon of indecency and immorality.
The daughters of tea sipping, stock market crashing, fat cats slept easy knowing that their swimwear was up to date with the latest fashion. Recession? Oh yes, I heard the the poor people were having one, they said as they frolicked, arm in arm, along the shores of Coney Island. The colder waters of east coast demanded that stockings be worn, but if it were warmer, mind you, they’d be off quicker than you could say “Black Tuesday”. In 1930, black was the new black, and prisoner stripe was also the new black.
The birth of the modern bikini’s great-grandmother made front page news in the figurative newspaper of the pliable American mind. But the men were too busy sticking their noses in WWII to care about what their daughters were wearing at the beach. Perhaps they should have. Now, the primitive and modest design of the old time bikini may seem quaint to our desensitized generation of mind pollution, but the daughters of the bare arm years in the 1920s were having a field day. Exposed midriff? No, no, unacceptable. So they made a compromise to showing off the second most attractive part of a lady’s body: the bottom of her rib cage. High bloomers and ruched halter tops that came dangerously close to exposing cleavage, but we weren’t ready for that yet.
Recovering from a war and a hit to the collective ego of our proud nation, America was free to return to the simple life that housewives dream of. Backyard barbecues, family trips to the city in the grocery-getter and getting stung by bees in the yard while jumping through the sprinkler were back on the menu. A little something called communism and the cold war couldn’t dampen their spirits, no matter how many nuclear bombs were being made. Nothing in particular stands out in the swimming clothes of this singularly American decade, other than the fact that it looks like underwear.
I’m pretty sure every one was too drugged up to care what they wore when they went swimming, let alone what they wore during the every day. Swimming was most likely never heard of because it was like bathing’s little brother, and bathing (or just cleanliness in general) was synonymous with conforming to the generation of war and hatred. A new radical idea of ignoring what was going on around us and only paying attention to ourselves developed and we spent the best years disregarding the world and listening to The Beatles because they really spoke to us.
Clothing in general was in scarce supply, so many young people had to take LSD to believe that the paint on their bodies was actually clothing. But suburban homes and urban public swimming pools were groovy and if you didn’t look outta sight, then you could just hightail it back to whatever anti-American country you came from, or get some roller skates.
Far too embarrassed that they were so close to the 1970s, the youth of the ’80s did everything in their power to be nothing like the previous decade. They chose to fight fire with fire, and from the most ridiculous style of the 70s came the different, but just as silly, looking clothes of the 80s. And influx of acid washed jeans, blond mullets and Michael J Fox’s were just the beginning to a reign of tyranny that the high-waisted, bra-bikini would wreak on the American people.
Characterized by the Internet and a bunch of techies who call themselves “experts”, saving whales and looking for another war to start, the 90s were, in my opinion, the golden age of the 1900s. Scandals from presidents, cloning and the decline of the Soviet Union did little to influence the evolution of swim wear, which is what this whole article is about. Faceless, unflattering, boxy swim wear was stylish. In fact, there was really nothing appealing about bathing suits in the 1990s. For further information, visit your local Goodwill or Salvation Army.
A frightening new millennium was sure to influence a new wave of even more frightening styles of bathing suits. Low-riders are running rampant from jeans to sweatpants and eventually, to our bikinis. Society has chiseled away at anything remotely stylish; I suppose for us, less is more. But every third or fourth year, we revert back to a vintage state of mind and the pantaloons (miniaturized, mind you) come back. It seems were just out of ideas and we think originality is copying something someone did 50 years ago and giving it a “modern edge” which is basically just stripping away the whole essence and replacing it with the runoff clothing we have now.