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Going to the beach the Flapper’s way- Swimwear fashion of the “Roaring Twenties”

Neil Patrick

15206During the 1920s and 1930s, people began to shift from “taking in the water” to “taking in the sun”, at bathhouses and spas, and swimsuit designs shifted from functional considerations to incorporate more decorative features. Rayon was used in the 1920s in the manufacture of tight-fitting swimsuits,  but its durability, especially when wet, proved problematic, with jersey and silk also sometimes being used.

 

11 women and a little girl lined up for bathing beauty contest, USA Source

11 women and a little girl lined up for bathing beauty contest, USA Source

 

Bea_Kyle_Standing_Fire_Engine_and_Pickle_1924 Source

Bea_Kyle_Standing_Fire_Engine_and_Pickle_1924 Source

 

Bermuda Beach1929 Source

Bermuda Beach1929 Source

 

Bill Norton the bathing beach policeman measuring distance between knee and bathing suit on woman, Washington, D.C. Source

Bill Norton the bathing beach policeman measuring distance between knee and bathing suit on woman, Washington, D.C. Source

 

Contestants, Bathing Girl Revue, Galveston, Tex., May 13, 1923 Source

Contestants, Bathing Girl Revue, Galveston, Tex., May 13, 1923 Source

 

Contestants, Bathing Girl Revue, Galveston, Tex., May 14th, 1922 Source

Contestants, Bathing Girl Revue, Galveston, Tex., May 14th, 1922 Source

 

 Errnest and Pauline Hemingway, San Sebastian, circa September 1927. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. Source

Errnest and Pauline Hemingway, San Sebastian, circa September 1927. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. Source

 

French antique dealer Yvonne de Bremond d'Ars (1894-1973) on the beach at Deauville.Source

French antique dealer Yvonne de Bremond d’Ars (1894-1973) on the beach at Deauville.Source

 

High diver Beatrice Kyle sitting on a fire engine wheel between acts at the Society Circus at Fort Myer, Va.; for the benefit of the Army Relief Fund; Apr. 25, 1924. . source

High diver Beatrice Kyle sitting on a fire engine wheel between acts at the Society Circus at Fort Myer, Va.; for the benefit of the Army Relief Fund; Apr. 25, 1924. . source

 

Human tower on the sands at South Stradbroke Island, 1922 Young people from Roe's Camp playing games on the beach. . source

Human tower on the sands at South Stradbroke Island, 1922 Young people from Roe’s Camp playing games on the beach. . source

 

Mack Sennett's Bathing Beauties . source

Mack Sennett’s Bathing Beauties . source

Burlesque and vaudeville performers wore two-piece outfits in the 1920s. The 1929 film Man with a Movie Camera shows Russian women wearing early two-piece swimsuits which expose their midriff, and a few who are topless. Films of holidaymakers in Germany in the 1930s show women wearing two-piece suits,  In 1928, Speedo introduced their racerback silk suit that was optimized to fit the body shape.

1920s swimsuit postcard . source

1920s swimsuit postcard . source

 

Women dancing on beach, Toronto, Canada. . source

Women dancing on beach, Toronto, Canada. . source

 

Woman on beach in Bermuda, with seaweed, 1929 . source

Woman on beach in Bermuda, with seaweed, 1929 . source

 

woman in a bathing suit is walking a leashed seal on the beach in Long Beach as people watch. . source

woman in a bathing suit is walking a leashed seal on the beach in Long Beach as people watch. . source

 

Viola Swinnerton & Anna Neibel . source

Viola Swinnerton & Anna Neibel . source

 

Truus van Aalten (Dutch film actress, 1910-1999) meets a fake frog. . source

Truus van Aalten (Dutch film actress, 1910-1999) meets a fake frog. . source

 

 

Annual_beauty_show,_Washington_Bathing_Beach . source

Annual_beauty_show,_Washington_Bathing_Beach . source

 

Man Swimsuit, 1920; Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg . source

Man Swimsuit, 1920; Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg . source

 

Argentine swimmer Alberto Zorrilla in 1925. source

Argentine swimmer Alberto Zorrilla in 1925. source

 

Bathing models in a museum, 1920.source

Bathing models in a museum, 1920.source

 

Bath costume contest,1921, Source

Bath costume contest,1921, Source

 

Bathing Beach, 1920 Source

Bathing Beach, 1920 Source

 

Bathing Suit 1920s.Source

Bathing Suit 1920s.Source

By the 1930s men began to go without shirts for swimming, and bare-chestedness in male swimwear became the norm by the end of the 1940s, including in competitive swimming events. The norm of male bare-chestedness in swimwear did not extend to other competitive sports.

Neil Patrick

Neil Patrick is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News