What they wore on the beach back in the ’30s

Neil Patrick
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By the 1930s, necklines plunged at the back, sleeves disappeared and sides were cut away and tightened. With the development of new clothing materials, particularly latex and nylon, through the 1930s swimsuits gradually began hugging the body, with shoulder straps that could be lowered for tanning.

Hollywood endorsed the new glamour with films such as Neptune’s Daughter (1949) in which Esther Williams wore provocatively named costumes such as “Double Entendre” and “Honey Child”.Williams, who also was an Amateur Athletic Union champion in the 100 meter freestyle(1939) and an Olympics swimming finalist (1940), also portrayed Kellerman in the 1952 film Million Dollar Mermaid (titled as The One Piece Bathing Suit in UK).

 

 

American designer Adele Simpson, a Coty American Fashion Critics’ Awards winner (1947) and a notable alumna of the New York art school Pratt Institute, who believed clothes must be comfortable and practical designed a large part of her wardrobe which included mostly one-piece suits that were considered fashionable even in early 1980s.

This was when Cole of California started marketing revealing prohibition suits and Catalina Swimwear introduced almost bare-back designs.

 

 

 

 

 

Coco Chanel made suntans fashionable,and in 1932 French designer Madeleine Vionnet offered an exposed midriff in an evening gown. They were seen a year later in Gold Diggers of 1933. TheBusby Berkeley film Footlight Parade of 1932 showcases aquachoreography that featured bikinis.

Dorothy Lamour’s The Hurricane (1937) also showed two-piece bathing suits.The 1934 film,Fashions of 1934 featured chorus girls wearing two-piece outfits which look identical to modern bikinis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1934, a National Recreation Association study on the use of leisure time found that swimming, encouraged by the freedom of movement the new swimwear designs provided, was second only to movies in popularity as free time activity out of a list of 94 activities.In 1935 American designer Claire McCardell cut out the side panels of a maillot-style bathing suit, the bikini’s forerunner.The 1938 invention of the Telescopic Watersuit in shirred elastic cotton ushered into the end the era of wool. Cotton sun-tops, printed with palm trees, and silk or rayon pyjamas, usually with a blouse top, became popular by 1939