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The Evolution of the Bikini

The ladies of today may be perfectly comfortable in their itsy-bitsy, teenie-weenie yellow polka-dot bikinis, but modern swimwear is a far cry from the styles worn by the women of the past. Women's swimwear, specifically bikinis, gives us unique insight into the way women have always used fashion to express themselves and stand up to societal expectations.

Contemporary bikini manufacturers still offer styles that echo the ones worn By the ladies of the past. In fact, vintage inspired bikinis have made a triumphant return in recent years and can be found in a number of major retailers around the globe, both in brick and mortar stores and online shops.

Today, we will be delving into the history of the bikini and its many iterations across the globe and over the years.

1700s: No swimming, only bathing.

Despite what Hollywood films may lead you to believe, swimming was not a popular pastime for our ancestors. Not only were most garments hand sewn in a time-consuming manner, textiles were far heavier than they are today — if the wearer attempted to take a dip wearing them, they would likely end up at the bottom of the water source without a way back up.

However, the 18th century introduced the new trend of sea bathing. People thought that the sea held mysterious health benefits, so men and women alike flocked to the seashore to soak up the salt and sun — but not too much. For modesty’s sake, it was frowned upon for women to jump in and swim, instead wading around at comfortable levels.

18th century sea bathing sparked the earliest iteration of the modern bathing suit, called a bathing gown. Though not much to look at, bathing gowns were a welcome departure from the uncomfortable and stifling womenswear of the day. Instead, bathing gowns more closely resembled women’s undergarments like the shift, featuring loose, flowing fabrics that were comfortable without sacrificing modesty.

1800s: Come on in, the water’s fine!

The sea still beckoned, but this time, swimmers set their sights on having fun. Beaches and watering holes became popular destinations that attracted people from all walks of life. As a result, women wanted to put their best flippers forward, trading the plain style of bathing gown for more fashion forward styles. These evolved into swimming garments that reflected trends of the time while still maintaining modesty. Typically, this looked like a heavy cotton or wool bathing dress with bloomer-style bottoms and stockings beneath.

Near the end of the 1800s, a new type of bathing garment called the Princess suit became the must-have item in every woman’s wardrobe. Instead of multiple, heavy pieces and cumbersome gowns, the Princess suit resembled a jumpsuit, with a long, frilly top sewn to similarly ruffled trousers.

The Princess suit marked a new era in women’s swimwear, paving the way to the modern bikini.

Early 1900s: Showing off a little bit of leg.

The Industrial Revolution ushered in an age of excess, where materials of all types were available at the drop of a hat. Additionally, fashion trends moved quickly in conjunction with the women’s Suffrage movement.

In the 1910s, a company called Jantzen sold woolen suits catered towards rowing teams. At the same time, an Australian company named Speedo began to delve into one piece swimwear.

By the 1920s, one piece swimwear was all the rage for both men and women. Instead of being seen as immodest and shameful, a beautiful swimsuit was perfectly in fashion and could even be seen gracing magazine covers. Within the next 20 years, swimming became a popular method of exercise for women to stay in shape, resulting in swimwear manufacturers churning out new and stylish designs.

1940s - 1950s: The bikini as we know it is officially born

In 1946, french designer Jacques Heim introduced a two piece swimsuit he called the Atome. Though far more modest than modern viewers are used to, this was the first true bikini. Soon after, Louis Réard designed the triangle bra bikini with a pair of high-waisted briefs to match.

These designs were absolutely shocking at the time. Before then, women’s swimwear was designed to hide the body from prying eyes, but the bikini invited them to look and celebrate the female form.

1960s - Onward: Bikinis hit the mainstream market.

The mod era featured an influx of designers, such as Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein, and Giorgio Armani, who offered ready-to-wear swimwear as high-fashion items that were available to the masses.

Since then, the bikini has earned its rightful place on the beach and as a fashion staple. Though there have been many types and styles of bikinis along the way, it is a garment that celebrates women, their bodies, and their freedom to wear whatever they want and be whoever they want — modesty be darned!

Become a part of a powerful legacy and design your very own bikini.

BKage Underwear is the premiere manufacturer for women’s underwear and now bikinis! We have several styles to choose from, like this two piece push up bikini with shorts. If you want something a bit more full coverage, you can also choose more modest options like this one piece swimsuit

Whether you want to design your own line of bikinis featuring your logo or simply want to give your girlfriends a thoughtful personalized gift for your friends, BKage has got you covered. With a wide array of fabric choices, design options, and customization features, you will be sure to create a product you will be happy with.

Reach out to our customer support team at BKage Underwear to get started today!

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