The Evolution Of The Bikini Reveals The Skimpy Style Wasn’t Always So Popular

See how that’s changed over the years.

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Swimsuit trends come and go, but one style will always remain popular: the bikini silhouette. Ahead, see how the evolution of the bikini has changed over time — you’ll discover several interesting, and surprising, facts.

Monday Swimwear

286 to 305 CE

According to the mosaics that date back to the Diocletian period, women wore two-piece garments that resembled bikinis while exercising. Similar garments were likely worn by women for athletic purposes, too, as far back as 1400 BCE.Peter Thompson/Heritage Images/Getty Images


The 1800s-era swimsuits were bathing gowns — i.e. long dresses that were typically made out of wool and didn’t show much skin. Some of them even had weights sewn into the hems, as to keep the fabric from floating up when submerged in water.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Early 1900s

Bathing costumes were the go-to swimming attire for women. Mariner-inspired styles — with black and white stripes, distinctive large collars, and sometimes even a sailor hat — were particularly popular at the time.ullstein bild/Getty Images


The spirit of the Roaring Twenties had an impact on swimsuits: they became shorter and more form-fitting. Deep boat necks or V-neck styles became popular while the armholes of swimsuits got bigger.Bettmann/Getty Images

1920s to 1940s

Still, law enforcement officials would patrol beaches and measure the distance between a woman’s knee and her bathing suit in some parts of the United States. If the officer felt the woman was showing too much bare skin, she could go to jail.Hulton Archive/Getty Images


In 1946, a French designer (and automobile engineer!) Louis Réard introduced what is now known as the first-ever bikini. His daring two-piece swimsuit was basically a bra top and a bottom, composed of two inverted triangles of cloth connected by a string.Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images


During this decade, designers started using stretchier, faster-drying fabrics in their swimwear pieces. Simultaneously, bikinis became increasingly popular — thanks, in large part, to Brigitte Bardot’s memorable beach moment at the 6th Annual Cannes Film Festival in 1953.Bettmann/Getty Images


Throughout history, bikinis faced widespread bans at beaches in countries like Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Italy. (The swimsuit was deemed too revealing.) What’s more, the controversial garment was declared sinful by the Vatican.Archive Photos/Getty Images


Over time though, bikinis did become a go-to swimwear option for women, especially in America. The growing popularity of the two-piece suit was arguably spurred by actor Ursula Andress, who famously wore one in the 1962 James Bond film Dr. No.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

1970s to 1980s

Daring, eye-catching swimwear was the name of the game during this time. (Proof: the first-ever thong bikini, introduced by the Austria-born American designer Rudi Gernreich in 1974.) Bright neon hues and bold patterns were becoming increasingly popular, too.Helmut Reiss/United Archives/Getty Images


During this time, bikinis gave way to athletic-style one-piece swimsuits (thanks, Baywatch!). Those who continued to wear bikinis in the ‘90s typically opted for bolder, bright-hued options and fun prints.Mirrorpix/Getty Images


In the early aughts, the tankini — a two-piece bathing suit consisting of a tank top and a bikini bottom — was added to the growing selection of two-piece swimwear. American designer Anne Cole is often credited with inventing the first-ever tankini-style bathing suit.TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images


Around this time, swimwear brands championed more body diversity in swimsuit ads and also urged for more inclusive bikini sizing. Labels like Andie, CUUP, and Summersalt offered styles that were designed to fit all body shapes and sizes.Summersalt


Today’s bikini offerings run the gamut, from high-waisted, vintage-inspired designs to cutout, sultry styles to shimmery fabrics. A style to try this season is the backwards triangle top.@osereeswimwear

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