Are You Ready to Suit Up? The History of Swimsuits


Are you ready to dive in and take a look at the history of swim wear?  Swimming has been a popular past time for centuries on end.  Who wouldn’t like to take a refreshing dip on a hot day?  Hopefully during this study we will discover how throughout history swim wear has evolved from modesty-focused suits to suits that are made for the express purpose of exposing the body.  As Christian ladies, is this even a topic that we should worry about?

Let’s begin a few hundred years ago.  In the 1700s, “bathing gowns” were what ladies wore to swim in.  They were made of weighted fabric that did not rise in the water.  Modesty was of utmost importance, and ladies and men did not swim together.  Women rarely swam at all actually, for modesty sake.

In the early 1800s, swimming became an important form of recreation in the United States.  The “Princess cut” was introduced, which included a long blouse and pants in one piece.  Women still refrained from swimming too much, for fear of being immodest.

In 1909, Austrailian Annette Kellerman was arrested in the United States for wearing a one piece suit which included shorts.  By 1910, this style of swimsuit was accepted by the general public.  By 1918, the apron that was worn with swimsuits disappeared.


Image Credit

Annette Kellerman in her infamous swimsuit.  Annette was also the first major actress to appear fully nude onscreen in a scene in The Daughter of the Gods.

This is when swimwear styles really began to move from being modesty-focused to being focused on body shape.   Please note that this directly corresponds to the “Roaring ’20s, where as a sign of rebellion and independence women began bobbing their hair and shortening their skirts.  Although hardly thought of now, bobbing hair along with immodest dress was a sign of rebellion.  Have you ever seen this FIAT television commercial?  (At the end you will see what I mean.) 

In the 1940s, Hollywood actresses began wearing swimsuits in motion pictures.  They became tighter fitting and higher cut.

In 1946, French engineer Louis Reard created the bikini.  He named it after the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll, because it arrived with a “bang.”  When he created the bikini none of the “regular” models would wear it.  He finally hired 19-year-old nude dancer Micheline Bernardini to model the suit.

If you have the time, please take a moment and watch this video of Jessica Rey discussing the history of the bikini.  It is worth the watch!

From this point forward, swimsuits continued to become smaller and smaller.  They became less about modesty and function, and more about showing off the body.  These changes in swimwear corresponded to the sexual revolution and the feminist movement, which were also sparked by rebellion.

In our current day and age, we rarely consider why we wear certain things.  Our clothing and swimsuit styles are fueled by current trends without giving much thought as to if these “trends” are glorifying to the Lord or not.  Sisters, we should be striving to glorify the Lord in all that we do!

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  -1 Corinthians 10:31

Most of the swimsuits styles that we embrace today were born from a spirit of rebellion.  Proverbs 17:11 says, “An evil man seeks only rebellion, and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.”  Rebellion is from the evil one, who would like nothing more than to deceive us.  We must be watchful.

Please join me back here next week.  We will be discussing if we are letting our culture or the Word of God dictate our convictions.  If you missed the introduction of this series, you can take a look at it here.

(Please note that I’m not suggesting that we do not cut our hair or go back to wearing bathing gowns!  Hopefully this post will help you to determine your own swimsuit convictions in relation to our culture today while using Biblical discernment.)

I pray that the Lord will be glorified through this series.  Modesty is so very important to Him.  It is something that we must consider as Christian women.  I’ve gone through a radical modesty transformation over the past three years, the heart change that the Lord has given me has truly been incredible.  Sometimes going against the grain of society is tough!  I praise God that His grace is always sufficient.

Also, this week everything in my etsy shop, Joyfully Made is 30% off with the coupon code MEMDAY30.  I’ve got clearance applique shirts and tutus, a bit of wall art, and fun printables (including new handwriting ones) available.  If  you order, please remember to use the coupon code during checkout.



Possibly linking to:  

Growing Home, Tending the Home Tuesdays, Raising HomemakersDeep Roots At HomeRaising ArrowsA Wise Woman Builds Her Home ,Walking Redeemed, A Proverbs 31 WifeThe Modest MomA Mama’s StoryMom’s the Word , Raising Mighty ArrowsHearts For Home,  Time Warp Wife, Graced Simplicity, Christian Mommy BloggerFaith Filled Fridays


20 thoughts on “Are You Ready to Suit Up? The History of Swimsuits

  1. Jane says:

    This is a beautiful post that I found on Proverbs 31 link up. I find it so sad that while we need to teach our children to swim, the beach can be a harmful place. It makes me long for family time away from the crowds of people, like small swimming streams and out of the way places to go.


  2. Rachel G says:

    I certainly agree with the idea that bikinis do not come from a point of looking at what is most practical to wear when swimming! All the horror stories I’ve heard of bikinis falling off while swimming show me that they’re actually pretty impractical, too!


  3. Trisha says:

    I’ve watched that Jessica Rey clip several times before and the thing that always stands out to me is that what we women want (being loved and respected for who we are) is the opposite of what we get when we dress immodestly (being viewed as a sex object rather than a person with feelings) It’s just like my mom always told me as a girl, being modest in dress and behavior may not make you the most popular girl around, but it will attract the right kind of man (generous, committed, respectful). She was so right:)


  4. Priscila says:

    Great information about swimsuit origins. Sometimes we accept things in our lives and don’t even know the origin of it. I wished I could live in that time where modesty was the rule of the society. Things are so crazy, we need to pray for our godly men. It’s not easy for them.


  5. Elizabeth says:

    It is so important to be modest, but often so difficult today. You have to really look to find a modest suit. And, sometimes the modest ones are “granny” or “old fashioned”. I am so happy for the chic ones that are coming out. I think that the old fashioned look is kinda cute. Thank you! We all need to champion modesty!


  6. lyss says:

    Her points were great(speaking of the video). But I personally don’t think her swimsuits are modest. They are just one piece suits as opposed to two piece. So they cover the belly, but other than that, they don’t cover more than underwear. Maybe this wouldn’t fly with some, but wearing boy’s swim shorts(many can be found quite girly with cute hibiscus flowers!) and a t-shirt or rash guard style shirt is much more modest. We always wore t-shirts as kids to protect from sunburn, now we wear them for modesty. We have also made skirts out of swimwear materiel with slim shorts underneath, and that is really nice, too.
    I do not mean to downplay this article, since it’s very informative! I assume that you also have higher modesty standards and were not necessarily advocating the speaker’s products. I just thought I’d share my 2 cents in hopes it may help someone who is needing ideas for modest swimwear!


    • Nicole says:

      I don’t think that most of her products are very modest either, I was sharing the clip for her speech about bikinis. 🙂


  7. WholeHearted Home Judith Kowles says:

    This is a really thorough discussion on bathing suits. I researched about them around 14 years ago. I used to collect pictures of styles from the turn of the century. They always used to be black and the women wore dresses over the leggings that came to their knees. I remember a picture of my grandparents in swimwear. Their whole bodies were covered. Even the men wore long black leggings and a black undershirt type of thing. My mother was the youngest in her family and I am next to the last, so that’s why my grandparents go waay back.


  8. Nan says:

    I can’t even imagine swimming in some of those costumes. I would drown, lol! We have taken our kids to water parks before and I have seen mothers wearing brief bikinis with lots of cleavage showing in front of their children and teenagers, and it’s just not something that I would be comfortable wearing in front of MY sons, less much other men. I just believe my children neither want nor need to see me in a bikini or brief swimsuit!

    Thanks for linking up to Making Your Home Sing Monday!


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