The Evolution of the One Piece Swimsuit

1910 Women's Swimwear

Ever wondered how the one piece swimsuit came into being?

Before the middle of the 19th century there was no notion of the bathing suit – people simply waded into the water in their clothes and bobbed around.

The evolution of the one piece swimsuit into the garment we know today depended on two factors – social mores and technology.

As the notion of the pleasures of swimming grew in popularity, men swam in their long john underwear – heavy knitted woolen combinations, (segregated from the women folk at the other end of the beach) and women dangerously wore huge swimming dresses which were pretty much a slightly simplified version of their street wear.

By the 1890’s the ‘princess suit’ had been devised which was essentially a simple dress worn over ankle length bloomers, not really a swimsuit but slightly less dangerous for the swimmer.

In the early 20th century men swam in light weight wool one piece swimsuits with scoop necks, short sleeves and shorts legs. These were the prototypes for modern womens swimwear.

The one piece swimsuit didn’t change much until the 1930’s when new fibres with stretch and semi water resistant qualities came on the market.

The Dunlop Rubber Company introduced Lastex, a very fine elastic yarn covered with thread, preferably of artificial fibres like Rayon and the modern one piece swimsuit was born – supporting, comfortable, flexible, light weight and glamorous.