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Memorial Day: A Few Words On The Bikini

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Memorial Day is today, which is the unofficial start of summer and… bikini season. Do you need advice for getting bikini ready? “If you want to know how to get a bikini body, then put a bikini on your body.” So true.

I came across this set of photos on the The Weather Channel. Fashion has changed, hasn’t it? Even though seaside activities are still de rigueur during summer, the things, thongs, and full bottoms we wear while hanging out on the sand are not the same. But isn’t it interested that the garment most closely associated with the beach didn’t exist before 1900?

Vacations to the shore started in the late 1800s when railroads made it easy for the bourgeoisie to travel to the beach. By 1900, resorts sprouted and shortly after, water activities such as swimming and diving became popular. To support these types of activities, functional swimwear that hugged a woman’s figure was created. Also contributing to the invention of the swimsuit was Annette Kellerman. In a really cool article, Christina Black writes about how “the Australian Mermaid,” who was a competitive swimmer, diver, model, actress, stuntwoman, and professional mermaid in vaudeville and movies, sewed stockings onto a man’s racing suit. One day, she showed up on a Boston beaching baring her legs, which shocked people and the authorities. She was arrested and in court, she explained that she “may as well be swimming in chains.”

As stretch fabrics and manufacturing products were created and improved over the decades, swimsuits became smaller and smaller. My dad emailed me about a family vacation to the keys this summer and in his email, he wrote, “summer is coming; bathing suit time!” I’m excited about the trip but also worried – when I looked at some of the options for bathing suits nowadays, I’m most afraid of my butt hanging out.

I’ll end with a reference to a great article about an almost 60-year old woman’s opinion on bathing suit shopping. Describing her body, Roz, the author of the article, writes  “So I’ve got great muscle tone … for a woman who is almost 60. And who once gave birth to a 9-pound baby. And who has had an endometrioma the size of a grapefruit surgically removed from her body through a tiny incision near her belly button. You get the picture. I look great. For my age.” When she went on a trip and forgot her bathing suit, Roz and her husband went to a local sporting goods store for a new suit. There was no place for her husband to sit so he went into the dressing room with her. I let Roz tell you the rest of the story (excerpt is from the article)…

“Can Mark come in with me?” I asked a passing saleswoman.

“Why not?” she said.

Mark parked himself on the dressing room’s bench as I wiggled in and out of a half-dozen Speedos. Although well aware that the harsh florescent light highlighted every physical flaw and imperfection, I knew Mark wouldn’t see it like that.

Men’s minds just aren’t wired that way. There wasn’t a chance that he was thinking, “That underarm flab is such a shame.” Instead, he’d be thinking, “Yowza! She’s taking off her clothes! And she’s putting on Spandex!”

“This is great!” Mark enthused. He’d never been in a dressing room while his sweetie tried on swimwear. “You look terrific!” he said, with each new suit I tried on.

If my younger self could have glimpsed the image reflected in that dressing room mirror, and seen what her future self would look like, she would have thought, “Shoot me now!”

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9 Comments

  1. Reply

    Ginger

    These suits are so fun!

  2. Reply

    Melissa Esplin

    I love the suits! Each of these women are complete Bettys. My philosophy on the bathing suit forever changed after we went to Brazil for a month. I saw all sorts of shapes and sizes in the string bikini while we were there. I realized that these women were dressing in bikinis because that’s the dress code. The majority saw it functionally, not fashionably or sexually.

    It just made me think about the things I scrutinize on my body and how I should just go to the pool wearing whatever feels comfortable and just ignore all that. No one else really cares (or should).

    BTW, I think you would L-O-V-E the Parker Barker line at LimeRicki.com. I have one of their suits from a couple of years ago, and their fit and construction can’t be beat and they have great coverage with their bottoms. I especially love the shorts. They’re incredibly comfortable.

  3. Reply

    Kelly

    This history of swimwear is so interesting! These photos are great.

  4. Reply

    anto

    How interesting seeing the way in which swimwear began and how it has developed over the decades.
    My absolute favorite quote from the article was: “Not bad for a chick with an AARP card.” What a great read, thanks for sharing!

  5. Reply

    Stephanie

    Oh it’s so interesting to see how swimwear developed. I love the old photos. Some of those suits are crazy!

  6. Reply

    Bec Stitches

    Nice, ooh I love the black and white stripes one and the Mrs claus looking suit 😉 Great article, wish I had that much confidence!

  7. Reply

    Angela

    I recently laid by the pool at the Ace hotel in Palm Springs and was happy to see all shapes and sizes roaming around in their swim suits. It made me feel more comfortable in my own skin (and my bikini). Of coarse, I am never without a good cover up!

  8. Reply

    Sarah Mc.

    Perhaps having the husband along helps the process. Well, more than one process. 😉

  9. Reply

    Amy

    I love these photos! I have been to beaches or places where bikinis are just de rigueur regardless of body or age, and I wondered why I was fretting about it so much. But I totally laughed at the story of the woman and her husband’s response in the dressing room. I’ve been there–it’s so true!

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