1920s Bathing Suits: Then vs. Now

Ever wondered what happened to those cumbersome, heavy, unflattering swimsuits of the 1920s? Yeah, us either. Bathing suits have come a long, long way since the 1920s, and for that, we’re forever grateful.

While there are a couple of design factors that we like about bathing suits from the 20s, we’re happy to say that swimwear, in general, has morphed into something that is comfortable all day long, and that is flattering on any body type.

In this post, we’re diving into all the differences and similarities between 1920s bathing suits and the bathing suits we all love today. Get ready to take a step back into time on this one, and hold onto your swim caps.

The History of 1920s Bathing Suits

If you didn’t know already, bathing suits in the 1920s weren’t the most comfortable. Not only that, but they didn’t look at all like bathing suits today. 1920s swimwear for women was made of wool. Yep, you heard that right. These wool bathing suits were much more modest, and there were even rules about how high they were cut on your legs.

We value fashion as much as comfort these days, but in the 1920s, fashion wasn’t always taken into account, unless you were thinking about which accessories to pair with your wool swimsuit. Functionality was the most thought about quality when it came to swimwear during these years.

A little later on in the 20s, swimsuits for women did begin to change. We started seeing more form-fitting styles and the colors got a bit brighter. Swim caps were also all the rage during this time and were used to accessorize the look while keeping those bob hairstyles in shape.

Key Style Notes of the 1920s

Bathing suit styles didn’t stay the same for very long. Even in the 1920s, there were style evolutions over and over again. For instance, the once uncomfortable, stiff wool bathing suits soon turned into more comfortable ribbed jersey bathing suits that were much better to swim and lounge in.

The bathing suits that once covered every inch of a woman’s body morphed into what we recognize as normal bathing suits. In the mid to late 1920s, bathing suits had a v-neck and were form-fitting and higher cut on the leg. Women said goodbye to their bathing suit lengths being monitored at the beach.

Other style notes would be the love of sewing a tank-style top to a pair of vibrant bottoms in order to look like a two-piece. Women also added belts to their swimsuits and loved being able to show some more skin in the heat of the summer.

All About Accessories

Just like we wear certain accessories with our bathing suits today, they were also all the rage in the 1920s. Although, the types of accessories that women wore with and on their bathing suits in those years were quite a bit different style-wise, and seemed a little bit more uncomfortable as well.

Interested in learning more about what kinds of accessories were worn with swimsuits in the 1920s? We’ve put together a list of all the main and notable things that were worn from head to toe during those times. Take a look.

Swim Caps

You’ve heard us mention these before, and we’re sure you already know what we’re talking about. People have been wearing swim caps for a long time and continue to do so. We know and appreciate swim caps today for their ability to keep our hair dry as we get in the ocean or pool.

You’ll also see professional swimmers wearing swim caps for that same reason. Swim caps are worn to keep the hair dry, and they also help with speed while swimming competitively. Of course, swim caps in the 1920s weren’t worn for those reasons.

Back in the 20s, swim caps were all about style and keeping women’s bob haircuts in place. So, there are similar reasons they were worn, but they looked a bit different and were chosen to match those bathing suits.

Swim Belts

Have you ever heard of a swim belt? These are a more interesting swim accessory. In the 1920s, it was not uncommon to see women sporting swim belts, which were worn to keep a two-piece swimsuit from floating up while in the water. These were usually white or colored to match the bathing suit itself.

Bathing Shoes

Otherwise known as swim shoes or bathing boots, these were worn to keep women’s feet safe from rough rocks and sand, and for walking in general. Dressing for the beach or pool during this time was similar to going out anywhere else. While today we’re comfortable in our swimsuits and a pair of flip flops, those in the 1920s were more covered and ready to walk anywhere in their bathing shoes.

Swimsuits Today

It’s no surprise that the bathing suits we wear today show more skin than they used to, and the materials are much more wearable and comfortable for those long hot days on the beach or by the pool. We’re lucky to be able to have tons of options when it comes to styles, fabrics, and no restrictions as far as cuts and lengths are involved.

Along with changing styles and materials comes a change within industries revolving around swimwear. By that, we’re talking about film and photography. As bathing suits have evolved, so have the ways that these industries capture them and why. You’ll see this in shows like Baywatch, and even in swimsuit competitions among pageants.

Similarities Between Today’s Swimsuits and the 1920s

The comments above lead us to the question, how are bathing suits from the 1920s similar and different from the ones we know and love today? Like other sections of the fashion world, styles and designs are often inspired by those of the past, and this applies to swimwear, too.

You’ll see similarities between these two eras of bathing suits in their shapes and even colors. Today, we still love our swimsuits to be form-fitting and flattering on all figures. Not only that, but certain styles come and go as far as popularity goes, and we’re seeing more rich blues and blacks and whites being put into designs again.

One of the similarities that we still admire and wear with confidence today is a swim dress. These have been popular for as long as swimsuits have been worn, just in different ways. Today, our swim dresses are a bit more comfortable and breezy for the ultimate day of walking, swimming, and lounging.

Differences We Love

While there are similarities between bathing suits in the 20s and today, there are also quite a few differences that we love even more. An obvious difference that we can’t not mention is the fact that we no longer have to be wary of our swimsuit lengths being monitored while we’re out and about.

We also want to note that there is much more room for designing swimsuits that are what women actually want to be wearing. Styles are influenced by what is comfortable, practical, and stylish. While this was somewhat the case in the 20s, swimsuits were also designed with what was socially acceptable at the time, as well.

With these changes comes gorgeous and easy-to-wear bathing suits like our bandeau bathing suits. These can be worn in so many different colors, patterns, and styles, and we love how comfortable they are all day long. The best part is, you don’t have to worry about wearing a swim belt to keep them together while you swim anymore.

Keep the Comfort

All this to say, it’s awesome to look back at all the ways styles of bathing suits have changed and influenced the styles we love to wear now. Bathing suits in the 1920s were much different, from stockings and heavy fabrics with bathing boots to higher cut two-piece suits.

There are some beautiful bathing suits to look back on and admire, but we’re also glad we have the comfort of wearing any style we want these days. Feel free to be as modest as you’d like, or not. There won’t be anyone on the sand checking how far down your bathing suit comes, so throw on that comfy suit and relax to your heart’s content.


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