From the 19th century to the 1960s, vintage swimwear is sexier, weirder (and advertised in weirder ways) than you'd think. Now that summer is finally, officially here, we've compiled some of the best, and most surprisingly sexy swimsuits from thoughout time.
Raquel Welch in the cheeseball classic One Million Years, B.C.
A stunt man prepares to perform his escape at the New York World's Fair (1939-1940)
This eerie looking illustration is actually from a set of cigarette cards titled "How To Swim." The series came in both men and women's versions. Cigarette cards were miniature cards issued with packs of tobacco products in order to stiffen the box and advertise the tobacco product brand. Although once ubiquitous, cigarette cards were discontinued during World War II due to paper shortages. Most cigarette cards featured celebrities and athletes.
Photograph of Claire Anderson and Rose Carter, 1918. Note the proto-flapper style and the lace up swimming shoes.
Rudi Geinrich swimsuit, originally published in Go See magazine (1964). Geinrich was an avant-garde swimwear designer famous for inventing the 'monokini' — essentially a topless bikini or a one-piece with visible breasts. Two variations of Geimrich's monokinis are featured below.
Swimwear designed by Rudi Gernreich
Model in exercise ring (1946). From Australia National Maritime Museum.
Clip from an article originally printed in New York Fashion Bazar (June, 1983). The text on the border says, "Mamma says it is all very well to take the girls to bathe, but if Alice, who has just gone in for swimming lessons, continues to go in for these Beckwithian antics, it is just possible that people might begin presently, some time, to quite stare!" Snap.
This 1907 swimsuit is responsible for the arrest of Annette Kellerman, an Australian "underwater ballerina" (a type of synchronized swimming that involves diving into glass tanks). Kellerman was arrested on the charge of indecent exposure because her suit showed arms, legs, and neck. It wasn't until the 1930s that swimwear became less conservative.
From Godey's Lady's Book (1868). Mid-nineteenth century swimwear may have been conservative, but it was more varied than you might think. Here, “bathing dresses” come with different cuffs, collars, patterns, belts and sleeve length.
Woman waterskiing at the New York World's Fair (1939-1940).
This chain link swimsuit is by French-born Danish designer JeanVoigt (1968). The collection debuted at "San Francisco Night" at the famous Parisian Night Club.
According to the Australian National Maritime Museum, these men's one-piece suits were developed from men’s and boy’s knitted underwear and rowing suits, which were a common sight in the early 1900s.
Brigitte Bardot in Manina La Fille Sans Voile (1952), released in the United States as Manina, The Girl in the Bikini. This one was too beautiful to leave out.