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The Blue & Gray Press | September 24, 2018

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It’s itty-bitty and has lots of history

Women in the 1950s run along a beach while wearing more revealing suits.

Women in the 1950s run along a beach while wearing more revealing suits.

By LAURA MORRIS

 

It is that time of year again, when the nights get longer, the weather gets warmer and the clothing gets skimpier. For the ladies, summer also brings a frantic phase of trying to tone and tighten our bodies to fit into that timeless summer ensemble: the bikini.

Believe it or not, this newfound obsession with trying to look acceptable in a swimsuit that barely covers our goods was not always a woman’s main summer goal. So what is the deal? Where did this fascination with the bikini come from? The truth is, women have been dreaming of bikinis for quite some time.

Over 3,000 years ago, female athletes were depicted in various Greek urns and mosaics wearing two-piece outfits and revealing a good amount of skin, according to an article by LIFE magazine. The idea of the swimsuit, however, was much less revealing during its early stages.

Starting in the 1880s, the bathing suit was all about full coverage and looking modest in the eyes of male spectators. These suits were made to resemble the dresses of the time and included both sleeves and long skirts.

Liberation was yet to come when women took on swimsuits made of curve-hugging fabric in 1920. These suits had tank-top straps and a skirt that could be no more than six inches above the knee to be in compliance with most city ordinances, according to an article in ELLE magazine. It was not until the 1940s that women were finally able to embrace their bodies and show a little skin.

In 1946, French engineer Louis Réard and fashion designer Jacques Heim teamed up to give women their first glimpse at the modern-day bikini, according to an article written in celebration the bikini from LIFE. This brand-new trend took off rapidly as Réard marketed his bikini with the idea that a bathing suit was not a true bikini unless both pieces could be pulled through a wedding ring.

Women began to embrace this new kind of freedom in the hopes of looking confident and attractive. From the 1960s to the 1990s, the swimsuit was about showing off every curve of the female body with tiny pieces, low and high cut bottoms and adjustable straps and ties made to give women the perfect fit. Although the newest trend did not leave much room for improvement, designers of today still manage to present women with newer models that they feel they must strive to fit onto their bodies.

As the swimsuit evolved, society’s perception of its use also changed. The suit changed from a form of liberation, to a must-wear summer look that dictates the shape of a woman’s body.

However, as the summer progresses, don’t forget embrace the body you work so hard to preserve.