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Clothing for swimming From the 1970’s to Today

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Clothing for swimming was made out of nylon and Lycra, much like today’s suits by the second half of the 20th century. The fabric combination allowed suits to fit snugger and dry faster. Designs also became much more risqué. Swimwear became more sexy and started showing off more skin.

Tiny bikinis, cut-outs, and even sheer swimsuits were popular in the 70’s. In 1974, the thong was introduced. It was first worn in Rio de Janeiro and St. Tropez and quickly caught on elsewhere.

Farrah Fawcett sparked a trend in 1976 by wearing a lowcut, red, one-piece suit. It became a defining fashion moment of the decade. Today, that swimsuit hangs at the Smithsonian Museum.

As clothing for swimming moved into the 80’s and 90’s, high-cut legs became popular, as well as bold, bright colours and patterns.

The popularity of Baywatch in the 90’s gave rise to the trend of high-cut one-pieces with a low tank-style neckline. The red one-piece is now an iconic swimwear look.

iconic '80 swimwear
The iconic red one piece

The 90’s was also the beginning of the mix-and-match trend. With different colours, prints and styles, this finally acknowledged that women were all shaped differently, and allowed them to customize how their suit fit.

This was also the decade that introduced the tankini. Anne Cole is credited with having popularized the style in 1997, giving people the freedom of a two-piece with the coverage of a one-piece. The style became hugely popular in the 2000’s.

As swimwear moved into the 2000’s it has become more about improving upon what already exists. Retro trends have been strong and many styles from previous years coming back as trends.