Retro Swimsuits of the 1940s and 1950s

retro one piece swimsuitStarting in the mid 1920’s swimwear started to loose its modesty. By the 1940’s and 1950’s  skin was revealed in all sorts of new places. Instead of looking at swimsuits as sportswear women’s swimsuits became fashion statements.  What makes these retro swimsuits styles popular today is their modesty, character, and flattery on all body types. The full coverage tops, high waists, and butt shaping skirts makes vintage style swimsuits an item every vintage loving gal should own.

1940’s Swimsuits

The 1940’s one piece bathing suit came in all type of materials. Cotton, rayon, knits and jersey. Depending on the material they fit snugly or a little loose, especially around the legs where they formed a cute little flat skirt (this skirt, also called an apron, hid your lady parts and rear end.) Even the scandalous new two piece Bikinis featured skirt bottoms and a high waist. By high I mean above your belly button. The naval wasn’t revealed in swimwear until the 1960’s. The high waist and stiff, non stretchy material, helped women maintain the ideal hour glass shape. Even the swimsuit tops started to have built-in bra cups to give shape and lift to a lady’s chest.

There we1940's swimsuit two piecere several styles of swimsuit tops in the 1940’s.  The Halter top style provide enough support that a bra cup wasn’t needed. The straps were thick and the coverage even thicker. Even on the beach cleavage wasn’t welcome. Usually between the top and bottom Bikini there was no more than 2 inches of exposed skin. Other top styles were the V neck with thin spaghetti straps or the bandeau with thin straps tied around the neck or crossed in the back. Since backs were not considered shameful swimsuits expose as much as they could.

Popular swimsuit colors were patriotic blues and reds followed by florals and even polka dots. Read even more about 1940s swimsuit history here. 


1940’s Bikini, Ruched, and V Swimsuits

1950’s Swimsuits

retro swimsuits

1950’s Swimsuits

By the 1950’s swimsuit materials had more stretch and modesty fell a little bit more. Instead of straps holding up your top, swimsuits were completly strapless by the mid 1950’s. One piece suits still had the full hip coverage but with a skirt on the front only. In the 1940’s fabric was rationed so swimsuits were made from one piece of flat material only. By the 1950’s layers were in. Swimsuits were ruched, pleated, ruffled and wrapped in material. Color choices were plentiful too with solids, stripes, plaids, small patterns and a mix of patterns appearing on the same swimsuit.

retro siwmsuit pinupThe biggest fad in 1950’s retro swimsuits was the infusion of tropical and exotic prints. Traveling was a popular new hobby and bringing back the designs from a far away paradises was in vogue.

The one piece swimsuit with the sides cut out was a popular compromise between  a one and two piece suit. The halter neck had a deep V and generally was too revealing for most 50’s women.

Read even more about 1950s swimsuits here. 

A Retro Swimsuit Fit for You

This season retro style swimwear is hitting the mainstream. Store’s like Macy’s are carrying Jantzen swimsuits in retro ruched designs. Specialty retro vintage swimsuit designers are also beefing up their stock for summer.. Buying a vintage swimsuit online is like buying shoes- fit is everything and not every suit will fit you well. Use this quick guide to find a vintage swimsuit that flatters your body type best:

retro 1950s swimsuitApple Shape: A one piece suit will be your best look. Low neckline, thin straps, lots of gathers pulling to one side will accentuate your shape nicely. If you want a two piece suit choose one with a halter top and skirted bottom with bows or ties to add interest to your chest.

retro bathing suitPear Shape: One piece suits with lots of ruching, bows, ties, or other neckline accents will help you feel confident on the beach. You will really like bold prints and darker colors. A little extra padding in the bra area can’t hurt either.

retro swimsuitStraight Shape: A two piece bikini has your shape written all over it. Add padding to your top if you are small chested or add bows and ties to give the illusion of volume. Bottoms with short ruffled skirts are a better choice then low leg, high hipped shorts. Go for the “girly” cute look and you’ll always have fun at the pool.

1950s swimsuitHour Glass: You can pull off a one piece or two piece. If you go with a one piece then look for one that emphasizes an open chest with contrast trim piping. For a two piece try a bandeau top and high waist bottoms. Retro swimsuits are made for your body.

Now you can shop. Check our these retro 40’s and 50’s style swimsuits from around the web:



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