ESC, History of the Swim Suit

You can run but you can't hide…from swimwear season.

As thousands flock to the beaches, lakes or anywhere you can soak up the sun (with SPF, of course), you're bound to notice that something looks a bit familiar. Cut-outs, retro silhouettes, monokinis—we're seeing a modern-day revival of history's best made-for-the-water looks.

To find out how we got to this super-sexy state of swim, let's look back at the pieces that kept afloat in a sea of trends.

ESC, History of the Swim Suit

In the 19th century, women wore long bloomers under heavy, wool smocks and dresses. Probably not the best scenario for poor swimmers, but at least the pieces were often accentuated with bows and ribbon trim…so there's that.

In the early 1900s, Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman was arrested for showing too much skin in her swimsuit. She subsequently added coverage for her arms, legs and collar to the suit but kept its body-hugging silhouette. Although opposed by conservative groups, the "Annette Kellerman" style remained popular among women.

ESC, History of the Swim Suit

French designer Louis Reard is credited for bringing the two-piece invention known as the bikini to the masses. No working model would wear his skimpy design, so the creative recruited an exotic dancer to debut his new suit.

Late ‘50s
Though it was starting to get popular to wear two-pieces, the bottom half remained on the conservative side, starting at or just below the navel. Today, this style has seen a major resurgence with celebrities like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.

ESC, History of the Swim Suit

Nowadays, a monokini is often thought of as a sexy one-piece with both top and bottom coverage. However, in the ‘60s, a monokini was actually a topless one-piece first created by designer Rudi Gernreich to stick it to society.

What Lycra lifeguard suits did for the TV cult-followed show Baywatch will never be fully appreciated. Yasmine Bleeth and Pamela Anderson know what we're talking about. The show did however usher in a new fascination with thongs.

ESC, History of the Swim Suit

The thong movement wasn't relegated to South Beach or spring break. After recording artist Sisqo dropped his chart-topper "Thong Song," it was a full-fledged fad.

Nowadays, with labels like Mara Hoffman and L*Space, as much thought and creative decision goes into designing a bathing suit as a ready-to-wear piece. Designers are taking motifs from the past—acid wash, neon, geometric prints—and modernizing them with current silhouettes.

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