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July 6, 2021

Vintage Photos That Defined Bathing Suits of the 1930s

While the 1920s started the trend for leisure activities like swimming, it was economic changes in the 1930s that made swimming a pastime for everyone — not just those lucky enough to live near a beach. Cheap entry prices made swimming an affordable diversion for weekend fun.

The silhouette of the 1930s swimsuit took on direct inspiration from men’s swimsuits (which were still one pieces). Bathing suits in the early 1930s changed little from the 1920s styles. Some now had striped tops like men’s swimwear had and others had much lower backs. Appliques of sea-life, anchors, and birds gave simple swimsuits some charm.

Previously, all-wool swimsuits looked fine dry but sagged terribly when wet. With less sag, thinner material, and a stiffer stretch to it, Lastex made it possible for designers to build in support for women — namely girdles and light bras. This helped women of all shapes look and feel better in swimwear. Lastex could be also made of cotton or Rayon, which was also more comfortable against the skin than wool.

Ribbed wool, Zephyr silk-wool, worsted wool, and ribbed cotton were all still used through the 1930s. Most swimsuits were lined in a soft cotton jersey for comfort.

Here below is a set of vintage photos that show what bathing suits looked like from the 1930s.


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