Before Bikini: Cool Photos of Women in Swimsuits From the 1930s

The silhouette of the 1930s swimsuit took on direct inspiration from men’s swimsuits (which were still one pieces). Men were encouraged to build a muscular yet lean sportsman’s body. Women also needed to slim down into an athletic body that was tall, lean, and curvy up top to flatter the latest bias cut dresses.


Swimsuits were cut to show off more leg and more back skin than ever before. The thin straps also made the shoulders appear broader and more athletic. It became what we know as the swimsuit today.

In the 1920s, most swimsuits were one solid color only. In the 1930s, a top half and bottom half could each be different colors or have cubist shapes stitched into (or onto) the design for even more color. Belts and decorative ties emphasized the waist. Swimwear was now real fashion.

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