The hope-filled years of the 50s came with more enthusiasm for the good life; days in the sun and sand. Swimwear was becoming scanter each decade, and the coming of the bikini was perhaps one of the most ‘scandalous’ happenings in 50s fashion. The French socialite crowd was the biggest influencers of swimwear fashion, thanks to the popularity of the French Riviera among the upper class of Europe and America. Hot pics of Hollywood stars such as Brigitte Bardot and Rita Hayworth further pushed the popularity of swimwear designs.
The one-piece swimsuit was the main trend up to the late 40s before the craze for the 2-piece swimsuit picked up and the bikini became the hottest in the style of the 50s swimsuits. Fashion designers experimented with different materials with polyester and acrylic being preferred for their quick-drying properties. Other materials that emerged included Lastex, and Speedo (a blend of wool and cotton). Here are some of the swimsuit styles that trended in the 50s.
50s Princess bathing suit
This was the classic swimsuit of the 50s. it was sheath-like, with a short pencil skirt, and a sweetheart neckline. The short skirt covered the bottom for modesty purposes. It usually came with shoulder straps, which were worn when walking on the beach, and removed when swimming. It shaped the midriff using ruching, which made it look good on everybody. A zipper on the back helped to curve the shape more.
1950s Bubble swimsuit
This was a version of the princess swimsuit, but with a puffy short instead of a short sheath skirt. The puffiness was an ‘aid’ to make the hips look curvier. Older women preferred a style with layers of ruffles that looked less ridiculous.
50s Baby doll swimsuit
This was yet another version of the princess swimsuit, but with brief boy shorts instead of a sheath skirt. Some styles had wide flat shoulder straps but most were bare-shouldered. They were variedly decorated with ruffles, piping trim, and small pockets. Some had cuffs on the shorts. Some designs in the late 50s had gathers at the sides of the shorts.
Knitwear swimsuit made a comeback in the late 50s in the baby doll swimsuit. These knit swimsuits were lined with non-stretchy material to prevent sagging when wet. Some synthetic material designs were textured and made to look like knitwear.
1950s Ballerina swimsuit
This was a modest 2-piece bathing suit that had a square top with a halter or V-neck, and a short circle skirt with shorts attached. Some versions were had an inner lining that also acted as some kind of panties. The top was decorated with trim on the bust to pull the eyes to this area instead of the waist area. The ballerina swimsuit was popular with plus size and older ladies as they were more conservative in that era.
Bikini for 1950s Women
Not all versions of the bikini were brief and scandalous for the 50s. The earlier version was a 2-piece swimsuit with a bottom that came up the waist to cover the navel. The top could be a tube top or a strapless bra top that covered much of the bust area. The brief version with only triangular pieces emerged in the hedonistic French riviera. It made waves and became a hit in Europe before being gradually accepted in America.