“Swimsuit season.” Each summer, these words strike fear into the hearts of post-pubescent pool and beach goers around the world. But long days of sunshine didn’t always mean showing as much skin as possible. These vintage photos of old-timey swimsuits show a simpler time, when cuts were plentiful and fabrics were sensibly black. The earliest photographs of swimwear, from the prude Victorian Era, depict “bathing costumes” that were the picture of modesty: a knee-length top, ankle-length drawers, all in shapeless wool or flannel. It wasn’t until the 1910s that one-piece suits became acceptable for women – and even then, the form-fitting “swimming tights” had long arms, long legs, and, occasionally, a collar. Over time, necklines receded and arms were exposed. One summer, a glimpse of a knee. A few years later, a tanline as high as mid-thigh. Escándalo!
Still, even under yards of sopping wet wool (body-hugging nylon wasn’t in vogue until the 1930s), the subjects of these early swimsuit pics look to be having F-U-N. A century ago, families visited the beach together. Couples waded in the surf. Gal pals rode bikes and buried each other in the sand and played leapfrog on the pier. When the camera came out, everyone did silly poses. That’s endearing, right? A good reminder that there is no such thing as a perfect beach body, but the beach is always a great place to be, no matter what you’re wearing. Enjoy these pics of old swimsuits from the 1890s to the 1930s while eating whatever your little heart desires.