Skip to main content

Vintage Swimsuits for Every Body Type

  • Author:
  • Updated date:
Miss, this suit better not be more than 6 inches above your knee!

Miss, this suit better not be more than 6 inches above your knee!

No, I am not kidding. This is going to be my bathing suit.

No, I am not kidding. This is going to be my bathing suit.

I love it!  I think it's quite fashionable.

I love it! I think it's quite fashionable.

It may be a little excessive, but with my pale skin, blue eyes and freckles, I think the safest route for me in swimwear is going to be vintage. Very Vintage. I’m talking turn of the century completely covered up swimwear. Also, I won’t have any body image issues, because no one will actually SEE my body! This is the perfect bathing suit for all body types. Also, if you’re a modest dresser this could work for you as well. In the 20’s beaches had ordinances that swimsuits on ladies could not be more than six inches above the knee!

When I want to be more fashionable, perhaps to walk the boardwalk or have tea in some seaside café, I can don lovely “Beach Pajamas.” These one-piece wide-legged pants outfits looked more like dresses than pajamas. Beach Pajamas were fashionable among the resort and cruise-going female public of the 1920s and 30s.

Of course, I can’t run down to any old department store and purchase a “Raggedy Ann” swimming ensemble or Beach Pajamas. What I can do, is make it. Luckily there is a wonderful pattern company, Folkwear, which offers both patterns. Patterns run $16.95 and $19.95 respectively on their website, I know some people might laugh when they see me in #253 Vintage Bathing Costume, but I know I’ll look cool, feel cool and most of all, I will not get skin cancer. Oh, yes, I will travel in time to the 1890s for the perfect beachwear.

You look marvelous, darling!

You look marvelous, darling!

Maybe Something More Marvelous?

Ok, so maybe you don’t have the sun issues I have and you want a little more skin exposed and dare I say sexier swimwear. I don’t think anything is sexier than the swimwear of the 1950s. 1950s styles look quite stunning on more curvaceous bathing beauties, but flatter nearly every one.

Corset makers who were losing ground in the lingerie department, found new demand for their skills in swimsuit making. Body conscious styles of the 1950s needed boning, tummy control panels and real bra cups. With all the structural work to lift, flatten and flatter, even imperfect bodies can reach near perfection. Vintage bathing suits have actual zippers to help you in and out of your swimsuit. Modern adaptations of the 1950s styles use modern innovations such as Lycra and spandex to achieve the same effects, but with infinitely more comfort. Look for details such as ruching, ruffles along the bottom, full rear coverage and lower leg opening for a retro look. Halter top styles are very flattering on the well-endowed. If you have a little less up top, look for ruffles on the neckline and bodice for the illusion of a bigger bosom. Some 50s style bathing suits have a slight push-up bra affect as well.

The first two piece was desinged by Carolyn Schnurer in 1931, but it wasn't until 1941, that the two-piece became acceptable.

The first two piece was desinged by Carolyn Schnurer in 1931, but it wasn't until 1941, that the two-piece became acceptable.

Two Piece vs. Bikini

Surprisingly, the two piece bathing suit has been around a lot longer than many would think. As early as the 1930s two-piece bathing suits were available, but not popular until the 1940s. These were more demure and less daring than the bikini, which changed beaches the world over in the 1960s. Older two-piece bathing suits had higher waists; therefore even if your tummy isn’t perfect, but you still want the bikini look, the older two piece might be right for you.

If you are more pear shaped, a mix and match bathing suit is perfect for you. You can pick a bikini top and a flattering skirted bottom. Look for details in the top that will help balance your upper and lower body.

The Bikni

The bikini really took off in 1967 and has been a popular choice for many years. Bikinis come in all variations from relatively modest to “is-she-even-wearing-anything” versions. The bikini you choose is solely up to how comfortable you are in it and how much you are willing to show. If you are relatively small all over, you can probably wear just about any style you like. If you have breasts bigger than a B-cup you are probably going to need bikini tops with more support and coverage, unless you aren’t perturbed by wardrobe malfunctions. If you are a C-cup and larger, again look for halter styles, full coverage, and support. You want to be comfortable and be able to walk on the beach, swim in the ocean, and have some fun. You can’t do any of those things if you are constantly worried about one of the girls popping out.

A little advice from your Aunt Tess . . .

As with any fashion decision or trend there is only one rule.  Wear what makes you happy. Don’t worry about what other people think.  The suggestions here are just that, suggestions. They aren’t rules. They aren’t gospel. It’s just one woman’s advice on what might make you happy and comfortable.  So go get your perfect “Bathing Costume” and meet me at the beach. I’ll save some room for you under my umbrella and share my SPF 1000 with you.


Cecilia on March 04, 2012:

I love it!! 1950's for me!!

Tess45 (author) from South Carolina on June 14, 2011:

Thank you Ebower.

Scroll to Continue

Erin Bower from Georgia on June 13, 2011:

Beautiful suits; I love the old bikini photo!

Tess45 (author) from South Carolina on May 20, 2011:

yehjeon - thanks for the ratings, reading and following me. Vintage looks are very popular right now.

Yena Williams from California on May 20, 2011:

I've been super into vintage lately. I've been looking for a gorgeous bikini with a high-waisted bottom. Rated awesome!

Tess45 (author) from South Carolina on April 15, 2011:


I hope you you have a great time, and stop worrying about looking fat. I bet you look just fine.

Kangatori on April 15, 2011:

Love it T!!!!!! We are going to Adventure island on Saturday,

i need a vintage suit. Maybe it will help not to look so

Tess45 (author) from South Carolina on April 12, 2011:


I know. It's a crying shame. It's either skimpy or inbetween.

graceomalley on April 12, 2011:

I like the vintage bathing suits myself - i just feel more comfortable. Wish more were available. It seems most bathing suits are designed for the prepubscent girl who happens to also be six feet tall and gets professional all over waxing.

Tess45 (author) from South Carolina on April 12, 2011:

Me too. I better order that pattern, and the tent...oh and the 1000SPF sunblock....

Thanks, DiY!

DIYweddingplanner from South Carolina, USA on April 12, 2011:

I'm ready to go beachin' in the jeep now, grea pics and really good hub!

Related Articles