Let's Talk Vintage Swimsuits

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The Fourth of July creeps closer and closer by the day; temps are finally sweltering. In other words, it’s a great time to look back at the swimsuits of previous decades for a little mood board creation.

Obviously, it’s not a normal summer; crowded pool parties are basically coronavirus stew. But outside is fairly safe, as long as you can maintain social distance. And so, in the spirit of rummaging through the attic, or at least digging through my grandmother’s collection of scarves, here’s a big pile of vintage swimsuits to consider for this year’s beachwear fashion inspiration, whether you’re buying something new or just deciding which of your current suits to don as you hit the waves, or—more likely—step into the kiddie pool.

Senior Editor, Attic Haunter, Jezebel

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For a bit of a goth look, here’s a handknit black tank suit—trimmed with jet beads, plus a shawl. Imperious Edwardian dowager, but casual for the beach. Imagine the wonderful clacking all those beads would make. Never mind how they’ll feel pressing into your butt! By the Mendola Boutique in Rome, July 1964.

Illustration for article titled Lets Talk Vintage Swimsuits
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For a bit more of a mod feel, here’s Mei-Lingg-Chan modeling Emilio Pucci in 1967. The space says “New Look Dior and an organ-squashing girdle” but the swimsuit says “getting on the yacht with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton fully prepared to listen to them argue for two weeks.”

Illustration for article titled Lets Talk Vintage Swimsuits
Image: AP
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Here’s a very different direction, from France. The caption explains: “Models pose in the ‘Neptune’ bride and bridegroom beachwear presented by a Parisian bathing suit designer at his summer collection in Paris, France on May 12, 1966. She wears a bikini in white organdy with floor-length veil and pumps. He wears vinyl swimming shorts and white gloves.” Nothing about this makes sense, except as perhaps some sort of highly specific midcentury fetish, but they do look hot!

Illustration for article titled Lets Talk Vintage Swimsuits
Image: AP
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Pretty sure I considered ordering a swimsuit from Target in this precise pattern earlier this summer, except it had zero boob support. It could be a piece of outdoor furniture from the era—the mid 1960s—but in a nice way? Kinda?

Illustration for article titled Lets Talk Vintage Swimsuits
Image: AP
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Love the simple stripe on Olympic swimmer Lucy Burle in this promo shot.

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Flashing forward a few years, we could also just dedicate an entire slideshow to the many wonderful looks of track and field superstar Florence Griffith Joyner. This swimsuit from 1988 is hitting some very specific nostalgia buttons in my 34-year-old brain.

Illustration for article titled Lets Talk Vintage Swimsuits
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Or maybe you’re feeling more of an aggro 1990s vibe. “Beachwear by Netherland’s ‘Beach Life B.V.’ is shown during a Dessous and Beach fashion show of world biggest fashion fair for spring/summer 1997 collections ‘IGEDO CPD/Dessous’ Sunday morning, August 4, 1996.” For when you want to say: I expect a responsible six feet of personal space and I expect it now—or else.

Illustration for article titled Lets Talk Vintage Swimsuits
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Senior Editor, Attic Haunter, Jezebel

DISCUSSION

millipedevanillipede
MillipedeVanillipede

Loving #5 floral with matching tabi socks and thong wood-soled sandals oh my god. Also the last shot, on the right, 100% ST:TNG.