You need not be a history buff to appreciate the evolution of the bikini. Swimwear has come a long way, baby, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Before an itsy-bitsy bikini was even a thing (we’re talking the early 1900s, people!), a conservative one-piece-swimsuit-turned-dress-in-disguise dominated the fashion scene. After many milestones — and with a little help from our fave style icons (think: Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot) — the bikini was officially born. In honor of National Bikini Day, we’re recapping the history of bikini trends with retro-inspired options you can snag for the ultimate beach-babe throwback.
1. Cynthia Rowley for J.Crew Wetsuit ($210): A single-piece costume as worn by Annette Kellermann, an Australian professional swimmer, paved the way for what would eventually become the swimsuit. She ditched the layers of petticoats for a boyish one-piece that made life easier for #fitgirls everywhere. Get the look with this colorful neoprene wetsuit that boasts an ultra-flattering fit perfect for water sports (or just poolside lounging). (Photo via General Photographic Agency/Getty)
2. Duskii Saint Tropez Racer-Back Striped Neoprene Bikini Top ($100) + Striped Neoprene Bikini Briefs ($75): Athletic swimwear continued to dominate the 1920s as actresses like Clara Bow were photographed in what was considered a risqué two-piece set, consisting of a tank top and boy shorts. Honor her sporty style with this orange and navy striped racerback bikini that’s more than ready for your next sweat sesh. (Photo via General Photographic Agency/Getty)
3. Rachel Comey Dive Suit ($288): A transition from purely functional to fashionable swimwear in the 1930s ushered in a slew of open backs, peekaboo cutouts and playful prints. The rise of sleeveless swim dresses and one-pieces gave women the freedom to get their tan on. Though far from racey according to today’s standards, this retro scoop-neck one-piece — complete with a revealing back and intertwined straps, no less — would have been quite the showstopper. (Photo via Reg Speller/Fox Photos/Getty)
4. Betsey Johnson Glam in the Sand Swimsuit Top in Tankini ($80) + Swimsuit Bottom ($80): Sun’s out, bikinis on! Though still modest, the bikini was officially born in the 1940s, as war rationing during WWII called for the use of less fabric — hence the rise of midriff-baring suits. With a focus on figure-flattering silhouettes, high-waisted bottoms and swim skirts replaced full-coverage suits. Sometimes modest is hottest, and you won’t go unnoticed at that upcoming pool party in this ultra femme ruffled tankini top and bottom. The gold-foiled dots, peplum waist and bustier-style top are all a hint of what’s to come in the ‘50s. (Photo via Keystone/Getty)
5. Topshop Contrast Longline Bikini Top + Bottom ($48): Thanks to style icons like Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot, the bombshell look ruled the ‘50s. The addition of frilly ruffles, curve-hugging styles and corseted bikini tops helped women achieve that oh-so desired hourglass silhouette. Channel your inner Marilyn Monroe (or Taylor Swift) with this orange high-waisted bikini that’s equal parts ladylike and sultry. Swan pool float not required, but definitely appreciated. (Photo via L J Willinger/Getty)
6. Kendall + Kylie at Topshop Palm Print Bardot Bikini Top ($48) + Bikini Pant ($35): It wasn’t until the ‘60s that bikinis went mainstream, with noticeably skimpier styles featured in the James Bond film Dr. No, and later on the cover of Playboy. Bikinis during this decade featured vibrant florals, psychedelic prints and geometric designs. Start channeling those island girl vibes with this tropical Bardot-inspired bikini that’s made for hanging by the tiki hut. (Photo via Keystone/Getty)
7. Kiini Yellow Crochet Ro Bikini ($300): Skin, skin, skin! If the previous decades were all about covering up, then the ‘70s were devoted to wearing less and flaunting what you’ve got. Take it from style icons like Farrah Fawcett, who changed the swimsuit game with her itsy-bitsy bikinis and plunging necklines. Another major swimsuit trend in the ‘70s that is so RN? Crochet bikinis! Run, don’t walk, to snag this colorful yellow crochet bikini by Kiini (a celebrity favorite) that pairs nicely with denim cutoffs and lace-up gladiators. (Photo via Hulton Archive/Getty)
8. Triangl Remy Neoprene Bikini in Pastel Blue Floral + Bright Red ($89): Enter the ’80s for all things neon and high-cut, worn with majorly voluminous hair for a look that was truly, truly outrageous (at least according to today’s standards). Add larger-than-life sunnies and an acid washed denim jacket and this bright and beautiful floral Triangl bikini will be ready for a stint in Maui. (Photo via Hulton Archive/Getty)
9. Ban.do Pizza Swimsuit ($99): All thanks to Baywatch, sporty-chic one-piece bathing suits made an appearance once again in the ‘90s along with itty bitty string bikinis (see ya later, high-waisted bottoms!). Do the ‘90s right with this rad pizza suit that screams cool girl by the pool. Pool slides and a visor are obligatory. (Photo via Getty)
10. Kendall + Kylie at Topshop Animal Print Bikini Top ($48) + Bikini Pant ($35): Oh, the ’00s. Or shall we call it the Paris Hilton era of swimwear? If you tuned in to The Simple Life, then you already know string bikinis and matching triangle bikini tops were everything. Throw in some vivid logos, wild leopard prints and a healthy dose of Barbie pink, and you’ve just described ‘00s swimwear to a T. Go ahead and add this playful animal print bikini in neon coral to your summer wardrobe — between the contemporary cutouts and high-rise tanga bikini bottom, you won’t have to worry about making any fashion slip-ups this season. (Photo via Frazer Harrison/Getty)
11. Solid & Striped Gingham Belle Bikini Top ($90) + Bridgette High Waisted Brief ($90): Fast-forward to 2016, and everything old is new again. AKA, if it’s retro, then you best be sporting it this summer. Vintage high-waisted bikini bottoms? Oh yeah — just look to our girl Gigi Hadid for some serious inspo. High-cut bathing suits and structured bustier bikini tops? Totally back. And boho-chic crochet bikinis? You got it. Reach It-girl status with this throwback gingham by Solid & Striped that you can wear for years (and years) to come. (Photo via Dave Lee/Getty)
Which bikini era is your favorite? Follow us on Pinterest for more summer style inspo!
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