The fashion industry has seen incredible changes in swimwear styles over the years. From Jane Russell’s one-piece swimsuit to Kim Kardashian’s thong style, there has been a remarkable evolution. In the 1950s, we started with modest one-pieces with boyshort bottoms and gradually moved towards high-waisted bottoms and halter neck bikini tops.
Every year, the fashion industry introduces new trends, whether it’s solid colors, prints, neons, or muted shades. Trends are set by models and actresses, and interestingly, some styles that faded away make a comeback after a few years. The journey of swimsuit styles over the decades has been truly inspiring, and we’re here to take you on a nostalgic trip down memory lane.
So, which era do you belong to? Were you a fan of the tiny bikinis popular in southern California, or did you prefer the low-waisted sarong style? We have delved into the past and selected the iconic swimsuit styles that dominated each year. Read on to discover the style that was in vogue during the year you were born!
If you believe that showing skin with cutout two-piece swimsuits is the only way to highlight a woman’s curves, think again. In 1956, Jane Russell shattered that notion and became a trendsetter. She confidently rocked a covered one-piece bathing suit, proving to the world that modest swimsuits can be just as sexy and stylish.
This is the year when the bikini was born. It began to gain popularity in the late 1950s, particularly in the South of France. The bikini style was created by Louis Reard in 1946, but it took a while for it to become widely recognized and appreciated.
Elizabeth Taylor stole the spotlight in the movie “Suddenly, Last Summer” when she rocked a loose-fitting white maillot. Her look was a unique blend of the ’50s fashion and the plunging neckline trend of the ’60s.
In this year, low-cut tops became a popular trend. Instead of straps and laces, off-shoulder and deep neckline designs emerged to hold the upper part of the bikini together, bringing a new look to the fashion industry.
The stunning Slim Aarons picture above showcases the trend of low-slung bikini bottoms that emphasized and accentuated physical features, making it a fashionable choice in the ’60s.
In the late 1960s, a new fashion trend emerged, featuring a more tailored and structured look. It resembled a sundress, with strappy tank tops becoming popular as a bathing suit style. These tank tops covered most of the upper body and had a low-cut bottom, similar to previous years’ styles. Additionally, oversized and shady hats became a must-have accessory during this time.
During this time, the halter neck style became a popular trend. Instead of regular straps, laces were used to tie the top at the back of the neck, ensuring a secure fit. In the picture, Raquel Welch rocks a halter neck two-piece swimsuit with hair reminiscent of the iconic character Barbarella.
Let’s face it, swimsuits and bikinis were often associated with cool and attention-seeking girls at the beach (which shouldn’t have been the case!). However, Sally Field, playing the character Gidget, transformed the perception of bikinis. Her preppy and puffed upper piece, paired with high-waisted bottoms in a soft pink color, gave bikinis a more wholesome and innocent look. She brought back the “good girl vibe” in the mid-1960s. How sweet!
Model Pauline Stone rocked a strapless bikini adorned with beautiful petal embroidery. This was the era when plain solid bikinis were becoming less popular, and embellished and embroidered styles were making their mark in the fashion industry.
She paired the bikini with a sheer white tunic-like shirt, featuring solid collars. This design signaled a departure from the traditionally “feminine” touch in bathing suits, and resembled the current trend of shirt-style dresses.
The evolution of bathing suits began with a modest, short dress style featuring high-cut V-shaped thighs, and eventually transitioned into barely-there two-piece swimsuits held together by a single strap. However, in 1960, minimalistic fashion was all the rage.
Jane Birkin sported a minimalistic bikini (or rather, a “barely there” bikini) along with a delicate gold necklace, creating a sophisticated yet daring look. And let’s not forget her intentionally messy hair, adding a touch of effortless style to the ensemble.
During this period, gingham-style bikinis were everywhere, found in almost every clothing store. Unlike the structured and stylish bikinis of the past, these bikinis offered a more vibrant and relaxed appearance when worn.
Women were embracing their bodies and shifting the focus of bikinis from a fashion statement to comfortable attire. It became common to see women wearing bikinis for casual beach outings, and this trend quickly became popular in the fashion industry. The style took on a more laid-back and effortless vibe.
Crochet designs became a sensation in the fashion world, and they made their way into bikinis too. Pam Grier, the original Foxy Brown, rocks a white halter-style bikini top with beautiful crochet details.
She complements her look with oversized sunglasses and simple jewelry, creating a perfect ensemble for a lazy Sunday sunbathing session at the beach. Bikinis embraced the “less is more” concept, focusing on natural fabrics and incorporating fashionable sunglasses that were larger than life.
Jackie O epitomizes the sleek and non-bohemian fashion style that was highly popular in the mid-1970s. She sported a white scarf tied back and a black bikini top with a deep neckline, capturing the essence of the era’s fashion trend.
Fashion designers were embracing the “less is more” approach to bikini design when Farrah Fawcett decided to make a bold move and bring back the popularity of one-piece swimsuits. She confidently showcased a rust iron halter neck one-piece with a deep-cut neckline and back. The bathing suit had minimal lining, highlighting the natural and authentic features of a woman’s figure.
Princess Caroline of Monaco looks stunning in a white maillot that features a peek-a-boo style. As the late ’70s rolled around, the trend of baring the front of the swimsuit began to lose its appeal, making way for the rise of bareback styles. Princess Caroline showcases a bareback design with knotted sides, maintaining a plunging neckline while keeping the front covered. It created quite a sensation in the fashion industry.
During this period, bikinis and two-piec1980-1981e swimsuits took a backseat in terms of popularity. Margaux Hemingway, however, rocked a classic black one-piece with a low neckline. The swimsuit featured thick straps that gracefully rested on her shoulders, giving a simple yet sophisticated look.
Phoebe Cates made a memorable splash with her red bikini moment by the pool, leaving a lasting impact on that generation. Her halter neck bikini top, with minimal lining, and low-waisted bottoms, created quite a stir in the design industry. It changed the way people viewed poolside fashion forever.
The trend of teeny tiny bikinis continued to dominate later on as well. The belief was that the smaller the bikini, the more fashionable it looked. This idea was embraced by designers and fashion enthusiasts alike.
In the mid-80s, swimsuit fashion took on a distinct V-shaped pattern. Open backs, plunging V-necklines, and high-cut bottoms were all the rage, creating a stylish and trendy look. The design aimed to drape a woman’s body in the shape of the letter V, adding a voguish touch to the overall aesthetic. It was a departure from the previous years’ edgier styles, embracing a more fashionable vibe.
Goldie Hawn’s character in the movie Overboard turned swimsuits into fancy clothes instead of just beachwear. She wore lots of shiny jewelry, like gold, and added fancy hair accessories. With her bold makeup and a colorful bikini top, she made it look really extravagant.
Because of her, people started seeing bikinis differently. Instead of only wearing them at the pool or beach, they began tucking them into jeans and skirts and wearing them to events or parties. This was the start of the trend for bodysuits, which are very popular nowadays.
During this time, solid colors were replaced by patterns like florals and checks, and swimsuits with only one color were replaced by ones with multiple colors.
In the picture, Nicolette Sheridan wore a bikini that became a fashion trend. It featured an off-shoulder strapless bikini top, reminiscent of the 1960s, paired with a classic high-waisted V-shaped bikini bottom.
With its floral prints and multiple colors, this look became extremely popular and caused a big sensation that year.
In this picture, Helena Christensen is walking on a fashion runway wearing a bandeau top and boy short bikini bottom.1990In this picture, Helena Christensen is walking on a fashion runway wearing a bandeau top and boy short bikini bottom.
This was a significant moment that brought about a change in fashion, as it moved away from high-waisted V-shaped bottoms to something that looked more like boxer shorts, but without the elastic waistband.
The designer behind this look in the 1990s was Helmut Lang.
In the early 1990s, a popular trend emerged with the introduction of bright and vibrant neon graphic prints. Bikini tops of various styles, such as strapless, camisole cuts, plunging necklines, and halter necks, began to be paired with boxer shorts and skirts.
Not only did the style change, but the colors also took a different turn. Instead of bold or soft solid colors, the trend shifted towards electric shades like neon pink or blue. The prints also became more graphic, moving away from solid or floral designs.
The trendy Southern California style from the previous year continued to be popular, along with the emergence of the “Baywatch” look.
One-piece swimsuits made a comeback, featuring a plunging round U-shaped neckline similar to a regular tank top and a high-cut V-shaped bottom. These bathing suits were specifically designed to accentuate a woman’s curves without compromising coverage or slimming down the appearance.
This year, the focus was on the glamorous factor. Swimsuits with stone-studded tops, belly chains, and embellished clothes became the center of attention.
Although minimalism was still popular during this time, a large number of people started embracing a more extravagant and over-the-top look, even when it came to bikinis.
The year saw the birth of “grunge quotes” that you often search for on Google or find on Tumblr. The “grunge” style became popular, featuring muted and earthy tones, mostly dark in color. Bandeau tops were in high demand and were paired with oversized bottoms to achieve a raw and rebellious look.
In the movie From Dusk Till Dawn, Salma Hayek’s swimwear moment introduced the use of padding in swimsuits. Padded bikini tops were designed to enhance a woman’s upper body curves, and they were paired with high-waisted bottoms.
These high-waisted bottoms were slowly transitioning into thongs, which is evident in this particular swimwear. The side straps of the bottoms are slightly thicker than those of a typical thong, but that’s the main difference.
Back then, solid tricolor swimsuits were trendy, especially ones with a one-shoulder design. In the picture, a model is seen on the runway wearing a tricolor maillot that hangs from one shoulder, featuring a solid print.
This marked the beginning of the popular ‘color-blocked style’ we see today. Cutouts were also a major trend during that time.
This year, polka dots and bobby prints became extremely popular, along with ultra-low waistlines.
The fashion trend of the late nineties included a low-waisted skirt paired with a padded halter neck top that had an elastic finish, giving it a shiny and reflective look. This style was highly desired by people during that time.
Angelina Jolie confidently showcases a tomboyish and daring appearance in the movie Tomb Raider. She wears a sporty suit and her hair is braided. In the film, she rocks a black swimsuit that beautifully showcases the well-defined abs she worked tirelessly to achieve.
This is when people started playing around with colors and mixing them up. Kate Bosworth’s outfit, with red boyshorts and a black halter neck top, became really popular during that time. It inspired people to have fun and try out different color combinations by matching one part of their outfit with another, creating a completely new look. Thanks to Kate, fashion got more exciting!
In 2004, Jessica Simpson rocked the trend of wearing a small halter neck bikini top with denim shorts that had cut-outs. It became a popular and fashionable look. Surprisingly, it showed that you could even wear this outfit for a casual drive, just by adding a belt to complete the style. Who would have thought that bikini tops and shorts could be so versatile?
Kim Kardashian was photographed on a beach wearing a black bikini top with studs and a matching black sarong. During those years, a popular swimwear trend emerged that combined a glamorous, star-studded feel with a minimalistic and sophisticated look. Kim played a significant role in setting this trend, as she continues to make stylish statements even today. It wasn’t just about the bikini itself, but also about the overall trend that Kim helped establish.
During that time, the fashion trend focused on futuristic cutouts and simple shapes, combined with sleek and streamlined colors. Miranda Kerr showcased this trend on a fashion show runway, wearing a long, flowing robe that she styled as a shrug, hanging from her shoulders. It had a distinct vibe of scientific fiction, adding an extra touch of uniqueness to the look.
The 70s style made a comeback when Gigi made a fashion statement that influenced the trend for several years. Crochet details, criss-cross designs, and low-waisted bottoms became popular again. The fashion industry embraced a “less is more” approach, and multicolored schemes became trendy once more. Additionally, whatever Bella and Gigi Hadid, along with Kendall Jenner, wore always became popular.
Fashion is a form of art that often brings back old styles. Skinny jeans used to be in fashion, but now flared jeans from the 70s are back in style. Scarves and headbands were out of fashion, but Gossip Girl brought them back to life.
Fashion has shown us time and again that it works in cycles. New creations emerge daily, but the underlying styles that inspire them remain the same. Each year, new trends emerge, but we never escape the loop of low waists and high waists, solid colors and prints, or minimalism and glamour.
This loop is driven by the fashion and beauty icons in the spotlight every year.