05 August 2016

High Street Vintage Inspired Swimwear: Great looks to get your hands on: 1920s-1950s

Us ladies pack so much for our holiday, we apparently squeeze over 44 items into a suitcase and only wear half of them. Personally that majority of those 44 items for me would be shoes. Six bikini's are packed for a fortnight and only three are used.
We obsess about having the perfect summer body with the TOWIE lot encouraging us to do 'No Carbs before Marbs', but who wants to deny themselves a Krispy Kreme, I know I can't.
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Wearing a bikini on the beach is our own version of having a catwalk, we can't all model for Dior. We imagine ourselves strutting our stuff in a gorgeous bikini making us look like Kate Moss with 4 inch wedges on and impeccable hair. The reality is that we stumble on the sand with our heels on doing a Naomi Campbell  style fall and our hair gets blown about by the sea wind making us look more like a windswept Sheepdog then Miranda Kerr.

These days there are so many things you can wear on the beach, bikinis, tankinis, monokinis hey, even a mankini if you want, there's so many varieties. But women haven't always had so much of a choice.

Before 1915-1920 women wore black, knee-length, puffed-sleeve wool dresses worn over bloomers or drawers trimmed with ribbons and bows. Not great for getting a tan in. Thankfully heavy fabric swimsuits were reduced and became more athletic and androgynous looking, due to women swimming more. So I'm starting my how to get the look post at the 1920s.

*PLEASE NOTE* If you are not on a mobile or tablet and can hover over the pictures some may say sold out, but if you click through you will see the item is still available in other sizes. I don't know why it's doing that, but please click through anyway if you find one you love!

In the early 1920s women’s bathing suits finally changed into a one piece garment with a long top that covered shorts. Though matching stockings were still worn, swimwear began to shrink and more flesh was exposed from the bottom of the trunks to the tops of the stockings, let the squats and leg lifts begin. As women became more liberated due to the Chanel wave in fashion, they put their long skirts at the back of the cupboard and the athletic look was well suited to this era.
They were made of wool jersey, so became pretty heavy when you got out of the water and often small shoes were worn with this look, while women posed on the beach.
The fashion was to have a striped, spots or an abstract pattern, even then women knew how to use patterns to hide those lumps and bumps.

I've found these gorgeous swimsuits for you to try and achieve the look. Get the trend with boy type shorts, but modernise it by showing off more of your lovely assets as well with slightly skirted swimsuits that became more popular as the decade went on & into the 30s. I love the nautical style La Redoute one, as it was a trend that was popular in the 20s. The patterned ones are super cute and can help hide any wobbly bits you may have.

Catching the sun and having gorgeous tanned skin became a hobby in the 30s. Swimsuits changed from being made of wool jersey to Lastex stretchy cotton. Prints became even more popular along with ribbons or belts around the waist.
The one piece was made shorter with boy shorts still around and little over skirts becoming popular, along with an exposed v-neck. No more brown face and white bodies for these ladies.

Hollywood stars began to pose in swimsuits and having the latest fashion became top on the list of a woman's priorities, that and building their shoe collection.

I found these beautiful pieces, some with little skirts to help hide your thighs. I love all the belted ones as well as the floral swimsuit (when you hover over it, it says sold out but it's not completely, so still have a look if you're interested & fingers crossed it will come back in more sizes.) It's tied with a wrap belt to help clinch the waist in and make you have a waist to rival Dita von Teese. The ones that don't have a belt but have great colour contouring to give the smaller waist illusion like a belt are fabulous. I love the V cut swimsuit with the striped V, it reminds me of the nautical theme that's popularity continued on from the 20s. The zig zag and floral swimsuit are a fabulous mix of colours and also help give the colour illusion slimming effect. Wearing one of these you'll definitely blag yourself your very own Clark Gable.

Due to the devastating war along with meat, vegetables and all the important things in life such as chocolate, there was a shortage of fabric. Skirts were shortened and women had to make do and mend. This resulted in women and factories having to make smaller swimsuits with cutout midriffs. The tankini was born and women had a lot more options in styles, with halter, bandeau bras, skirted bottoms and shorts available. Bottoms were high waisted and covered the tummy button and were low on the hips showing off all those leg lifts they'd done since March, don't worry no thongs just yet ladies, so relax. They were worn with wrap shirts, button through dresses or simple towelling dresses hiding any wobbly bits.

This was the decade when you were able to mix and match colours, patterns and styles. Two pieces became extremely popular by the end of the decade and pin ups such as Rita Hayworth were seen flaunting their curves in them. I mean who doesn't want to look like the lovely Rita?

The first bikinis appeared just after World War II. Early styles were not much different from tankinis, except that they had a gap below the breast line allowing for a section of bare midriff. They were named after Bikini Atoll, the site of several nuclear weapons tests, for their supposed explosive effect on the viewer. Then, any man would go weak at the knees at the sight of flesh so the name is pretty appropriate.

The looks I've found reflect the 1940s style, but with a modern twist. I love the halter neck style ones and the tankinis around at the moment which are great for covering up, but still getting a tan. They include high waisted bottoms and I love all the ones that you can mix and match with that I've found. I particularly love the ASOS black floral one with the peplum frill. The peplum was a big style statement in the 40s on clothes, so it combines that style with the high waisted style as well as being great at helping to hide any wobbly bits you're conscious of. I know in your head you may not automatically think high waisted means sexy but don't worry, you won't look like you've got granny pants on with these beauties.

With stars like Marilyn Monroe becoming famous in the 50's with their beautiful bodies, swimsuits became more curvaceous and fitting. Corset manufacturers who were drastically losing business due to changing fashions saw a gap in the market, with making swimsuits to hide a woman's faults, with stretch tummy control panels to hold in the stomach, padded cone shaped bra cups and boning to give bust support. A wide range of fabrics including lined cotton, stretch Lastex and elastic ruched nylon were used. Bandeau and strapless low cut styles became very popular. Zips were used in the centre back of swimsuits to create a corset like appearance. Thankfully Marks and Spencer amongst others have taken over this role now, so it's ok if you have another biscuit, or two or three.

Hair was really important to a fifties woman and they didn't want to get their hair wet and all frizzy whilst swimming. Lavish bathing caps covered in flowers, petals and rubber spikes became essential beach accessories. Just like iPods and plenty of Pringles are these days.

Yes ladies, you can now show off some proper cleavage now, with so many top styles to choose from. I adore the red Figleaves swimsuit with the Bridget Bardot style neckline, so gorgeous. I adore the lower cut swimsuits, deeper V's and moulded cup swimsuits that make a one piece look oh so hot. The tankini's that are now more structured, lower necklines and some with tummy control will help you look super lean. I love the House of Fraser spotted bikini top which I have shown the swimsuit version of in my 40s section. It shows how far swimwear had come after the war.

The high waisted bikini's with a zip, most with strapless tops take the zip from the 1950s and give it a modern twist, by having the zip in the front. I love all the prints, especially the ASOS bandeau style top bikini in the bottom row as it is such a bright celebratory multi-coloured geometric print and that's what the 50s was all about, celebration after the war. Even though the belly button wasn't seen until the 60s in swimwear, I think we can make an exception for this gorgeous bikini and some of the high waisters which sit just slightly below the belly button.

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I hope you've enjoyed this post and found something that you can rock on the beach, a lot of these are in the sale so you can easily blag yourself a bargain. I will be doing the 60s-90s in my next post. I want to say thank you so much to all the lovely people who took the time to read my last post about my beautiful Jasper which you can read here.  I'm especially thankful for all the amazing comments, they really mean a lot to me and my family. I've read them many times, so thank you so much for leaving them.

I hope I've helped you find the perfect swimwear for your holiday, this summer we are meant to be having, or even one in the sale for next year's holiday. If you are a regular at the swimming pool, I hope I've helped you find a new outfit that is sure to get that hunky lifeguard's attention. Watch out for my next post, that's when swimwear will start to get tinier and brighter! You better start doing those squats!

Second Hand Rose


  1. These are so retro fabulous!


  2. What a fantastically detailed, lovely post, sweet dear. I can imagine full well how long this must have taken you to put together. Thank you for highlighting such a great bevy of vintage inspired/style suits for us. If this doesn't have one wanting to head to the beach pronto, I don't know what would! :)

    xoxo ♥ Jessica

  3. the collection you have compiled here is amazing! I loved seeing the variety of swimsuits to choose from that have a vintage retro style.

  4. This was such an interesting post to read AND very relevant for me as I have come to prefer longer and skirted swimsuits and they are hard to find in a style I like so I am definitely going to have a look at some of the links!!
    Hello, by the way, nice to meet you!!x

  5. This was amazing! Such an interesting look back on how our swim suit fashion has changed - so much history and information!

    -Clarissa @ The View From Here

  6. This was really interesting, you've put a lot of work into this post and I feel like I learned a few things :) I think I like the 1950s styles here the most :) Thanks for all the comments you made on my blog recently x


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