The bathing machine in Edwardian times allowed people to be covered while at the seaside, thereby allowing people to wade in the surf while maintaining seaside etiquette. In the early 1900's women were required by law to be covered from head to toe for 'bathing'. Most bathing costumes were made of wool at that time. Many sociological and technological advancements helped to change the modest styles seen at the beach. Stockings were required to be worn with beach shoes and began to be rolled down showing more leg.
When the first World War broke out women took up jobs in factories to support the war and then in the 1920s women gained the right to vote. Bathing wasn't called swimming until the early 1920s when Jantzen started using the term 'swimsuit' in their advertising and promotional materials. Helio therapy was all the rage and sun worshiping became popular. In the mid twenties swimming became recognized as an acceptable form of exercise and womens suits began to show the influence.
Lastex, the miracle yarn was invented in 1931 and nylon came along in 1935 allowing more form fitting fabric made into swim wear.
In the 1940s it was very popular to see movie stars and models wearing platform shoes at the beach thereby showing off the curves of a woman. In the 1950's and 60's beauty pageants showed women in high spike heels, further accenting the shapely leg attributes.
Sandals, flip flops and thongs came into vogue in the 1960's and remained popular through the 1970's. Birkenstock's also were popular during this time.
Beach shoes and jellies appeared in the 1980's. Today water shoes help protect the feet in the surf from the ravages of coral and rocks.
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