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Vintage Swimwear Timeline
Historical timeline on the history of swimwear


1905 - Bradley Knitting Company is founded and launches first swimsuit
1910 - Jantzen was founded in Portland, Oregon, as the Portland Knitting Company
1912 - Bentz Knitting Mills (Catalina) adds swimsuits to it's inventory and changes it name to Pacific Knitting       Mills
1913 - Jantzen introduces the first rib-stitch bathing costume for the Portland Rowing Club
1915 - Jantzen develops it's first 'lighter weight' bathing suit 1916 - First annual Bathing Suit Day launches at   Madison Square Garden in NY
1916 - Portland Knitting Company changes name to Jantzen Knitting Mills
1920 - The Jantzen Red Diving Girl patch first appears on bathing suits, Jean Patou monograms his swimsuits
1921 - Jantzen begins to use the term 'swimsuit' instead of 'bathing suit'
1923 - Fred Cole launches West Coast Knitting Mills (later changes its name to Cole of California)
1926 - The dressmaker suit is launched
1926 - Jantzen launches sell by weight meathod "Your weight is your size"
1927 - Jantzen changes its advertising slogan from "The Nations Swimming Suit" to "The Suit that Changed Bathing to Swimming"
1928 - Patou manufactures "Huile de Caldee" the first suncream
1928 - Maillot is entered into the dictionary
1928 - Australian MacRae Knitting Mills renames itself Speedo
1928 - Pacific Knitting Mills changes it's name to Catalina.
1930 - Elsa Schaparelli patents a backless swimsuit with a built in bra to promote strap free tanning.
1931 - Lastex is introduced as "The Miracle Yarn"
1932 - Mens swimsuit 'the Topper' is introduced, the bottoms zip away form the top
1933 - Halters are introduced
1934 - Jantzen designed the first suits specifically for the female form with bra construction
1935 - Nylon is invented by Wallace Carothers
1935- The first two piece swimsuit is seen in fashion magazines (doesn't really take hold until the 1940s)
1936 - Margit Felligi (designer) joins Cole, she stays with them for the next 36 years
1937 - Rose Marie Reid begins a one woman operation as seamstress.
1938 - Dupont introduces the first commercial version of Nylon
1940 - Bradley Knitting Company closes
1941 - West Coast Knitting Mills changes it's name to Cole of California
1942 - Claire McCardell launches the diaper swimsuit
1943 - Margit Felligi creates the "Swoon Suit" the first side laced swimsuit for Cole
1944 - Coppertone suntan creme launches
1946- The Bikini is launched in Paris
1949 - Rose Marie Reid Inc., of California launches in Los Angeles. She debuts the first metallic Gold Swimsuit
1947 - Dior's New Look is launched
1947 - Cole of California creates the "Esther Williams" swimsuit
1949- Jantzen Kniting Mills changes name to Jantzen, Inc.
1951 - Mary Ann DeWeese launches her own line called 'DeWeese Designs'
1951 - Rose Marie Reid launches the Hourglass maillot as well as the first precious metal swimsuit of black lace and 24 kt gold plating called the 'Gilded Lily'
1951 - 1951 Miss World Pageant bans the Bikini
1952 - Catalina started the Miss Universe Pageant
1953 - Brigitte Bardot causess a scandal at the Cannes Film Festival by wearing a bikini
1955 - Christian Dior designs his one and only swimwear collection for Cole of California
1955 - Elizabeth Stewart launches her own company Elizabeth Stewart Swimwear
1956 - Speedo produces a nylon swimsuit for the Melbourne Olympics
1957-58 - Hubert de Givency designs for Jantzen in his Paris salon.
1959 - DuPont launches Spandex (Lycra trademark owned by Invista, Formerly part of DuPont)
1960 - "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" is launched
1960 - Jantzen launches "Just wear a smile" ad campaign
1960 - DeWeese designs diving suits for the U.S. Olympic Team
1964 - Crepe fabric is first used for swimsuits
1964 - Rudi Gernreich launches his monokini
1964 - Sports Illustrated lunches it's "Swimwear Edition" featuring Babette March in a white bikini.
1969 - Catalina splits into three separate divisions: swimwear, spectator and sportswear
1971 - La Perla Beachwear launches it's first swimsuits
1972 - Labeling of the sun protection factor, or SPF, was introduced in the U.S
1973 - Arena swimsuits launched by Horst Dassler
1974 - Rudi Gernreich launches the Tanga thong swimsuit
1976 - Danskin launches into swimwear
1976 - Bob Mackie designs swimwear for Cole of California
1980 - Coppertone developed the first UVA/UVB sunscreen
1982 - Ann Cole begins to design swimwear that is launched as the Cole Collection
1993 - Cole combines companies with Catalina creating Catalina Cole

Heavy wool chemise is worn over bloomers.
Stockings were required & shoes are worn.
Tights are called Annette Kellermans after the woman who invented them
Water wings were used.

Wool swimsuits are prevalent in the early 20's
Lower neckline and larger armholes
Stockings were finally discarded in the mid 20's
Channel creates the first beach Pyjamas
Rayon, artificial silk, is produced
Jersey and silk start being used in swimwear
Color range: Navy, Red, beige and black

The adjustable shoulder strap is introduced in swimwear.
Bra construction begins to appear in swimwear
High necklines in swimwear
Belted suits for men and women
Tom Brigance designed sportswear for Jaeger and Simpsons of Picadilly in London
Rubber swimsuits are introduced by US Rubber
The panel suit (skirted) is popular
Suntanning becomes popular
Two piece swimwear is introduced in 1935
Playsuits replace the beach Pyjamas, Tailored separates come into Vogue
Beach Sandals & Straw hats are prevalent
Color Range: Greens, pinks, yellow, coral, black, blue, white

War time restrictions cause less fabric to be used, cut outs begin to emerge in the design
The 'bikini' is launched in Paris in 1946.
Bathing suits, play suits, or sun suits became more revealing and charming. Some creative bathing suits
were invented and popularized by a television restriction on showing the navel. For high-waisted bottoms
it was a cinch, but for more high-fashion swim suits, creative ties and straps crossed the front to cover the navel.
Color Range: Colors of the 1940s were deep, rich, saturated hues. Popular color combinations were actually contrasted all the way across the color wheel. For example, greens and turquoise would often be matched with maroons and rust-orange colors.

Swimwear takes on the look of of the hourglass
Boning for support is added
Pointed bust cups
Animal prints are introduced
Swimcaps are popular beach accessories

Swimwear fabrics - Bri-Nylon, Drilon, Rayon Jersey, Crepe, Lycra  and Helanca
Space Age Fabrics gain popularity
Catalina stops using zippers in swimwear
White lace is used quite a bit in swimwear
Bright psychedelic color palette
Brigance designs for Sinclair and Gabar
Midriff is the focus
Adjustable shoulder straps include buttons

The thong is introduced
Tan thru swimwear launches
String bikini's gain popularity
High cut leg openings appear
Speedo lauches swimwear made of Nylon/Elastane

Athletic body build emphasized
Wrestling low cut bodice swimwear
One piece comes back into fashion
Bandeau tops
Racer backs/T backs come into vogue
Neoprene begins to be seen in swimwear
Shoulders and backs are the focus


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