Seen on the beaches of the French Riviera in the swinging 1960s.

By Balthazar Malevolent


As to the bathing suit, until the 1960s, nary a navel was on display. The 1940s gave us vivid photos of mostly covered up young ladies by the sea in the documentation of the swimsuit in fashion magazines. Photographs taken by Horst P. Horst and Toni Frissell highlight one-piece waist-hugging with brief-cut bottoms. A decade later, the swimming beauties hit unimaginable glamorous heights in swimwear that was almost too pretty to swim in. Many suits from the '50s featured as much boning as a Dior gown, and a day by the pool included a sarong, hat and pair of sunglasses to match.

A model wearing a cowl-necked bikini printed with blue and green seaweed with a matching headpiece by Irene Galitzine. Photographed by Helmut Newton, Vogue, May 1963.

We were forced to wait until the 1960s, before the swimsuit that barely existed shed its tabu associations. Though the modern, two-piece swimsuit (conceived by Jacques Heim) was born in 1932, the garment was ahead of its time. So too was the itsy-bitsy string bikini from Louis Réard, which made a splashy debut in 1946. The eyebrow-raising swimsuit was considered so unhealthy and inappropriate at the time that he could not find a model brave enough to have her photo taken in it; instead, he hired a showgirl from Monte Carlo. This would take another ten years and then some before the bikini has been accepted. This was thanks in part to films starring Brigitte Bardot and Ursula Andress' suntanned body — the very first Bond girl — in 1962.

In the 1960s, reflecting and directing the fashion times, Vogue filled its pages with models dressed in all sorts of bathing suits: string bikinis, one-piece with donut-hole-like cutouts, and suits that pulsated with the psychedelic swirls of Emilio Pucci. As with Marisa Berenson, the otherworldly German-born model Veruschka was on hand to model all of these designs. They were followed by photographers including Henry Clarke and Helmut Newton, on rocky Brazilian beaches or sparkling swimming pools. Scant swimwear coincided with the youthquake of the era, the rising traveling passion and sexual emancipation. Women were free to be, and all the better if they were in a beautiful metallic bikini. Below we revisit some of our favorite 1960s' swimsuit moments.

A model in a terry cloth swimsuit by Emo. Photographed by Helmut Newton, Vogue, June 1964.Windsor Elliott in a bikini by Allen & Cole, designed by Naomi. Photographed by Gianni Penati, Vogue, April 1969.A pair of models wearing Cole of California (below) and Oleg Cassini for Peter Pan (above) swimsuits. Photographed by William Bell, Vogue, November 15, 1960.A model in a Cole of California swimsuit on a beach in Longbow Key, Florida. Photographed by Art Kane, Vogue, December 1963.Veruschka in an Emilio Pucci top and sarong in Angra dos Reis, Brazil. Photographed by Henry Clarke, Vogue, June 1965.A model in a Sylvia de Gay for Robert Sloan swimsuit in Castellaras, France. Photographed by Henry Clarke, Vogue, January 15, 1966.

In contemporary fashion, the provocative take on swimwear has been culminated by the designer Rick Owens in this metallic one-piece crafted from a flattering bronze stretch nylon that fits close to the neck and features an asymmetric off-the-shoulder shape with draping details.

Rick Owens Metallic one-piece swimsuit.
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