Lisa Taylor and Jerry Hall, Photo by Helmut Newton, Vogue, 1975.
With the long weekend just past and the Memorial Day weekend coming up perhaps your mind is on pool parties and beach getaways. Step foot on a beach in most parts of the world and you will see an abundance of bronzed beach-goers in bikinis. This modern, free-spirited approach to showing skin is worlds different from what women once wore while soaking up the sun. There was a time when Policemen measured swimsuits on young women to ensure they met beach dress code regulations. Throughout the 1930s there was even a ban on showing navels in Hollywood films, while visible midriff was considered acceptable under Hollywood’s Hays Code. Don’t get the impression that vintage swimwear was all modest. French engineer Louis Reard may have coined the term bikini with his string bikini designs in the 1940s but the scandalous 1960s monokini designed by Rudy Gernreich would be far too revealing for most women’s tastes to this day. His avant garde designs continue to inspire swimwear designers. Between Gernreich and Reard’s overtly sexy swimwear there was Rose Lee Reid, an American designer who was born in Vancouver, Canada. Reid’s innovative swimsuit fashions brought an element of glamorous elegance to swimwear. Particularly her hourglass swimsuits in the ‘50s, not to mention she patented a swimsuit made of fabric that allowed for full-body tanning. Very few swimsuit models can emulate the dreaminess of Elizabeth Taylor posing in a swimsuit in Suddenly Last Summer or the sultriness of Brigitte Bardot in the 1952 French film Manina, la fille sans voiles. Scroll through the photos and get some inspiration for your next beach trip!
(L) 1925. (R) Paris, August 1927.
(L) Clara Bow, 1920s. (R) Photo by Mack Sennet, 1922.
(L) 1928. (R) Model wearing swimsuit designed by Sonia Delaunay, Photo by Luigi Diaz, 1929.
(L-R) 1920s / 1927 / Anna May Wong, 1931 / 1931.
(L) Anita Page, 1930s. (R) 1930s.
(L) Photo by Frances Scott Fitzgerald, 1931. (R) 1930s.
(L) Miss USA Anne Lee Patterson posing in a swimsuit, 1931. (R) Debbie Reynolds, 1932.
(L) Gwen Lee, Joel McCrea and Raquel Torres, 1931. (R) 1932.
(L) Joan Crawford, 1933. (R) 1933.
(L) New Years, 1933. (R) Policemen checking Peggy Graves' swimming suit to make sure it meets dress code requirements, 1935.
(L) Photo by Horst P. Horst, Vogue, July 1934. (R) Ida Lupino, 1934.
(L) Betty Grable, 1935. (R) Woman on a beach in sunhat and swimsuit, National Media Museum Collection, 1935.
(L) Photo by Chaloner Woods, 1934. (R) 1935.
(L) Marie Macdonald, 1940s. (R) Jacques Heim and Jacques Fath Swimwear, L'Officiel, June 1945.
(L) Paris,1946. (R) Photo by John Rawlings, Glamour, June 1946.
(L) The first string bikini designed by Louis Reard on July 5, 1946. (R) Louis Reard, 1946.
(L) Marilyn Monroe, 1946. (R) Patricia Alphin, 1947.
(L) Christiane Richard, Photo by Nat Farbman, 1950. (R) Marilyn Monroe on Jones Beach, 1949.
(L) 1950s. (R) Ava Gardner, 1950s.
(L) Belinda Lee, 1950s. (R) Bettie Page, 1950s.
Brigitte Bardot in Manina, la fille sans voiles, 1952.
Brigitte Bardot, 1953.
(L) Bondi Beach Swimwear, 1950s. (R) Florida, 1953.
(L-R) 1940s / Capri, 1948 / 1959 / Colleen Corby, 1960s.
Rose Marie Reid Swimwear. (L) 1957. (R) 1953.
(L) Dovima in Cole swim wear, 1956. (R) Jayne Mansfield, Photo by Allan Grant, 1957.
(L) 1960s. (R) Photo by Ralph Crane, 1959.
(L) Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly Last Summer, 1959. (R) Photo by Tom Palumbo, Vogue, January 1959.
(L) June Pickney, Photo by Stan Wayman 1960. (R) 1960s.
(L) Maria Perschy, 1960s. (R) Marie Lise Gres modelling beachwear, Photo by John French. London, England, 1960s.
Marisa Berenson, Photos by Bert Stern, 1960s.
(L-R) LIFE Magazine, Photo by Paul Schutzer, 1960 / 1960s.
(L) Raquel Welch, 1960s. (R) 1960s.
(L) Ursula Andress in James Bond, 1962. (R) Philomene Toulouse, poses with pet fox, at the Cannes film festival, Photo by Paul Schutzer, 1962.
Sue Lyon in Lolita, 1962.
(L) Burda Modern Spring/Summer 1963. (R) Playmate Sandra Settani, 1963.
(L) Peggy Moffitt in Rudy Gernreich's famous "Monokini". Photographed by her husband, William Claxton, 1964. (R) Woman swimming in Rudi Gernreich's Monokini.
(L) 1964. (R) Photo by Frank Horvat, British Harpers Bazaar, 1965.
(L) Jantzen Swimwear, May 1965. (R) 1965.
(L) Sport Trio one shoulder swimsuit, 1965. (R) 1967.
(L-R) Photo by Colleen Corby, 1960s. / Veruschka in Pucci, 1960s. / Mademoiselle Magazine, 1961. / Swimming costume from Cafe des Arts, sunglasses by Dorothee Bis, Photo by Mary Evans, 1965.
(L) Oleg Cassini for Peter Pan Swimwear, 1967. (R) Rudi Gernreich Swimsuit, 1968.
(L) Photo by Clive Arrowsmith, 1969. (R) Norman Parkinson, 1969.
(L) Jean Shrimpton, Photo by David Bailey, Vogue, January 1970. (R) Paris Vogue, May 1971.
(L) Ann Turkel, Photo by Patrick Lickfield, Nassau Bahamas, 1970s. (R) Lauren Hutton, Vogue, 1971.
Jerry Hall, Photos by Willie Christie, 1973.
(L) Photo by Arthur Elgort, 1974. (R) Janice Dickinson, Vogue, May 1977.
(L) Farrah Fawcett, 1976. (R) Bo Derek, 1979.
(L) Christie Brinkley, Vogue, 1977. (R) Guy Laroche two piece swimwear, 1977.
Gia Carangi, Photos by Francesco Scavullo, Vogue, November 1980.
(L) 1980s. (R) Kelly LeBrock, Vogue US, 1981.
(L) Christie Brinkley, Photo by John G. Zimmerman, Sports illustrated Swimsuit, 1981. (R) Photo by Mike Reinhardt, Harper’s Bazaar, December 1985.
(L) Brigitte Nielson, Photo by Helmut Newton, 1987. (R) Pamela Anderson, Baywatch, 1990s.
(L) Amber Valetta, Chanel, 1990s. (R) Claudia Schiffer for Gottex, Photo by Patrick Demarchelier, 1993.
(L) Naomi Cambell in Chanel, 1994. (R) Victoria's Secret, 1996.
(L) Halle Berry in Die Another Day, 2002. (R) Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush, 2002.