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From Bathing Gowns to Tankinis: The Evolution of the Swimsuit
guest post by Issy Lovett
Four in 10 Americans planned to take a family vacation in 2019, meaning that if those numbers are anything like last year, swimwear will continue to be on the minds of many who plan to hit the beach in 2020. However, while there are many options today, such as gender-neutral suits to the classic bikini and everything in between, it didn’t use to be this way. In fact, before swimsuits, many simply swam in the nude - over the years, swimwear has gone from completely conservative to totally risque in the process — not to mention generated some unique and innovative options along the way, too.
The first swimsuits - bathing gowns of the 1800s
While the first actual swimsuits were established back in the 1800's, they were far from what we all know today as swimwear. This is because the swimsuits of the 1800's consisted of long, black gowns known as ‘bathing gowns’. Bathing gowns consisted of stockings, bloomers, and drawers, with the intention of providing full and modest coverage for women. Oftentimes made of wool (as it tended to not soak up as much water as cotton), the skirts of bathing gowns were sometimes even weighted at the hems in order to prevent the skirt from floating up while in the water. While women’s swimsuits might seem extreme, men’s suits in the 1880's weren’t much better. Also made from wool, men’s suits were similar to the undergarments of the time, and was quite heavy when wet. Such suits made it difficult to actually swim, though over time swimwear evolved to become more streamlined and comfortable.
A turning point
In the late 1800's and early 1900's, swimsuits took a turning point in history, as more skin was bared in the new century. In the late 1800s', accessories like bathing shoes were common and were used to prevent cuts from shells or broken glass on the beach. Bathing coats also became a staple for many, and while not nearly as protective as the bathing gowns, the coats (often long-sleeved and made of silk) provided protection until one was ready to get into the water.
In the 1910's, bathing suits began to get shorter and more form-fitting, with men wearing tank suits and women wearing sailor-inspired trends - though that didn’t mean it was necessarily socially acceptable to wear to the beach. In fact, swimsuit regulations were put in place at beaches across the United States, and throughout the early 1900's, swimwear that wasn’t considered appropriate, or was too revealing, could actually get you arrested. In fact, one Australian swimmer by the name Annette Kellerman was arrested and charged with indecent exposure in 1907 for wearing a knee-length suit that left her neck, legs, and arms exposed.
The introduction of more modern styles
A swimwear classic, the modern bikini was finally introduced in 1946 by french engineer Louis Reard, and went on to gain wide acceptance from Western society. Many other modern styles were brought to life throughout the later 1900's as well — in the '40s, swimwear for women began to evolve into little dress-like styles, while the '60s saw smaller and tighter suits. In the '70s, even more risque styles became popular, such as cut-out suits, thongs, and string bikinis — along with bold patterns and colors to match. And, in the '90s, the hit show Baywatch inspired suit styles that focused on lower necklines and high leg cuts. However, it’s thanks to the evolution of swimsuits throughout the late 1900s and early 2000s that eventually led to the innovation of today’s gender-neutral options.
Innovation at it’s finest
Throughout the decades, swimwear has seen many innovative styles and forms. For example, the 2000's brought some innovation with the spin on the classic bikini known as the ‘tankini’ — a tank-top-like top with traditional bikini bottoms. Swimwear today has evolved to bring options like a wide range of sizes for different body types, and gender-neutral swimwear that everyone can enjoy while still feeling comfortable. Because of these innovations in the swimwear industry, beachgoers everywhere bring a broad variety of styles across the board, with everything from vintage suits to classic bikinis constantly trending and in style — though perhaps it’s all thanks to swimwear of the late 1900s.
Cutout suits and the especially daring styles of the '70s and '80s also brought significant innovation to the table, and even more so with bold and bright daring patterns. In fact, swimwear of the late 1900s was more daring than ever before - bringing confidence to many. This is potentially the reason why suits today widely represent suits of the past and are often available in several colors and patterns - not to mention styles. With that said, it’s clear that swimwear of the past plays a major role in today’s hottest looks.
From conservative bathing gowns to risque revealing thongs, it’s evident that swimsuits have heavily evolved throughout history to match the styles of the times. Without such evolution and style risks taken, we wouldn’t have today’s innovative and all-inclusive options that we all know and love.
Wondering what Outplay compression top level would work best for you?
With several different levels of compression available, how do you know which one would be best for you?
This is a question we get a lot and it's a hard question to answer because it all depends on what you want to accomplish with the compression and how you want your Outplay gear to look and feel on you. Most of all, it's about what will make YOU feel your best and most comfortable.
Outplay compression tops are available in: no compression, low compression, high compression, and super.
Depending on how the top is made and what materials are used, the compression level is different.
|No compression - the tops we offer with no compression are like regular bathing suits or sports tops. Their cuts are androgynous and gender inclusive but they are made in a variety of traditional fabrics used for swimwear or sportswear. They don't have any extra support in them or any additional materials that can create any type of compression over the chest or torso.|
You can try our racerback full coverage top like the Flatriver with no compression for this look.
|Low compression - the tops offered in low compression have a special mesh material in the front. This mesh material is placed between the outer layer of fabric and the lining and it stretches differently than the inner and outer layers of fabric mentioned. This special mesh fabric creates some compression only from the front as it doesn't allow the traditional stretch material on the outside to stretch as much as it would on its own. This creates a hold on the front portion of the top.|
High compression - the tops offered in high compression have this special mesh material in both the front and the back and through out the top. When the top fits nice and snug, this special material between the outer layer of fabric and the lining, restricts the stretch of the top enough that it creates a strong hold on your body, hence creating a feeling of compression.
|Super Compression - this level of compression is only offered on the Flatsea S right now. Thats where the S in the name comes from. The Flatsea S has the same mesh material in the front and the back, like the high compression tops and it also has a stronger mesh material only over the chest area to give it even more compressing force over the chest. This option is the strongest hold we have at the moment, that allows you to still move and be active in for long periods of time without causing internal or physical issues. Because the fabrics are constricted in order to create the compression, it's not the easiest top to put on but once it's on your body and it fits nice and snug, it will compression your chest very well.|
You can read more about how we made the Flatsea S here on our blog.
Outplay Flatsea S
In all Outplay compression tops currently available, the compressing mesh material is found throughout the entire top evenly, so it would compress your chest as well as your stomach. Of course, all bodies are different so how and how much it compresses your stomach and chest depends on your personal experience and shape. It also depends on the size and cut of the top you choose as well.
You can find different levels of compression offered on our swimwear tops as well as our sportswear tops. Outplay compression levels are the same regardless of them being swimwear or sportswear and most of them (not all) can be used for either one as well. So going from the pool to the gym means you don't need to change in some cases.
Please remember our compression tops are not binders. Depending on the size and fit you choose, they can serve very closely to a binder. But because the materials we use are made to stretch and chosen for you to be able to move, swim, and be active in freely and comfortably, they are never going to be or hold the same as a traditional chest binder.
Always check our size chart to find the size that would best fit you.
What is fashion sustainability and how do we at Outplay play our part.
The industry is changing though. Some might say not fast enough and others see a light at the end of the tunnel as change is happening. And it's happening at every level. Those who don't change will be left behind as the consumer is more educated everyday and cares more about where their clothes came from, who made it, and what it's made of.
Fashion sustainability is a growing movement in the fashion industry. It's a process of fostering real change in the fashion industry all around. Moving the fashion industry towards greater ecological integrity and social concern. And a great deal of innovation is going into crafting lower-impact fabrics.
So what makes a fashion brand a sustainable brand? Making sustainable clothing means the brand is contributing to the well-being of planet Earth by producing garments that are made from environmentally-friendly materials as well as minimizing waste (materials and water) throughout the entire process.
Making sure those in the produce each garment are paid fair living wages, forced child labor isn't being used, and everyone works in safe and clean environments. It also includes minimal exposure to chemicals that can harm workers as well as the end consumer later wearing the garment. How do we do that and still deliver a great quality product? Technology, and a lot of integrity and heart.
Wearing a garment for just nine months longer could diminish its environmental impacts by 20–30%.
Sustainable fashion isn't biggest outlet, fast fashion. It isn't cheap fashion either. But knowing no one or nothing was hurt, forced or destroyed in the making of the quality garment you can wear for a very long time is so much more valuable. Wearing something that was made by a child forced to work under horrific conditions, will last only a couple of washes, and later end up in a mountain of garbage somewhere for decades is the sad alternative. There are small changes you can make today. Think about investing in higher-quality clothing. Wear them more often and hold onto them for longer. This is the not-so-secret weapon for combatting the carbon footprint from your garments. Wearing a garment for just nine months longer could diminish its environmental impacts by 20–30%.
At Outplay we keep all of this very present with the design and production of each and every product we offer. We only work with the best factories and we visit them often. It's important to us we get to know the people making each and every one of our products. Our packaging is made out of recycled/recyclable plastics, or environmentally friendly fabrics. We work with amazing people who are constantly looking for ways to incorporate greener and more sustainable materials into our production. Our fabrics are digitally printed in order to avoid water waste and made with environmentally friendly textiles.
There is still so much to do in the fashion industry. So many more steps to take but we're in it for the long haul. For example, switching to recycled polyester fabric can help to reduce the carbon emissions. Recycled polyester releases half to a quarter of the emissions of virgin polyester. As we find more and better ways to create and make great quality clothing that is good for you and won't harm our planet, we'll bring them to you. And of course, we'll let you know what we've done to make it a bit better than before.