Fashion from bygone eras is all the rage today, and it doesn’t matter the decade you draw from. From 1950s skirted swimsuits to 1980s high-thigh suits, there’s not a vintage bathing suit you can’t pull off. Luckily, you don’t have to look far to find a style that’s perfect for you. Shop at any one of the hundreds of vintage shops online, revivalist designer boutique shops, or try your hand on eBay.
Here are a few vintage and vintage-style suits from decades past to get you inspired to suit up this summer.
1940s-1950s: Fun, Flirty and Feminine
The 1940s and ’50s are decades when ladies began to show more and more skin, remaining relatively modest yet super flattering and stylish. Fitted, skirted one-pieces kept the tummy and behind action under wraps, while cone-form, built-in bras kept the figures looking shapely, sharp and sexy. The style has understandably been replicated by modern designers looking to bring back that classic retro look for rockabilly revivalists and the like, and shopping for bathing suits has never been more fun. With polka dots galore to choose from, how could you not completely fall in love with these ’50s flashbacks?
1960s: Getting Groovy
Many ’60s swimsuit styles don’t stray too far from the 1950s halter top-and-shorts bikinis. But the ’60s-era cuts are a little saucier than in decades past. Cleavage is king, and the designs are definitely groovier. One-pieces go nuts with peek-a-boo cutouts, while psychedelic patterns get to have their day in the sun. And let us not forget the accessories. When you’re styling your look this summer, remember that a pair of Jackie-O-style sunnies and a good headscarf will up the retro ante like no other.
1970s: Going for Drama
Oh the ’70s, when the triangle bikini top and the JLo-style deep-plunge V-neck came into existence. Bikini bottoms got scandalously tinier, and Farrah Fawcett’s legendary red one-piece made the masses drool. Fringe came into serious play, and the accessories game got a major spotlight. Think dramatic cover-ups and platform sandals at the pool. Head scarves were no longer tied under the chin but rather around the back of the head, so as to create a mane of fabric to cascade down the back. Nothing was off-limits, and this only paved the way for the next awesomely weird decade.
1980s: Wet, Wild and Wonderful
Barely there one-pieces? Check. Bits of cloth marketed as bikinis? Yep, the ’80s had that too. This decade had one-pieces with no backs or torsos. And high-cut thighs? The name of the game. As for the patterns—think wild abstract and animal-print designs. The colors were anything from primary to neon to pastel—or all of these at once. The more nonsensical, all the more fabulous.
1990s: All About the Texture
Speaking of weird, that’s also why the ’90s ruled so hard, and here’s why you should be seeking out a sweet ’90s swimsuit stat: zip-up fronts, nylon, sheer, ribbed. Sometimes describing the fashion that went down in the ’90s can involve a few tantalizing adjectives, and that’s precisely the point. Just know that this summer, should you wind up looking like you just stepped out of a beachy episode of Beverly Hills 90210, you’re doing it right.
What swimsuit era is your go-to this summer? Share your favorites in the comments!
Story by Kelly Rae Smith
Kelly Rae Smith is a vintage fashion fanatic and lover of looks from the past. She writes about her passion for vintage style for eBay.com, where you can find retro swim styles to rock this summer.