Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A swimsuit (also swimmers), bathing suit (also bathers) or swimming costume (sometimes shortened to cozzie) is an item of clothing designed to be worn for swimming. Swimsuits are typically skin-tight clothing, and range from garments designed to preserve as much modesty as possible to garments designed to reveal as much of the body as possible without actual nudity. They are often lined with fabric that assures that they do not become transparent when wet.
Swimsuits in General
Swimsuits are generally designed to cover at least the genitalia. In some cultures women's swimsuits do not cover the breasts, though in most western countries this is not the norm; for pre-pubescent girls they may or may not cover the chest. Swimming without a bathing suit is a form of nudism; special beaches may be reserved for nude sunbathing and swimming (nude beaches). Swimming in the nude is also known by the slang term skinny-dipping.
Women's swimsuits are generally either one-piece swimsuits or bikinis. Also there is the monokini, in case the coverage of the breasts is neither required nor desired. However, special swimsuits for competitive swimming, designed to reduce skin drag, can resemble unitards.
For some kinds of swimming and diving, special bodysuits called diveskins are worn. They are made from spandex and provide little thermal protection but simply protect the skin from stings and abrasion. Most competitive swimmers also wear special swimsuits including partial and full bodysuits, racerback styles, jammers, and racing briefs to assist their glide through the water and gain speed advantages (see competitive swimwear).
Swimsuits are also worn on beaches and around swimming pools (even if no swimming is involved). Many authorities believe that children of both sexes should also wear T-shirts outdoors on sunny days to protect from sunburn.
Women's "high-thigh" swimsuits can reveal pubic hair, and hence requires wearers to depilate their pubic hair if they want to avoid its exposure. This is commonly referred to as the bikini line, (e.g. "I waxed my legs and bikini line before going to the beach").
As an alternative to a bathing suit some people use their trousers, underpants and or T-shirt as make-shift swimsuit. At beaches norms for this tend to be more relaxed than at swimming pools (especially indoor ones). However, swimming pools tend not to permit this, because underwear is unlined, may become translucent and, may be unclean.
In Classical antiquity swimming and bathing was most often done nude. In some settings coverings were used. Murals at Pompeii show women wearing two-piece suits covering the areas around their breasts and hips in a fashion remarkably similar to a bikini of c. 1960. After this, the notion of special water apparel seems to have been lost for centuries.
In the 18th century women wore "bathing gowns" in the water; these were long dresses of fabrics that would not become transparent when wet, with weights sewed into the hems so that they would not rise up in the water. The men's swim suit, a rather form fitting wool garment with long sleeves and legs, similar to long underwear, was developed and would change little for a century.
In the 19th century, the woman's two piece suit became common-- the two pieces being a gown from shoulder to knees plus a set of trousers with leggings going down to the ankles.
In the Victorian era, popular beach resorts were commonly equipped with bathing machines, with the purpose of avoiding exposure of people in swimsuits (even though these were very modest by today's standards), especially to people of the opposite sex.
In 1907 the swimmer Annette Kellerman from Australia visited the United States as an "underwater ballerina", a version of synchronized swimming, involving diving into glass tanks. She was arrested for indecent exposure, as her swimsuit showed arms, legs and the neck. Kellerman changed the suit to have long arms and legs, and a collar, still keeping the close fit revealing the shapes underneath. She later starred in several movies, including one about her life.
After this, bathing wear began being less conservative, first uncovering the arms and then the legs up to mid-thigh. Collars receded from up around the neck down to about mid-way between the neck and nipples. The development of new fabrics allowed for new varieties of more comfortable and practical swim wear. On some beaches in the United States, men were prohibited from going topless as late as the 1930s.
Due to the figure-hugging nature of these garments, glamor photography of the 1940s and 1950s often featured people wearing swimsuits. This subset of glamour photography eventually evolved into swimsuit photography with the help of Sports Illustrated and swimsuit photographers around the world.
The first bikinis were introduced just after World War II. Early examples were not very different from the women's two pieces common since the 1920s, except that they had a gap below the breast line allowing for a section of bare midriff. They were named after Bikini Atoll, the site of nuclear weapons tests, for their supposed explosive effect on the viewer. Through the 1950s, it was thought proper for the lower part of the bikini to come up high enough to cover the navel.
From the 1960s on the bikini shrank in all directions until it sometimes covered little more than the nipples and genitalia, although less revealing models giving more support to the breasts remained popular. At the same time, Fashion designer Rudi Gernreich introduced the monokini, a topless suit for women consisting of a modest bottom supported by two thin straps. Although not a commercial success, the suit opened eyes to new design possibilities.
Styles of women's swimsuit:
- One-piece swimsuits:
- pretzel suit
- plunge front
- Two-piece swimsuits:
Styles of men's swimsuit:
- Sample of images of some historical swimsuits, 1880s to 1990s
- Glamor photography of swimsuit models circa 1915, by Mack Sennett
- National Geographic look at swimsuits of the 1900 - 2000 era
- Swimwear Knowledge presented by Everythingbutwater
- Wicked Weasel - An example of the modern "ultra-skimpy" bikinis Note: Commercial site
- Swimsuit photography featuring young models and modern swimwear in popular locations: Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Florida
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