History of Women's Bathing Suits


More Skin! (1970s)

Farrah Fawcett's famously hot red suit made it into the Smithsonian's collection Feb. 2, 2011.
Farrah Fawcett's famously hot red suit made it into the Smithsonian's collection Feb. 2, 2011.
Leigh Vogel/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Hello, free love. The 1970s saw the death of bras, chastity belts and good old-fashioned decency, and swimwear was right there, inching up the legs of young women everywhere.

Now, the '70s high-cut leg was not the '80s high-cut leg, but it was a whole lot more baring than the '60s bikini bottom. String bikinis hit the scene, covering (what we thought was) the bare minimum, but even one-pieces revealed things never before seen in swimwear. Witness Farrah Fawcett's famous red tank suit, which showed just enough upper thigh to keep boys (and men) staring at that 1976 poster for years on end. Incidentally, that suit was donated to the Smithsonian in 2011.

In more recent times, "advances" in swimsuit design have made Fawcett's attire seem downright prudish. Styles of the '80s and, even more so, the '90s, took some cues from Brazil, thrusting beachgoers into a brave new world of, well, butts …