Vintage Style #43: Celebrating Roundness - Bathing Suit Fashion Spread 1950

Here's an article from Holiday magazine (June 1950) titled "1950: A Nice Round Figure" - a fascinating look at the fashion mindset of the day.  Bikinis are "out" and thick round figures are "in".

The caption for the photograph above says it all:
Definitely not for the meek are these two "Tarzan's-mate" suits made of leopard-print cloth. On the left, a brief sharkskin lined with jer­sey. Right: a strapless leopard nylon-velvet suit with mid-calf length paneled skirt. Recommended only for girls with Miss America figures.

Less bones, less nudity, more curves and more frills add up to a more feminine look on the beaches.

WOMEN ARE GOING to look more like women on the beaches this summer. This good news comes from the American bathing-suit de­signers, who have decided at last that girls in swim suits look best when they are permitted to look like their natural selves, instead of being disguised as little boys or muscular long­distance swimming champions. As a result, bathing-suit designers this year have sketched their designs from life, with the assistance of the French curve rather than the ruler.

The results of this change-over, shown on these pages, will be popular with women and men alike. Bathing suits this year are prettier— perhaps prettier than ever before —and more feminine. Almost all of the suits encourage the pleasant round look in the right places. The big favorite of the past few years, the slim, elasticized two-piece suit, is definitely on the wane and with it the heavy engineering job of uncomfortable boning which frequently created exaggerated and artificial lines around the bosom.

The French "Bikini" bathing suit has just about disappeared (it never quite fitted Amer­ican figures and American modesty) to be replaced by an earlier popular import from France, the maillot. The new maillot, however, is something more than a one-piece sheath; in many cases it has a soft, frilly skirt attached to give that feminine 1950 look.

Most women are neither athletes nor models, so some figure-control is required in their beach wear. This year the result is achieved by skillful handling of new fabrics, by intelligent paneling and pleating, rather than by bon­ing. Bathing-suit fabrics like velvet are now completely water-repellent but still manage to keep their soft appearance. Colors are soft and subtle: creamy yellows, cyclamen pinks, cornflower blues and light tangerines. Women will look good in 1950 bathing suits —good and feminine.

Old look, new look: the corset-style bathing suit is on the way out. In the foreground is the new, unrestrained suit, a one-piece elasticized satin, lightly boned. Background: the old-style, heavily boned suit for more figure exaggeration.

The French suit is as dead as a cold souffle, but adaptations of trie nude vogue are still around. Foreground: this more modest creation has tiny bloomer shorts with side ties and a brief skirt. Right: the original "shocking" French suit.

Pretty girls in pretty suits bask at the Desert Lodge swimming pool at Borrego Springs, Cal. Left: a one-piece satin trimmed with ruffles—equally handsome in the sun or the water. Right: a trim design in nontarnishable metallic cloth with draped bra.

Elegant and sleek are these two formal suits. Foreground: a boneless one-piece nylon net over jersey with a black-satin motif appliqued on suit. Back: popular black again, a one-piece, shiny, strapless bloomer suit.

White-satin bathing suits glow prettily at cocktail time at Hoberg's Desert Resort in California. Left: a one-piece elasticized satin sprinkled with nontarnishable rhine-stones. Right: a water-repellent slipper satin with petal effect on halter and shorts.

Seaworthy as well as decorative are the new velvet bathing suits, once considered impractical. Left: a one-piece crushed velvet maillot. Right: a maillot of velvet and cotton taffeta. Shaped velvet panel accentuates the figure.


  1. AnonymousJuly 19, 2015

    The girl in the foreground in the Elegant an sleek pic reminds me a little of Annie Lennox. Nick

    1. And with Dave Stewart in the background too.

  2. "Less bones and more curves"...hard to believe that was actually what was attractive to men in the past.Now you have to look like a starved labor camp survivor to even get a glance.

  3. Ugh, the "curves" era. Sadly, we've headed back to that, unwillingly, because all the girls are eating so much crap and not caring about their bodies like they used to. At the beach this weekend, there was very little to toggle at because they were all overweight.

    1. The High Fructose Corn Syrup Diet has not been kind to Americans, male or female.