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More (Fabric) Is More

Great moments in midriff-concealing swimwear.

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1920s
Jantzen coins the term “swimming suit” (formerly bathing suit) and debuts its iconic Diving Girl logo.

1940s
Esther Williams, a.k.a. the Million Dollar Mermaid, popularizes the aqua-musical.

1959
The first-ever Barbie doll arrives wearing a strapless zebra-striped bathing suit.

1963
Disney requests Mouseketeer Annette Funicello wear a one-piece in a series of beach-party movies—even Bikini Beach.

1964
Designer Rudi Gernreich debuts the scandalous breast-baring monokini.

1976
A Charlie’s Angels poster depicting Farrah Fawcett in a red one-piece sells over 12 million copies. (The suit is now at the Smithsonian.)

1992
Pam Anderson’s tank-suit-wearing lifeguard, C. J. Parker, slow-jogs into living rooms on Baywatch.

2003
The birth of the Burqini: a hooded, full-body swimsuit for beachgoing Muslims.

2008
Speedo’s ultra-streamlined LZR Racer is called “drugs on a hanger” after swimmers set 22 new world records.

July 2010
The modern-day monokini—a one-piece with liberal cutouts—enters the mainstream.

February 2011
Jennifer Lawrence’s streamlined Calvin Klein Oscar gown draws obvious Baywatch parallels.

April 2011
The one-piece reigns at the Coachella festival, a perennial bellwether for summer trends (see jean shorts, 2010).


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