In the early 1900s, the concept of a swimsuit as we know it today was still in its infancy. Modesty prevailed, and women’s swimwear resembled more of a functional, conservative garment than a fashionable statement.
In Italy, as in many other countries, that generally translated into long-sleeved tops paired with knee-length bloomers, reflecting the societal norms and expectations of the time. These low-key ensembles aimed to preserve a sense of decorum and were often made from heavy fabrics that hindered movement in the water.
Luckily, changing social dynamics ushered in a new era for swimsuits in the 1920s. Inspired by the Art Deco movement and the newfound freedoms of the decade, Italian fashion designers began to experiment with bolder designs and lighter materials, pushing the envelope for what beachwear could be. One notable pioneer was the acclaimed Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who introduced innovative swimsuits featuring cut-outs, daring necklines, and vibrant patterns. These avant-garde designs embraced the spirit of the era and marked a pivotal shift towards a more liberating and glamorous beachwear aesthetic.
As Italy’s fashion industry flourished in the post-World War II years, the swimsuit continued to evolve, reflecting the country’s rich artistic heritage. That, oddly enough, meant one-pieces had the opportunity to shine. The 1950s witnessed in fact a popularisation of the more modest silhouette, with one-piece swimsuits becoming the norm. Emphasising the feminine form, these designs often featured halter necklines, cinched waists, and playful prints. The iconic Italian actress Sophia Loren, with her timeless beauty and undeniable charm, epitomised the allure of these sophisticated swimsuits, capturing the imagination of women worldwide.
A decade later, things changed again.